Madrid: In terms of the environment, the year that is now coming to an end, he started dressed in blue.

January 2021 marked the beginning of the Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development, proclaimed by the United Nations, which will last until the end of 2030.

The director of the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC) Josep Llu s Pelegr Llopart has explained to us the objective of this initiative : to promote management of the oceans and coasts based on scientific knowledge, which makes healthy oceans one of the pillars for the progress of all mankind.

It will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve sustainable development with sick seas.

They harbor enormous biodiversity, play a determining role in rainfall, are the great repositories and distributors of solar energy, and regulate greenhouse gases.

The beginning of this decade has inspired the Oceans 21 series.

In it, over the last few months, we have published numerous articles that describe the situation in the main oceans of the world and talk about some of the main problems they face, such as noise pollution and climate change.

A new IPCC report

In August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its most comprehensive report on the science of climate change since 2013.

The evaluation presents new evidence that blames human activities for climate change. The analysis confirms that warming is accelerating, as is rising sea levels, and that extreme weather events (heat waves, torrential rains, periods of drought) have increased in frequency and intensity due to man.

For Fernando Valladares, from the National Museum of Natural Sciences, reducing greenhouse gas emissions requires slowing down economic development , reorganizing and limiting energy generation, transforming transportation, reducing intensive agriculture and livestock, and transforming cities.

But reversing the process is increasingly complicated. Manuel de Castro Mu oz de Lucas, Professor of Earth Physics at the University of Castilla-La Mancha points out that, even if we were able to drastically reduce emissions, the global average surface temperature would take a few centuries to return to normal values. pre-industrial .

2021, a year of extremes

During this year, some possible signs of this climatic acceleration have been noted. We premiered it in Spain with an intense wave of snow and cold that paralyzed entire cities.

The storm Filomena was also a severe blow to families in a situation of energy poverty , as warned by Mar a Teresa C ritu Vilches (Eduardo Torroja Institute of Construction Sciences, IETcc – CSIC) and Miguel ngel Navas Mart n (Carlos III Health Institute).

In summer, as unusual heat waves hit the United States and Canada, storms and floods swept through Germany. A big problem in all cases, says Antonio Ruiz de Elvira, Professor of Applied Physics at the University of Alcal , is that there are no protocols to deal with these phenomena.

The other protagonists of the summer have been the fires. Increasingly voracious and difficult to extinguish, the current ones are considered sixth generation.

“They release such an amount of energy that they are capable of developing their own behavior and generating erratic winds that allow them to spread in an unpredictable way”, alerts Rosa Mar a Canals , professor of Agri-Food Engineering and Rural Areas at the Public University of Navarra.

The professor at the University of Lleida V ctor Resco assures us that we are entering the era of fires that we can no longer put out , those that can burn for weeks or months and that only go out when it rains .

The climate summit

2021 has said goodbye with another important United Nations initiative: the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ( COP26 ), held in Glasgow last November.

Researchers Pedro Linares (Comillas Pontifical University), Anna Traveset (IMEDEA – CSIC – UIB), Cristina Linares Gil and Julio D az (Carlos III Health Institute), Gemma Dur n Romero (Autonomous University of Madrid), Roberto lvarez Fern ndez (Nebrija University ) and V ctor Resco de Dios (University of Lleida) gave us an assessment of the summit and the resulting Climate Pact , signed by 197 countries.

The meeting has represented some steps forward. Countries have been urged to review their emission reduction commitments. Good intentions have also been declared in terms of economic aid to the poorest regions, investment in health projects and forest protection.

But the meeting has left some questions up in the air. One of them is the climate finance plan and the list of contributors. On the other hand, although it was proposed to end coal and aid for fossil fuels, no firm measures have been established.

The next few years will be decisive for all these aspects to take shape. For now, the countries have agreed to meet in November 2022 in Egypt to present more ambitious commitments to reduce emissions. We will see if then they arrive with their homework done. (The Conversation)

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