segunda-feira, 21 de outubro de 2013

2112 – The Diamond Towers - Part II – The Carbon Crisis

At the time I was born, it was very difficult for anyone to reach 100 years. Today it is not unusual for someone to reach this age. It seems that the new lifestyle and the advances in genetic medicine have led to life expectancy to levels never seen before. From what I hear, it has been 50 years since no one dies old. It is not my specialty, but it seems it has to do with a set of genes that appear to be associated with the aging process. Our friends, the doctors, created a genetic treatment that disables this set of genes. A curious thing is that only the first two generations of humans had to receive treatment. The third onwards began to be born with the genes of old age inactive. Perhaps this is the first example of self-caused evolution. The same technique was used to cure diseases like color blindness or hemophilia. But all this progress has created a big problem. Although birth rates are relatively low (I hear about 1.75 children per woman), mortality rates are also very low. Infant mortality is almost zero and wars, crimes and traffic accidents are no longer a concern (traffic accidents almost ended when the car stopped need drivers). Thus, human population continues to increase. Today we are in 15 billion. The Torres guarantee space and ecological conditions for up to 10 times that, except that there is no enough carbon on the planet for so many Towers. So, although things are good today, it will not be like this forever. Some proposals such as the migration to the Moon or Mars are being considered.
            But this is a future crisis and I would like to talk about a past crisis, where there was no shortage, but excess carbon in the wrong place.
            I am one of the survivors of the Carbon Crisis, the time when we almost self-destroyed because of our carelessness and greed. Mankind has learned from his mistakes, but I have no assurance that such errors or other worst will not be repeated in the future. I then decided to tell this story to future generations. For a long time we no longer use paper for obvious reasons. Today we depend entirely on digital media for our records and our communication. But if one day our technology fails for some reason, we will lose access to all our records, our entire history. Without them, humanity can take a huge time to rebuild, and this may be our ultimate downfall. Thinking about it I'm making this my record being printed on pages made ​​of a special polymer, which according to the experts prognosis can survive for several million years. I will make sure that copies of this record shall be present in each tower already built and in each of which will be built from now. I'm making to be included microfilmed records made ​​of the same material, with a record as complete as possible of all the relevant information of our culture and society as well as instructions for building an easy to manufacture and handling microfilm reader for the case in which all players have been destroyed. That is to ensure that someday, in case that the civilization should be destroyed, the mankind can rise again, doing things the right way. I hope this multiple redundancy guarantee that this record reaches the hand of those who need it.
            Ah! I was about to talk about the Carbon Crisis. Let me explain a little about what preceded this crisis. Since the 1970s, it began to emerge early indications that the climate was being changed by human action. For many years, this anthropomorphic climate change was attributed to human carbon emissions, a result of burning fossil fuels and deforestation by fires. It was created a group of researchers, then called IPCC, which was responsible for collecting all data from climate research to corroborate with the thesis of the "anthropomorphic global warming", and to produce from these data a periodic reports that should serve as a guide to governments and other institutions in a decision making position. At the beginning, everything seemed to indicate that human emissions of carbon dioxide were actually altering the Earth's climate. The problem began when global average temperatures stopped rising in accordance with the theoretical model. However, it took some years before the public began to take notice of this trend. Coincidentally or not, in this time an incident occurred which damaged the IPCC image and provided ammunition for critics of global warming, the so-called skeptics. It was discovered that one of the researchers selected the data so that it fit the theory, discarding the rest. It is common practice among researchers to discard data that detract too much from the expected average (due to measurement errors), but in this case, the discharge was clearly a forced curve fitting. This provided wood for the fire from critics, who began to suspect other jobs. Faults were detected in the data collection and selection, faulty methodology, and political and economic interests in both factions. But the sensationalist and unskilled technical press failed to clearly identify what was really happening. A part of the press continued to systematically disseminate the global warming thesis with no change, as if nothing had happened. Another part (the most notorious) gave focus to critics, giving to public the idea that there was not a global warming at all.
In the midst of this war of facts, lies and accusations, a few groups of serious climatologists began to filter the signal from the noise. It seemed clear that there was some sort of climate disruption, something that could not simply be explained by natural variations. The problem was to define if the trend was heating, cooling or strong oscillations between these two extremes. It was easy to see from the data (those correctly collected) that there was a strong correlation between human activity and climate extremes, but not only in the direction of warming. It was also easy to see that these disturbances appeared more intensely in more densely populated and industrialized areas. It was very difficult to filter this disturbance among the various natural phenomena such as El Niño and solar cycle, but as more data were collected more the correlation began to be clear, not toward a warm, but definitely a natural cycle disturbance. This disruption could no longer be exclusively attributed to human carbon emissions, but the set of all activities that somehow caused their impact. Soon it was proved that deforestation was more severe than burning fossil fuels, even when this deforestation was aimed at planting sugar cane or other biomass to replace oil consumption. Other things like the urban occupation, water and water sources use, water, air and soil pollution, electronic junk, waste of energy, raw materials and food, overfishing, species extinction, and much more, were changing so significant the planetary ecosystem. It soon became clear that simply cutting carbon emissions was far from enough to solve the problem. It was necessary to change the system, to do things in a different way. This resulted in profound changes in eating habits, housing and transportation, in addition to profound economic and political changes.
Unfortunately, when the scientific community finally came to this conclusion, many trillions of dollars have already been irretrievably spent on "active carbon mitigation", i.e. the construction of huge and expensive machines designed to actively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This had its good side, because it allowed the surplus of material needed to lower the construction of the towers. But we just barely escaped from plunging into an early Ice Age. This happened because humanity decided to act before understanding what was really happening.

Gilvan Apolonio

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