Wednesday, May 18

“We have jumped the seams on the Earth”: climate change explained by Miguel Delibes de Castro


“Either the Earth has outgrown us or we have become too big for what the Earth can support.” Biologist and researcher Miguel Delibes de Castro, who was director of the Doñana Biological Station for 12 years, the situation that humanity faces due to its own action on the planet. The issue has one of its main reflections in climate change, basically the result of the fact that “we have jumped the seams on the Earth”. That, and on top of that we don’t behave like earthworms.

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And what does that mean? Well, that humans “are not so different from other species in the basics of ecology”, with an impact that is determined by two fundamental factors: the size of the population and the effect of each individual. And in both, humanity is leaving its mark for the worse, since on the one hand the number of people “has skyrocketed unstoppably and terribly in 150 years” and, on the other, each one of us individually does not the same as our predecessors of 10,000 years ago, because we consume more resources and on top of that we generate more waste.

Here, as a comparative example, is where the worms appear, with a number that will have varied more or less, but not their individual impact. In other words, a worm today does the same thing and behaves just like its ancestors 10,000 years ago, just the opposite of man, who on average spends more resources and pollutes more. The imprint we leave on the planet as a species is not exactly sustainable.



“The Great Acceleration”

This exhibition was made by Delibes in a recent act in the Faculty of Philosophy of Seville, in which, together with other speakers, he reflected on the challenges of climate change. The mark of man is such that part of the scientific community uses the term anthropocene to refer to the current geological epoch, with “excessive energy consumption, the abuse of fertilizers, dams, the use made of water, mass tourism…”, all triggered above all from 1950, when what has been called “the great acceleration” occurs.

All this means that we have species extinction rates “higher than when the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago”. “We are fascinated by our biological success, we are the first of the class and the smartest”, which leads us to “neglect the associated risk”. Because in the end, as a species, we are determined to “put on the First Communion suit on the day of the wedding”, a complicated issue no matter how much the garment is growing and elastic. And that’s the same thing that happens to Earth but, since there is no planet B, what we should do is “stabilize the population and reduce consumption and waste.”

With such a panorama, it is necessary to turn around the “social mentality” that seeks happiness in unbridled consumerism and that has been established on bases with which “it is enough that we cannot communicate and that the internet disappears for the collapse”. This, in addition to being “disturbing”, implies that if we want to maintain the current pace, in the end there will be no choice but to resort to nuclear energy, a scenario in which the winners will be “the bacteria that lick their lips with radiation”.

Delibes opposed “the pessimism of intelligence and the optimism of the will”, and he is clear that the path to follow is that of “living well without excessive consumption”. “We have to change the way we are in the world,” he added.

The solution is not going to be given by capitalism

Ana Díaz Vázquez, from the European Commission Research Center (JRC for its acronym in English) in Seville, who also admitted that “nuclear energy enters the equation if we want to continue at the same rate as now.” The only way to avoid this is to bet on “unplugging” and changing how things are being done now. In his opinion, “the collapse is already here”, and that there are ways to alleviate the situation, although of course the solution “cannot be left to capitalism”.

Another clear issue is that it is going to be difficult to take the necessary steps, because we are facing the challenge of fulfilling the commitment to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 50% by 2030, and this would require an annual rate of reductions in 8%. Compared to that figure, in 2020, with the world paralyzed for several months by the pandemic, the concentration of CO2 was reduced by 5.2%… to increase it by 6% in 2021, “the largest figure in history”.

“CO2 keeps pace with the economy,” he summarized, and that explains why emissions have quadrupled since 1950, 73% of which come from energy consumption: in industry, for transport, in buildings… And yes, China is the largest producer of CO2, but the United States continues to take the cake if we analyze the per capita data. Be that as it may, “if we do nothing the temperature will rise three degrees in 2100”, a more than considerable figure if we take into account that the average temperature of the Earth is 15 degrees.

“Many solutions that are cheap”

For its part, kings pulled, a Greenpeace and Exeter University researcher, in addition to being an “activist and gardener”, put on the table that “power and the economy have vested interests that block the taking of measures”, and thus it will be difficult to comply in 2050 the commitment to zero emissions. And that for this path he believes that “there are many solutions that are cheap”: low-carbon fuels, protection and restoration of nature, carbon-rich soils, changes in the food system, diets with less meat…

A not insignificant part of the emissions are related to animal feed for the production of meat, above all, which means that the world average is 40 kilos of animal protein per person per year. In India, on the other hand, it does not reach five kilos, while Spain shoots up to 80 kilos, the country that consumes the most. “In practice we have abandoned the Mediterranean diet, it is already more similar to the American one,” he lamented.

Even to contaminate, he came to say, there are classes and classes. The 10% of those who emit the most contribute between 35 and 45% of global emissions, and 1% of the world population emitted 50% of the CO2 due to commercial aviation, especially significant if one takes into account that only between 2 and 4% of the global population took an international flight in 2018.

“We have to reduce energy consumption so as not to go nuclear, a cultural change is necessary” which seems complicated because in the current context of the crisis due to the war in Ukraine, European governments are betting on subsidizing gasoline, when “only eliminating fossil fuel subsidies would reduce global emissions by 10% in 2030”. Among other initiatives, she unequivocally supported imposing more taxes “on absolute wealth” and urged action because “it is now or never”, “we consume much more resources than the Earth can produce and purify”.





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