Posts Tagged 'Earth Sciences'

Let’s save Punta de Choros

Chile is in front of one of the most important challenges in the next years: to deal with an increased demand of energy. Naturally, many options are proposed by different “players”. But two big forces are in the final battle. By one hand, one consortium is a big defender of hydroelectric power, installing several dams. In second place, another group is claiming that nuclear energy is the only option for satisfy chile’s demand of energy.

In the meanwhile, many small thermoelectric (gas, oil, or coal) power plants are being installed. One of them is placed near to a region known as “Punta de Choros”. The international audience is not aware of the upcoming damages that this power plant could do to this region. The following video (in spanish and with english subtitles) explain some of the probable damages. It is enough to say that Punta de Choros is an extremely important region for biologists and ecologists. It harbors important species and is a natural Marine reserve.

The big problem here also is that, as in many other issues, Chilean scientists are not being listened at all. Many scientists are claiming that wind energy is the best option for our country: it is clean, affordable for a country with economic stability, suitable to increase the energy’s demands, and also feasible considering the abundance of wind in several places in our country. Enemies state that the costs of wind energy are very high (without serious studies), and that this energy is not suitable. Well… let’s see. The following figure shows the energy produced in our country, in the context of wind energy:

A recent article in Science (Vol. 329, pp. 382-385) also reviews the proposed alternative to thermal and nuclear plants: flooding of valleys and rivers in the Patagonia, losing precious ecosystems and biodiversity. It is very dissapointing to see how chilean authorities don’t want to listen to scientists and engineering, and to see wind energy and other clean energies (such as solar) as a real option.

Time to wake up?

Recently, a series of articles in Nature [1-3] described new perspectives about the climate crisis. The problem shows when you have to predict a scenario. Usually, researchers make descriptions and simulations about the outcome of the climate status using computational calculations, and they are able to simulate even thousand of years. They can simulate the development of the increase in the Earth’s temperature, CO2 concentration, and so on.

Well, the issue is: researchers had considered that a specific amount of CO2 could be accepted as reasonable in the atmosphere. Raising this concentration, we would expect the global warming to increase rapidly and then, we would see global changes. That amount was considered as 550 p.p.m. Then, researchers started to discuss about whether 550 p.p.m. would be too high. And the consequence was to determine the limit in 450 p.p.m. That was the dominant idea. Until now. In this articles in Nature [1-2], data and facts are provided to question that number. Obviously, these facts are not new. But we have here a comprehensive view about the situation. Briefly, new simulations allow us to evaluate the evolution of the climate status if a 450 p.p.m. of CO2 is achieved. The problem is that several simulations predict a dark outcome: the CO2 levels would keep high thousands of years. If you ask to someone: “How many years do you think the CO2 levels will keep high?”, the people would think, at most, 100 or 200 years. The main view is, if we stop emitting CO2 production, the levels will start to decrease, in a linear fashion. But the predictions tell us the opposite: even in 3000 years, CO2 levels will be high. Also global temperatures stay high.

More extreme scenarios, for example, 1000 p.p.m of CO2, are discouraging [2]. It seems that a limit of 350 p.p.m. is needed, according to some researchers [1]. A new global movement called 350.org, has been created, and the next October 24 has been claimed as the International Day of Climate Action. You can see a video here:

Of note, we are now above the 350 p.p.m. limit. A paper published in this issue of Nature [3], describes the perspectives of greenhouse-gas emissions if we want to keep the climate under a 2 ºC limit of increase in the temperature. It is likely that, under the actual scenario, we will raise the global warming above the “2 ºC” limit.

The question is: considering that, according to the simulations, it seems obvious that it is too late to keep the CO2 concentration under a safe amount, how are we going to proceed? We need to put a great effort in the study of technologies to avoid a risk to the human kind. For example, important cities should be relocated, we will need research about food technologies, water recovering and recycling, and technologies to build environments, houses and devices to live in safe and comfortable conditions.

When still some people are denying the existence of global warming and the need of stop the raising of CO2 concentrations, it is too late? Do we need to finally wake up? I strongly suggest to read these articles and to visit 350.org to more info.

References

[1] Monastersky, R. A burden beyond bearing. Nature, 2009; 458:1091-1094.

[2] Schneider, S. The worst-case scenario. Nature, 2009; 458:1104-1105.

[3] Meinshausen, M. et al. Greenhouse-gas emission targets for limiting global warming to 2 ºC. Nature, 2009; 458:1104-1105.

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