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Climate change: not a global threat
24.06.2005 00:00

Yury Izrael, Director, Global Climate and Ecology Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences and IPCC Vice President, for RIA Novosti.
      One issue on the table at the G8 summit at Gleneagles in early July is global climate change.
      As I see it, this problem is overshadowed by many fallacies and misconceptions that often form the basis for important political decisions. G8 leaders should pay attention to them.
       There is no proven link between human activity and global warming.
       According to 10,000 meteorological stations, average temperatures have increased by just 0.6 degrees in the last 100 years. But there is no scientifically sound evidence of the negative processes that allegedly begin to take place at such temperatures. Global temperatures increased throughout the 1940s, declined in the 1970s and subsequently began to rise again. Present-day global warming resembles the 1940s, when ships could easily navigate Arctic passages. However, man's impact was much smaller at that time. A Russian expedition that recently returned from the central Antarctic says that temperatures are now starting to decrease. These sensational findings are one of Mother Nature's surprises. Experts compiling climate-change reports every five years mention the possible influence of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, freons, etc. Atmospheric carbon dioxide was 280 PPM (parts per million air mollecules) in 1880, and now stands at 378 PPM. It has increased by 31% since the pre-industrial era. This is quite a lot, but temperatures have increased by only 0.6 degrees. Paradoxically, temperatures tended to rise by one to 12 degrees at peak intervals, with carbon-dioxide fluctuations totaling not more than 300 PPM. This contradiction is rather baffling. Therefore I believe that the link between man's activities and rising temperatures has not been proved completely. Natural factors and the impact of man seem to be interlinked.
      Danger levels can be raised
      The European Union has established by fiat that a two-degree rise in global temperatures would be quite dangerous. However, this data is not scientifically sound. Many specialists estimate the peak atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration at 400 PPM. Our calculations show that carbon-dioxide concentrations would increase by just 800 PPM if all known and produced fuel were incinerated in the space of a few hours. But we will never reach this ceiling. In ancient times the Earth had periods when maximum CO2 concentrations were 6,000 PPM (in Carboniferous period). But life still goes on. In other words, we must comprehend what will happen while the carbon-dioxide levels will grow from the current 378 PPM to 800 PPM, that will hypothetically occur when all the fuel on earth is burned. Global temperatures will likely rise by 1.4-5.8 degrees during the next 100 years. The average increase will be three degrees. I do not think that this threatens mankind. Sea levels, due to rise by 47 cm in the 21st century, will not threaten port cities.
      Climate change and the rising sea
      It is said that the sea may rise significantly because of additional carbon dioxide and higher temperatures. The sea has risen by 10-20 cm in the last 100 years. The port of London, not the entire city, would face a disaster if this trend persists. However, the situation can be rectified by building new piers. The Far Eastern city of Magadan has multi-level piers for coping with eight-meter high tides. The people of Bangladesh, who live at sea level, may face problems if the Indian Ocean rises. Still, their resettlement would be much cheaper than projected Kyoto Protocol expenses. Some academics claim that the slowly melting Greenland ice cap threatens the entire world because it will melt in 3,000 years, if annual global temperatures rise by three degrees. Still, we should understand that sea level will rise by just 1-2 cm in the first several hundred years.
      Scientists and politicians must interact
      The G8 can adopt some effective climate-related decisions. In my opinion, academics, politicians and governments should assess maximum permissible temperatures and carbon-dioxide levels. Quite possibly, the world would have to sacrifice something in the face of a common threat. Scientists should comprehend the needs of politicians, and vice versa. I think this concept is quite effective. Unfortunately, some political decisions disregard the opinion of science. G8 summits would prove effective if the G8 maintained close-knit ties with academics.
      Source: RIA Novosti.


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