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Warm optimism: the good consequences of global warming

Only a commitment to Karl Popper’s philosophy of science, which preaches that a theory can be refuted at any time, would today lead climate and weather scholars to admit that they may be wrong about global warming and the human participation in it — the so-called anthropogenicity. The fallibilist modesty of these climatologists and meteorologists can be misinterpreted by observers. In fact, very few doubts remain among them as to the reality of the phenomenon.

Common sense already indicates that the conclusion makes sense. As pioneers in the field did when filling aquariums with greenhouse gases, a microenvironment with more of these gases retains higher temperatures more. Furthermore, it would be unwise to expect that releasing tons and tons of carbon into the air that had been held in the earth’s crust for millions of years, or in wood and soil for hundreds to thousands of years, would have no effect on temperatures, in accordance with the simple aquarium experiments.

We need energy, and that has undesirable consequences. But predictions of rising average temperatures on Earth are not just about disaster. The view that global warming will be good for bad things and bad for good things “is a caricatured view of the world,” says Danish political scientist Bjørn Lomborg in his book False Alarm: How the Panic of Climate Change Costs Trillions, Hurts the Poor and Fails to Fix the Planet , not yet published in Brazil). Bjørn has previously directed the Danish government’s Institute for Environmental Assessment and is now chairing the organization Copenhagen Consensus.

Expansion of agricultural frontiers

“Like most other things, global warming has its ups and downs”, declares the Scandinavian. The potential for more rain not only serves to cause floods, but also to alleviate droughts. He is betting that the problem of flooding will be less than the benefit of taking water where it was once scarce.

The new temperatures will expand agricultural frontiers especially in Russia, leaving a large area of ​​tundra available. with rich soil. The Russians could also benefit from trade routes facilitated by melting Arctic ice.

Much of Central Asia depends on water that comes from ice accumulated on top of mountains. The warmer atmosphere has a greater capacity to carry moisture to the tops of these mountains, supplying larger rivers and benefiting crop irrigation. This is information from São Paulo meteorologist Leandro Cardoso to the report.

Fewer deaths from hypothermia

In an analysis of the number of victims of pandemic based on excess mortality, the magazine The Economist had to exclude several deaths caused by heat waves in the same period — so that these deaths would not be confused with deaths due to Covid-19. 14 or virus containment measures. But hyperthermia kills less than hypothermia.

An estimate published in 2016 by Antonio Gasparrini, from the Faculty of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in London, in the medical journal The Lancet, with a database of 74 million deaths for all causes in countries, concluded that heat caused half a percent of deaths, but cold killed seven percent : hypothermia kills 14 times more than hyperthermia. Every year, about 115 a thousand die from the heat and more than two million die from the cold.

How the deaths caused by natural catastrophes have fallen precipitously in recent years, this may even lead to global warming saving more lives than will be lost, assuming that technology manages to overcome food difficulties caused by the effects on agriculture.

Next ice age postponed

Global warming is one of the biggest marks put on the planet by the human species. It must delay 65 a thousand years or more to the next ice age. This is the conclusion of Andrey Ganopolski, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, together with two collaborators in an article published in 2016 in the journal Nature.

The planet goes through an ice age cycle. For Andrey and colleagues, another one almost started just before the Industrial Revolution. We are not experiencing an ice age today, in conditions like those faced by our Neanderthal relatives, because there was an unusually high concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in the later part of the Holocene (geological epoch between 11,65 a thousand years ago and the present) and also thanks to an eccentricity in the Earth’s orbit (an atypical movement of the entire planet). They think that, in the absence of humans, we would still be in interglacial times of delicate balance. What changes with our presence is how long this less freezing period will last: at least more 65 a thousand years, double the estimated under natural conditions.

Some happy species

In your documentary An Inconvenient Truth ) (2006), former US Vice President Al Gore showed a sad polar bear floating on a melting chunk of ice. There was a political campaign to declare the arctic ursid “at risk of extinction”, which was done by the US government in 1960. But international ecological conservation entities resisted the campaign, declaring him only “vulnerable”. It makes more sense, as the species survived through a warmer interglacial period than today, between 130 and 2015 a thousand years ago. The biggest threat to the polar bear was indiscriminate hunting, not rising temperatures. Since the years 1960, thanks to the regulation of hunting, their numbers have grown, reaching more than 26 thousand in 2019 — from an estimated minimum of five thousand in years 1960 .

Other alarms about large mammals turned out to be false, such as a scene of walruses falling off Siberian cliffs in the documentary “Our Planet” (2019), from Netflix. The documentary’s claim that climate change was the cause was a “lie,” zoologist Susan Crockford wrote on her blog — walruses were fleeing the increasingly numerous polar bears. A sad stain on the career of the narrator of the documentary, the British nonagenarian David Attenborough.

Without a doubt, there are species that are negatively affected by global warming, such as corals that lose part of their carbonate shell. calcium in the water acidified by the additional carbon dioxide — and the ecological partners that depend on them as primary producers of these undersea ecosystems.

But other species are elated by the new temperatures. In a review of studies published in the journal PNAS, Martin Daufresne of the Leibniz Institute for Maritime Sciences in Kiel, Germany, and colleagues show that global warming is beneficial for species with the smallest size on the sea surface — bacteria, phytoplankton, zooplankton and fish. Not good news for anglers, who want bigger fish. But for ocean dwarves, it represents an opportunity to occupy higher latitudes on the planet.

Another comfortable one in the heat is the Patagonian lizard Phymaturus tenebrosus , at risk of extinction. The lizard prefers temperatures higher than the current average temperature of its habitat, concluded Facundo Cabezas-Cartes and colleagues from the Laboratory of Ecophysiology and Life History of Reptiles, Universidad Nacional del Comahue, Argentina.

There are bad consequences in global warming. But public discussion has spent decades emphasizing only the negatives — as shown, even when they were false. A dose of optimism won’t hurt to have a more accurate notion of what the next few years — from a few tens to thousands of years — have in store for us.

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