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Cronología de la Perdición

(Traducido de The Greening Earth Society

The Independent, Un diario publicado en el Reino Unido, está haciendo todo lo posible para ubicarse como el principal diario del Apocalipsis Ambiental. Estos son un ejemplo de los titulares – sólo en las dos últimas semanas:

“Apocalipsis Ahora: Cómo la humanidad está caminando dormida hacia el fin del mundo,” - “Los gases de invernadero amenazan la vida marina,”

“Cambio Dramático en el Hielo de la Antártida Occidental podría causar un ascenso de 5 metros en os niveles del mar,”

“Los arrecifes de coral podrían disolverse en 30 años,”

“El calentamiento global es 'dos veces peor que lo pensado'”

“Cuenta regresiva a la catástrofe global,”

“Calentamiento global acercándose al punto de no retorno, advierten destacados expertos del clima.”

Cada uno de los artículos le echa el guante a las más extremas y escandalosas declaraciones de científicos y políticos cuyas similares intenciones parecen ser arrastrar al mundo de nuevo hacia la Edad de las tinieblas y el Protocolo de Kioto.

Un caso emblemático es su último conjuro: “Científicos del calentamiento revelan un calendario” que establece un tiempo límite para la eventual destrucción del planeta a manos de los seres humanos. Según el The Independent, sería algo más o menos como esto:

Dado que las actuales temperaturas son ya 0,7º C por encima de las temperaturas pre-industriales, el proceso puede muy bien estar ya en marcha. En un futuro próximo – los próximos 25 años – a medida de que las temperaturas asciendan hasta la marca de 1º C, algunos ecosistemas especializados podrían comenzar a sentir la tensión, tales como los bosques de altura de Queensland, Australia, que contienen una gran cantidad de especies de plantas endémicas, y la región de la suculenta planta karoo en África del Sur. En algunos países en desarrollo, la producción de alimentos comenzará a declinar, los problemas de agua empeorarán, y habrá pérdidas netas del PBI

Cuando la temperatura se mueva hasta los 2º por encima de los niveles pre-industriales, esperado para mediados de este siglo – dentro del período de vida de muchos vivos hoy – que los serios efectos comenzarán a producirse cada vez más rápido, sugiere los estudios.

Pérdidas sustanciales de los hielos del Ártico amenazarán a especies como el oso blanco y las morsas, mientas que en las regiones tropicales el “blanqueo” de los arrecifes de coral se hará más frecuente – cuando los animales que viven en los arrecifes sean forzados a emigrar por las altas temperaturas, y el arrecife podría morir. Las regiones Mediterráneas serán castigadas por más incendios forestales y pestes de insectos, mientras que en regiones de los EEUU como las Rocallosas, los río podrían volverse demasiado calientes para las truchas y salmones.

En Sudáfrica, los Fynbos, el reino floral más notable del mundo, que tiene mas de 8.000 flores salvajes endémicas, comenzará a perder sus especies, como también las áreas alpinas desde Europa hasta Australia, el bosque de hojas anchas de China comenzarán a morir. El número de gente en peligro de hambrunas comenzará a aumentar y otro mil quinientos millones de personas enfrentarán escasez de agua, y las pérdidas del PBI en algunos países en desarrollo se harán importantes.

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But when the temperature moves up to the 3ºC level, expected in the early part of the second half of the century, these effects will become critical. There is likely to be irreversible damage to the Amazon rainforest, leading to its collapse, and the complete destruction of coral reefs is likely to be widespread.

The alpine flora of Europe, Australia and New Zealand will probably disappear completely, with increasing numbers of extinctions of other plant species. There will be severe losses of China's broadleaved forests, and in South Africa the flora of the Succulent Karoo will be destroyed, and the flora of the Fynbos will be hugely damaged.

There will be a rapid increase in populations exposed to hunger, with up to 5.5 billion people living in regions with large losses in crop production, while another 3 billion people will have increased risk of water shortages.

Above the 3ºC raised level, which may be after 2070, the effects will be catastrophic: the Arctic sea ice will disappear, and species such as polar bears and walruses may disappear with it, while the main prey species of Arctic carnivores, such as wolves, Arctic foxes and the collared lemming, will have disappeared from 80 percent of their range.

In human terms there is likely to be catastrophe too, with water stress becoming even worse, and whole regions becoming unsuitable for producing food, while there will be substantial impacts on global GDP.

Where did this writer earn a journalism degree, the Ross Gelbspan School of Journalism? The only thing missing from this scenario is an alien invasion after our global defenses are down due to ecologic and economic destruction. If that was in there, we’d know the writer is a graduate of Whitley Strieber University.

