September 26, 2021

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Can we simply choose less climate change?  - VG

Can we simply choose less climate change? – VG

Climate Change: Politicians and voters around the world need solutions to believe in, and Norway can help show the way in an international charity, writes the columnist. Photo: STELIOS MISINAS / X06769

Wait-and-see strategies and misunderstandings made it possible for most parties to sell green laundry. A little knowledge of climate motivates us to search for party programs that take the climate problem seriously.

This is history. The record expresses the writer’s position. You can submit articles and posts to VG here.

Airling Axis, Professor of Systems Dynamics at the University of Bergen

Most of us have to admit that the main reason to fear devastating climate change are reports of floods in Germany, 49°C in Canada, fires in California, typhoons in the Philippines, etc., but these events don’t tell us if things are getting worse or better. In the future. Focusing on climate events is just an expression of a wait-and-see strategy: “Yes, we will do what is needed if climate change turns out to be more costly than reducing emissions.”

This is a strategy we use on a daily basis. When we fill the bath, we wait until we see that it fits perfectly, and then we turn off the tap. The strategy is easy to understand, easy to use and effective. But this wait-and-see strategy cannot be applied to the climate problem. Imagine it takes a day to turn off the bathtub faucet. Then the water will flow over the edge long before you close the tap completely.

In the same way, it is impossible to stop climate emissions as often as needed. Boats, cars, homes and factories last for many decades and “without the car, Norway stops” as the poster says. It takes decades to develop new technology such as batteries, offshore wind, and carbon dioxide storage, and it takes new decades to replace equipment that produces emissions. Therefore, we must start restructuring for several decades before new weather events convince us that this is enough.

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Second, it is a common misconception that on the day climate change has come far enough, it is enough to stop the increase in emissions: With global emissions to stop, should increases in climate change stop too? But you don’t prevent a bathtub from overflowing by turning off the faucet, or turning it back on a bit. This also applies to greenhouse gases. From 1979 to 1985, global emissions of carbon dioxide did not increase, but the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continued to rise steadily. To stop greenhouse gases from accumulating in the atmosphere, the taps must be closed again.

A wait-and-see strategy is enough to stop emissions growth making it easier for both voters and political parties to scale back the measures needed to halt climate change. Some climate knowledge is absolutely necessary to prevent us from making choices that are not in our interests and the interests of others.

In 1824, Joseph Fourier discovered that certain gases, what we know today as greenhouse gases, help keep the globe from cooling. Eventually, Svante Arrhenius discovered that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions could also contribute to increasing global temperatures. Around 1900, he made good calculations of the relationship between human-caused greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and global temperature.

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Temperature increase is a measure of the increase in the amount of energy in the atmosphere. To understand what this can lead to, one can observe the sunset breeze. At the end of the day when the sun makes the land warmer than the sea, the air rises above the land and winds blow from the sea to replace the rising air. With more energy in the atmosphere and oceans, not only local but also global weather systems are turned on. This leads to more droughts, wildfires and lost crops in some places, more rains, devastating floods and landslides in other places and so on. We already know that accidents like this take lives and are costly in every respect.

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Communications are secure and we don’t have to wait and see where this leads. The United Nations Climate Panel has met its earlier predictions and has now concluded, as before, that emissions must be reduced to zero over a few decades. The remaining uncertainty goes both ways, but it does not shake the need for rapid emissions cuts.

Politicians and voters around the world need solutions they believe in, and Norway can help show the way in an international charity. If the world’s richest and best educated country is not able to do this, what kind of hope do we have then? There are huge differences between the climate policies of the parties, and we all have a responsibility to figure out those differences in order to find the ones we can do with our ballot.