Climate change

Climate change

By Humberto Tobón and Tobón

The consequences of such a high temperature increase would be the thawing of the polar ice caps of the Arctic and Antarctica, an increase in water in the seas by 50 centimeters and the disappearance of large coastal areas of the world that would affect the economy of 40 countries and displace 200 millions of people.

The current one is not the first period of global warming, but it is the first in which one of the causes directly relates to human activity. 66 million years ago, in the Cenozoic, and after a long period of glaciations of 530 million years in the Precambrian, the climate began to warm. Many of the regions that are arid or semi-arid today were humid. The climatic changes [1] occurred naturally and some of them favored the creation of life.

However, in the Cenozoic and between the seventh to fifteenth centuries of the modern era when temperatures increased, the greenhouse effect responded to a natural cycle, in which the gases present in the atmosphere were capable of storing long-wave radiation, that is say, heat. But the current phenomenon is mediated by an intense productive and technological activity of man, which could accelerate the warming process to unknown levels.

Experts from the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change [2] predict that the earth's temperature could increase by 5.8 ° C during this century, while this behavior in the 19th century was 0.5 ° C. For his part, John Houghton [3] affirms that the rise in temperature has become a kind of weapon of mass destruction, and explains that "it is not a future threat" but a present reality. Indeed, the first six years of the 21st century were the hottest of the last 100 years. This whole situation stems from the high concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons.

The consequences of such a high temperature increase would be the thawing of the polar ice caps of the Arctic and Antarctica, an increase in water in the seas by 50 centimeters and the disappearance of large coastal areas of the world that would affect the economy of 40 countries and displace 200 million people [4].

In addition to this, the greenhouse effect that humanity assists would substantially change the current distribution of water resources, increase the rainfall regime in some dry areas, alter agriculture and lead to desertification in some regions that today are rich in forests.

The situation is so critical that the interest of the international community is to achieve that anthropogenic interference decreases ostensibly, controlling the emission of greenhouse gases, especially CO2, which contributes 55% to global warming due to deforestation, production of electrical energy and the use of fossil fuel powered cars

To achieve the goals of controlling greenhouse emissions, the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997, but the progress made since then is little and frustrating. Only until February 2005 was it possible to officially implement this international commitment with binding clauses. One of the few scenarios in which decisions have been made is on the ban on chlorofluorocarbon gases (CFCs) in Europe and the United States, which began to operate after the 1987 Montreal protocol was signed and ratified in Kyoto ten years later. . In developing nations, this gas continues to be marketed, since large factories are selling their stock of refrigerators that work on it, as well as aerosols that have it as a propellant. CFCs contribute 10% of global warming, according to statistics from the UK Atomic Energy Agency, that is, something like 700,000 tons per year thrown into the atmosphere.

Controlling the increase in temperature on the planet does not only depend on the reduction of greenhouse gases, but on the interaction between the air, the ocean and the polar ice, which maintain an exchange of heat and constant flows of energy. When the air temperature rises, the oceans release more CO2 and the humid ecosystems more CH4. What feeds back the phenomenon, which is enhanced by the increase in air humidity, and its ability to retain diffuse infrared radiation from the surface. In addition, the ocean absorbs the energy from the Sun and the distribution mechanism is made through ocean currents. It is clear that an increase in the level of the ocean waters will make global warming more drastic.

When the issue of greenhouse gases is approached, there is a predisposition to generalize them as harmful, when they are the ones that have allowed life to exist on the planet. If they did not exist, the earth would have an average temperature below zero degrees Celsius, where very possibly life could never have developed. Beneficial warming of the earth is generated by the selective absorption of solar energy by carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, tropospheric ozone, chlorofluorocarbons and water vapor. They are transparent to short wave solar radiation. These gases in small concentrations are vital for our survival.

The criticism that arises is that there is an anthropogenic contribution with highly harmful synthetic gases and others, which despite being beneficial, are overused, heating the planet more than necessary with the very serious effects that have been described.

* Humberto Tobón y Tobón is an Economist and Social Communicator, with specialization studies in Environment, Political Science and Private Finance.


[1] This document is part of the book "Environment: education, communication and citizen participation" written by the author of the column and published last week by the Regional Autonomous Corporation of Risaralda - CARDER.

[2] Intergovernmental Group for Climate Change of the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program, where 2,000 scientists from 130 countries participate.

[3] British Climatologist, author of the book "Global Warming: A Complete Report"

[4] Report presented by Britain's Hadley Center for Climate Change, 1998.

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