Such an apocalyptic view of our future contains the essential elements of environmental science fiction — a world tomorrow not so unlike our world today except for scientifically unjustifiable events inevitably leading toward widespread (and spectacular) destruction. Did anyone think to ask where all that water came from in Waterworld? Even complete melting of both polar ice caps couldn’t flood the entire planet. How does cold air from the upper atmosphere get to the surface in defiance of the Ideal Gas Law and flash-freeze New York City as in The Day After Tomorrow? Why is it an “advanced” alien species only can communicate with a single Earth species (the humpback whale) as in Star Trek IV: The voyage home? Why is it humans will cease our centuries-old practice of matching crops with climate and choose starvation instead as temperatures warm, according to this article in The Independent?

One of the major problems tilting The Independent’s story away from science fact and into science fiction is that the average temperature of the surface of earth is rising at a rate of about 0.17ºC (0.31ºF) per decade. It has been doing so, at a fairly constant rate (after accounting for temporary departures resulting from such episodes as El Niño events and volcanic eruptions) for about the past thirty to thirty-five years. If this rate persists into the future, the resulting global average temperature rise will be about 0.77ºC (1.4ºF) by the year 2050 and about 1.62ºC (2.91ºF) by century’s end. This rate of increase is about half that in The Independent’s scenario. The difference between reality and The Independent’s fiction has a number of significant implications: (1) it doubles the time that passes before each ‘crisis’ occurs, (2) it allows greater time for adaptation, both natural and technological, and (3) it improves the chance that breakthrough advances will be made in the way we produce and use energy.

You might ask if we are assuming the rate of warming will stay constant in the future given the growing demand for energy? Yes. That’s the lesson from the past and what all those sophisticated climate models tell us will happen.

Figure 1 provides the history lesson. The top chart (1a) tracks total global emissions of carbon dioxide between 1970 and 2000. There has been a relatively steady increase as world population and GDP have grown. This resulted in current emissions being about two-thirds greater than emissions thirty-five years ago.

The lower chart (1b) plots the year-over-year change in global average temperature against total global carbon dioxide emissions. Notice there is no relationship between them. While global carbon dioxide emissions increased by nearly 66 percent, the rate of global temperature rise has not changed at all.

There are a number of factors that appear to combine and produce this result. Some are known; some are unknown. But Figure 1 is a perfect integration of actual observed data.

Figure 1a (top): Annual global emissions of carbon dioxide. Figure 1b (bottom): Relationship between annual global carbon dioxide emissions and year-over-year change in annual average global surface temperatures. While global carbon dioxide emissions have increased by nearly 66 percent, the rate of global temperature rise has not changed at all.

The same cannot be said of climate models. The models are a product of what goes into them. If the modelers’ understanding of some of the atmosphere’s chemical and physical processes is incomplete, or entirely lacking, then their climate models (elegant as they may be) cannot produce accurate results. Nevertheless, let’s assume that climate models get the general concept right — an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration leads to an increase in global temperature. We’ll rely on observations to fill in the details. What we get is illustrated in Figure 2 (taken from the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

The chart’s seeming bowl of colorful spaghetti represents projected global temperature increases from nineteen different climate models when each is run assuming a one percent per year increase in carbon dioxide concentrations. Notice how the great majority (as well as the model mean) take the form of a straight line if one ignores short term, year-to-year variations. In other words, even though atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations increase every year, the average year-over-year change in global temperature remains constant.

If this concept sounds familiar, it is because it is precisely the same behavior seen in Figure 1b using actual observations. The only difference between the models and observations is the rate of temperature change from one year to the next.

In Figure 2’s models, the average rate of global temperature increase is about 0.25ºC (0.45ºF) per decade. You’ll recall observations show the rise to be about 0.17ºC (0.31ºF) per decade. The reason is easily explained. The models are fed an increase in carbon dioxide of one percent per year. The real increase — after accounting for other greenhouse gases, such as methane — is much less, around a half a percent per year. Therefore the average of the climate models must be considerably adjusted downward.

Figure 2. Change in average annual global temperatures as projected by 19 different climate models under a scenario of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration increasing at 1 percent per year (a value that is about twice the current trend). (Source: Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

Coupling climate models with observed reality indicates a continuation of current temperature trends into the foreseeable future and makes for a robust projection. Scary scenarios of our planet devastated by ecological catastrophe as a result of rapidly rising temperatures is not supported by the best available science.

The future rate of temperature rise is but one problem with The Independent’s timetable for climate apocalypse. Another is their linkage of economic/environmental catastrophe and the levels assigned to global temperature change. We’ll leave that rebuttal for someone else or another day.

Have comments or questions?
Contact us at
editor@CO2andclimate.org


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