Environment. Can we predict the climate crisis?

“Who could have predicted the wave of inflation thus unleashed? Or the climate crisis with spectacular effects again this summer in our country? »
By questioning himself in this way during his 2023 wishes to the French, Emmanuel Macron made several scientists react. “These questions are not serious”, also judges Michel Lussault. This geographer is a specialist in the Anthropocene, that is, the period during which man influences the planet’s ecosystem. Far from being limited to the summer drought of 2022, this period is generally set in the industrial revolution, at the end of the 19th century.

1896: A Swedish chemist predicts global warming

It is also with industrialization the first predictions about global warming appeared, specifically that of Savnte Arrhenius in an article published in 1896. After several months of calculations, this Swedish chemist came to the conclusion that if we double the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, the global temperature would rise by 5 to 6°C. Just before him, the Irish physicist John Tyndall demonstrated the heating power of gases in the atmosphere. However, these research results are not really taken seriously.

In the middle of the 20th century, new work completes this knowledge. Scientists prove that the more carbon dioxide there is, the more infrared rays are absorbed and that the oceans cannot absorb all this gas. For his part, Guy Callendar, a British engineer, dives into the data from 147 weather stations around the world. He detects a change in the climate: 0.3 °C more during the 50 years prior to 1938. From that year on, the engineer maintains that CO2 emissions from industry are responsible. However, we continue to think that man does not weigh much in relation to solar activity.

established fact

It is necessary to wait to impregnate the consciences. ” since 1970, there are many caveats around the climate issue. They will generate more and more moments of collective reflection”, emphasizes Michel Lussault. “Starting in 1972, with the Stockholm Conference, the environment became one of the main mobilization issues within the UN. The awareness of the problem is such that the IPCC was created in 1988”. Climatologists, ecologists, economists, doctors…

Some 2,500 experts from more than 60 countries come together to better understand global change. “Since then, all the global research, IPCC communications and international conferences have converged to say that the climate crisis is not coming, but that we are in it. And for thirty years, the human and social sciences have been considering the question of the adaptability of the human being”, recalls the geographer.

The weather is warming up. Human activities are the cause. It has been established for thirty years.In 1990, the first IPCC report writes in black and white that deforestation and the consumption of fossil fuels reinforce the greenhouse effect and lead to global warming in addition to natural variations. It already announces drought, heat waves and forest fires. In this case, therefore, the scientists recommended reducing human activities that generate greenhouse gases so as not to worsen the situation.

A “vintage” thought?

“You have to be blind and deaf to say that it could not be predicted. The questioning of the president illustrates the relationship of political and economic elites with scientific knowledge”, irritates Michel Lussault. “Today, the discussions are no longer about changes, but about rhythms, phenomena, origins.”
To do? “We have passed to climate-relativism according to which human genius will be able to cope, with technical solutions. It is a speech of the time, with some nonsense, that does not allow anything to be changed. This avoids asking questions about the organization and functioning of the economy contrary to what all studies show, namely a problem of resources. Today, we have no shortage of diagnostic tools. The problem is to continue thinking in 2023 with the mental scheme of 1970 ”.

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