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Опубликовано в библиотеке: 2021-10-01
Источник: Science in Russia, №2, 2012, C.31-35

by Yevgeniya SIDOROVA, journalist


Uncertainty about the future poisons people's life. Sudden natural cataclysms-which many experts attribute to global warming processes-are doing their bit, too. The climate change problem that has been in the limelight over recent decades is now viewed more than just as a subject of scientific discussion. It is seen as an objective situation calling for concrete adjustment mechanisms. This patter was considered in an international scientific conference held in Moscow in November of 2011 and involved exactly with that-problems related to adaptation to climate change.


Twenty years have passed since a UN Conference on the Environment and Development meeting in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 adopted a framework convention on climate change. Today experts conclude that humanity can steer two basic strategies with respect to global warming--1) minimizing its negative effects, and 2) adaptation to it. One important coun-termeasure is to bring down discharges of hothouse gases into the atmosphere believed to be one of culprits responsible for the global temperature rise. Yet scientists are not unanimous about the forthcoming natural transformations. While some subscribe to the cur-

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rent models of global warming*, others adhere to the opposite viewpoint--our planet is in for yet another span of global cooling, they claim. In his report at the Moscow Conference on the need for geoengineering approaches Dr. Alan Carlin of the US Environment Protection Agency championed the global cooling idea.


This report--about the imminent onset of global cooling--struck a discordant note at the conference largely concerned with the problems of global warming. It would have been in place to discuss Dr. Carlin's theses, for the American research scientist pointed to the great dependence of the global climate on astronomical cycles. However, the format of the symposium did not allow such a discussion, for lack of time, too. The conferees had other fish to fry.




Representatives of authoritative international organizations, such as the UN, the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Climate Change, the World Bank and other bodies called on the conference participants to concentrate on systematization of the available data on climate and their interpretation in economic terms so as to make this specialist information understandable to managers and policy-makers. Otherwise any practical moves on climate changes and interstate partnership would be foredoomed.


In this context Alexander Frolov, in charge of the Russian Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring, spoke about the limited possibilities of the climate science despite the felt social need for more information. Among other things, he mentioned the matter of climate risks control as well as the need to estimate the scope of negative effects of climate change. He also pointed to the costs involved in adaptive measures. The keynote of his speech: to make practical use of scientific data they should be presented in categories of the economic science.


And here is what Shardur Agravala of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development had to say about the costs involved in climate adaptation and its advantages. "These questions are becoming ever more topical both for specific projects and in the global context when it is necessary to find some compromise between expenses on adaptation and on eliminating the aftermath of climate changes."


The speakers agreed that quantitative evaluation of the effect of climate-related information on economic activities would promote concerted action of experts involved in most different fields. Yet the snag is that weather and climate parameters are not part of many present-day economic models. What is the way out? Research scientists propose to view the action of climatic conditions on production and labor force indirectly, in a roundabout way, though taking into account, of course, the different susceptibility of specific industries to weather vagaries. What does it mean? Here a few examples.


* Seven models of climate change in the 21st century were cited in a report of the working group of the Intergovernmental Group on Climate Change (Shanghai, 2001).--Ed.

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The conference heard a report presented by Boris Rewicz, M.D., of the Institute of Economic Prognostication, on adaptive strategies in the light of public health indices. The speaker described in a nutshell the adverse consequences of heatwaves (one hit central Russia in the summer of 2010) on people's health. Research data collected over the past few decades demonstrate that such cataclysms result in higher mortality rates. More than that, many countries are facing a real threat of hitherto unknown infectious diseases, not registered before (like dengue or dandy fever*). Such maladies as the western Nile fever and the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever** typecast as "southern" maladies tend to move north. Thus, Russian tick-borne (forest-spring or woodcutter's encephalitis) desease is expanding its domain: from the Kostroma region, the hotbed of this tick-borne disease, it has spread further north as far as the Archangel region. In order to adjust to the changing situation, Dr. Rewicz said, it is expedient to design regional climate change scenarios tied in with public health indices.


Thus prevention of infectious diseases touched off by weather anomalies becomes imperative. Furthermore,


Dr. Rewicz maintains that the state should toughen its sanitary and epidemiological control over the condition of potable water supply systems. The training of more sanitary medics expert in this field, and educational work among the population should supplement such prevention. Knowing the regions and particular population groups (age, social, ethnic groups), we can foresee in good time the economic consequences of climate changes by using the indicator of the ability to work among the active population. Naturally a morbidity rise provoked by an external factor brings down labor productivity.


Such adaptive strategies proposed by Dr. Rewicz should involve a wide range of experts--medical doctors, biologists, ecologists, climatologists, meteorologists, hydrologists, programmers (for environmental and climate modeling), and economists.


And now what concerns the consequences for farming and agriculture. Several reports on the subject were presented at the Moscow-held conference. One came from Vladimir Romanenkov, Doctor of Biology (All-Russia Research Institute of Agrochemistry, Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences). He and his colleagues from the All-Russia Institute of Agrarian Problems and Information succeeded in upgrading the mathematical model for the efficiency of the regional structure of agricultural production. To do that they set in the soil fertility formula that uses such a well-known parameter as the structure of crop areas. This indicator makes it possible to take account of an annual crop rotation and this way to regulate the


* Dengue fever, also known as the bonebreak fever, an acute contagious disease accompanied by intoxication, myalgia, arthralgia, eruption and swollen lymph nodes. It occurs in countries of South and Southeast Asia, Africa, Oceania and in the Caribbean.--Ed.


** Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, an acute infectious disease characterized by intoxication and hemorrhages (bleeding) on the skin and in internal organs. It is transmitted through tick stings. The causative agent is a virus identified in the Crimea and in the Congo.--Ed.


Science in Russia, No.2, 2012

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Prognosticated expenses in agricultural regions of the Non-Black Earth belt of Russia for the year 2050 on steps for conserving the presence of organic carbon in plowlands at the level of the year 2000.


accumulation of soil organic carbon in a particular cultivated area. Organic carbon circulation is closely connected with climatic conditions: a warming spell is conducive to decomposition of organic substances and to a higher emission of carbon dioxide (CO2), while a cooling period slows down and conserves such processes.


Dr. Romanenkov and coworkers argued that in the case of climate warming it would be needed to change the sowing time or else choose other plant strains. Moreover, it might become necessary to change all of the crop rotation, and this will have an immediate effect on the structure of production by altering the proportion of plant-growing and cattle farming. In a nutshell, we need a model for calculating well in advance the consequences of steps towards adaptation of the farming industry to surprises of weather. Russian experts came up with remedies of their own.


The word "uncertainty" was often heard at the conference, with all kinds of epithets hung on it, like a "paralyzing uncertainty". All speakers pointed to a sum total of factors, the climate of the future including, which would be crucial for global development and especially painful for underdeveloped countries. Vague prospects

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notwithstanding, it is imperative to make political and economic decisions and act. A good deal depends on the interpretation of scientific information set into prognostication models. It is clear as day: we need interdisciplinary research projects making it possible to use a body of evidence amassed by many sciences, such as climatology and meteorology, and in medicine and the farming industry. Experts should pool efforts in deed, not just in word, on concrete projects and adaptive strategies. Only thus will it become possible to achieve top objectivity in the vision of problems of the morrow. Such was the tenor of reports and communications made at the conference by many scientists, Drs Rewicz and Vladimir Romanenkov among them.




Jean-Pascal van Ipersel, Vice-President of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Climate Change, voiced the hope that the Moscow Conference would help generate important new ideas about climate change adaptation. A possibility of climate stabilization by using geoengineering approaches was a key topic on the agenda-one of the workshops was dealing exactly with this subject. Its Co-Chairmen Acad. Yuri Izrael (Institute of the Global Climate and Ecology of the Russian Hydrometeorological Service) and professor Ulrich Batman (Wegener Institute of Polar and Marine Studies, Germany) took the floor at the plenary meeting.


Acad. Izrael presented the results of field experiments carried out by Russian researchers in studying the action of man-caused aerosol layers on the solar radiation flux. This approach is predicated on findings made by Acad. Mikhail Budyko who, in 1974, described the effect of partial reflection of incident solar radiation by tiny aerosol particles. He made this discovery in the wake of the eruption of the Agung volcano in Alaska. Most of the reports presented at this workshop concerned that subject.


Prof. Batman told about an alternative way of climate stabilization, and that was to eliminate carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The German scientist put forward an original idea that caught attention. He proposed to "fertilize" the open ocean with iron to activate phytoplankton that absorbs CO2 in the process of photosynthesis. The advantages of this method, he agreed, are yet disputable, for conservation of the organic matter of sea algae is not guaranteed because they are readily consumed by whales as part of their food chain. However, the speaker said nothing about the consequences of environmental pollution by microelements.* Meanwhile Fe ions often become active centers of enzymes responsible for the circulation of substances. An artificial insertion of this element into the ecosystem is not at all innocuous.


Prof. Alan Robok of Rutgers University (USA) took exception to the stand of geoengineering proponents by citing at least 25 cons against this mode of climate stabilization. He mentioned in particular possible disturbances for Asian and African summer monsoons, a damage to the ozone layer and, finally, he said this approach was counterproductive to efforts of many countries to cut down the discharge of hothouse gases. Dr. Robok also pointed to possible interferences in ground-based astronomy and in orbital monitoring systems. The adequate recipe suitable to the greater part of humanity would be adaptation to natural changes rather than active intervention.


Summing up, Alexander Frolov, the conference chairman and head of the Russian Hydrometeorological Service, noted that the international community has amassed a large body of data that could be of use for designing mechanisms of adaptation to climate changes. Yet the collected bits of evidence are often random and contradictory. In order to systematize the available information it is expedient to elevate the status of research inquiry into the problem and allocate more funds for this purpose. It is remarkable that on the first day of the symposium Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Climate Change, complained about the situation: "... The entire dialogue has shifted from science to politics." We could only hope that things will change for the better and teams of researchers involved with interdisciplinary studies will gain more support from governmental and international bodies.


See: M. Fedonkin, "Modern Science About the Origin of Life", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2011.--Ed.

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© Yevgeniya SIDOROVA () Источник: Science in Russia, №2, 2012, C.31-35

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