“A very serious problem with solutions”
The Mario Molina Center has the commitment to contribute in the task of analyzing, studying and informing the public on matters of the up most interest related to energy and the environment, as well as recommending decision-makers and governments the measures that will allow sustainable economic development. One of these subjects is climate change, which represents one of the major challenges humanity faces nowadays.
In recent years, a media campaign has been mounted in numerous countries to discredit climate change science, mainly motivated by the carbon and petroleum industries. The Center concurs with more than 30 Science Academies and other world organizations in the validity regarding science; which is why we support the initiative to explain objectively and effectively everything related to the causes, effects and solutions of this phenomenon.
The Earth’s climate has always presented changes; however, its stability during the last 10 thousand years allowed the establishment and development of civilization. But in the last Century the Earth’s climate system has experienced considerable changes.
Climate reconstruction of the past indicates that although it’s true that the climate has undergone many transformations, these generally took several thousand years or tens of thousands of years to happen and they were originated by causes such as variations in the geometric shape of the Earth’s orbit, or by intense volcanic activity. In contrast, components of the climate system like the average temperature of the planet’s surface and the distribution of rainfall have been modified in an accelerated way in recent years, to the point in which changes can be observed within decades; this phenomenon is known as “climate change”.
Basic science of climate behavior is clearly established and sustained with physics and chemistry laws. The following is data indicating that the current climate is changing:
a) An approximate increase of 0.7°C in the average temperature of the planet during the last Century
b) A decrease of the Arctic ice mass by 11% over the last two decades
c) An increase of sea level of more than 5cm over the last two decades, which contrasts with the 1.7mm increase between 1870 and 1990
The study of climate change has required a very important research effort from the international scientific community in the last decades. The results obtained have been compiled, analyzed and presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose primary function is to evaluate scientific, technical and socioeconomic information in order to clarify the causes, effects and solutions of the current climate variations.
The last assessment report from the IPCC, published in 2007, concluded that there is a 90% probability that the recent climate changes observed are due to the alteration of the chemical composition of the atmosphere. This modification is mainly due to burning of fossil fuels (approximately two thirds are associated with energy consumption) and the changes in land use, where the primary problem is deforestation.
The IPCC estimates that if we continue to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere with the current tendency, in the next decades the climate system could suffer the greatest transformation that it has experienced in several thousand years. Although the detailed projections on temperature increase for the end of the Century, and thus the effects they will have, still have few uncertainties, with the current information it is possible to establish without a doubt that there is a considerable risk for society and its activities.
This risk means a high probability for extreme weather events. For example, more intense droughts, flooding, forest fires and hurricanes are anticipated, which would lead to elevated human and economic costs. Also, a reduction in agriculture production would be expected, putting at risk food security. The rising sea levels would imply impending greater risks for the world population living in coastal areas. Finally, the major risk consists in more drastic and irreversible disturbances that could occur, like the disappearance of the Amazon forest or the total meltdown of the Artic, which would cause completely different terrestrial climate than the one we know today.
Reducing these risks is feasible, but it’s necessary to decrease emissions of greenhouse gasses by more than 50% by the year 2050; this represents a cost for society close to 1 or 2% of the global gross domestic product (GDP), which is without a doubt lower that the probable cost of damages associated to these risks.
Climate Change, as well as the depletion of the ozone layer, is irrefutable proof of the damage caused by human activities on the Earth at a global scale. The solutions require the commitment of all sectors of society. The strategies to mitigate and the adaptation measures demand the collaboration of the scientific community, economists, technology and energy experts, businessmen, decision-makers and the general population.