We must all realize that climate is a local issue
Tsong Tien-tzou 鄭天佐
Taipei Times, Monday, Jan 29, 2007, Page 8
Scientists have drilled ice cores under the Antarctic to examine the climate in ancient times. The sediments inside the ice cores are like tree rings. Experts are able to understand the climate during different periods by comparing the oxygen isotopes inside ice cores from different depths, and even analyze the amount of greenhouse gases through the bubbles inside.
Based on historical data, scientists have confirmed that the temperature on the earth's surface has risen drastically over the past two centuries and that there has been an abnormal rise in the amount of greenhouse gases in the air. They have also confirmed a direct proportional relationship between the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the use of fossil fuels, which means that there is no longer any doubt that global warming is a result of the widespread use of fossil fuels since the industrial revolution.
Most scientists believe that the temperature rise has been caused by greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide which hinder heat dissipation.
A small minority of scientists have a different view, believing that the rise falls within the scope of statistical change. They believe it is a natural temperature rise following the end of a little ice age, changes in energy released by the Sun or an expansion of the urbanization effect.
I haven't been able to find any data on the effects of the heat released through energy use on global temperatures, but my rough estimate is that it may increase temperatures by about 1oC.
Global warming will have the following impact. First, the thinning and shrinking of the polar ice caps, ice and snow on high mountains and glaciers and the break-up of Arctic icebergs mean that the global sea level may rise by between 1m to 6m by the end of the century. Since half of the world's population lives within 100km of a coastline, this will lead to a redistribution of the population.
Second, drastic weather changes, land desertification, the extinction of numerous species and major relocations of humans and animals.
Third, changes in the agricultural and fishery industries and plant and animal ecology will have a deep effect on the human economy and livelihood.
Fourth, the spread of infectious diseases and changes to the ecological environment will affect human health.
We have the following options. First, set an aggressive schedule for a major carbon reduction campaign. We should inform and educate the general public and industry on how to use less fossil energy and promote the renewable energy industry. We should also improve the energy efficiency of electrical home appliances and production machinery while enacting new tax policies to regulate energy use and make people cut down on fossil fuels in order to cut energy use by at least 10 percent in five years.
The second option is to adjust industrial structure. The government should push for a move from manufacturing to the service, cultural and knowledge industries and industry should consider how to achieve this.
The third option is to complete the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant as soon as possible. From the perspective of energy safety, nuclear power is the most reliable alternative both as the main and a backup source of energy. Provided there are quality and safety guarantees, we should complete the plant as soon as possible.
Most importantly, both the general public and politicians should actively consider ways to respond to the issue and hurry to establish a new energy policy.
The most frightening aspect is that the government is ignoring the urgency of the matter.
Tsong Tien-tzou is a research fellow in the Institute of Physics at the Academia Sinica. Translated by Eddy Chang