2021-07-24: Leaders 3°世界无太平之地

Adapting to climate change 适应气候变化

A 3°C world has no safe place 3°世界无太平之地

The extremes of floods and fires are not going away, but adaptation can lessen their impact洪水、野火等极端天气不会消失,积极调适能减轻冲击

Jul 24th 2021 |

IN 1745, AS the river Liffey, having broken its banks, clawed at the foundations of the house in which he sat, the young Edmund Burke experienced a strange, perverse thrill. The man who would go on to found modern conservatism drew inspiration from this experience in a later essay on the sublime, writing of the unmatched delight that terrible destruction could stir—provided that it is watched from a certain distance.

1745年,利菲河冲破堤岸,击打着他住所的地基时,年轻的埃德蒙·伯克(Edmund Burke)体验到了一种陌生、荒谬的兴奋之情。这位日后的现代保守主义奠基人从这一体验中汲取了灵感,后来在一篇论崇高的散文中写道,可怕的毁灭能激起无与伦比的愉悦之感——只要观察者处于一定距离之外。

The most terrible thing about the spectacular scenes of destruction that have played out around the world over the past weeks is that there is no safe place from which to observe them. The ground under the German town of Erftstadt is torn apart like tissue paper by flood waters; Lytton in British Columbia is burned from the map just a day after setting a freakishly high temperature record; cars float like dead fish through the streets-turned-canals in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou. All the world feels at risk, and most of it is.

过去几周世界各地都上演了可怕的毁灭景象,最可怕的却是,在这些灾害之中,没有安全观察之所。德国城镇埃尔夫特施塔特(Erftstadt)所在地面被洪水像撕纸巾一样撕裂开来;英属哥伦比亚省的利顿,气温达到惊人的最高记录,隔天就遭野火焚毁,被从地图上完全抹去;在中国城市郑州,街道变成河道,汽车像死鱼一般漂浮在水中。全世界都感到处境危险,而大多数地方已然身处险境。

Greenhouse-gas emissions have produced a planet more than 1°C (1.8°F) warmer than it was in Burke’s pre-industrial days. Its atmosphere, stoked up and out of joint, is producing heavy weather in ways both predicted and surprising. And, with emissions continuing, it will get worse.

温室气体排放导致全球气温比伯克所处的前工业时代升高了1度多(1.8华氏摄氏度)。大气层温度升高,失去控制,造成极端气候,有些可以预测,而有些则完全出其不意。温室气体持续排放,情况将继续恶化。

Unfortunately, 2021 will probably be one of the 21st century’s coolest years. If temperatures rise by 3°C above pre-industrial levels in the coming decades—as they might even if everyone manages to honour today’s firm pledges—large parts of the tropics risk becoming too hot for outdoor work. Coral reefs and the livelihoods that depend on them will vanish and the Amazon rainforest will become a ghost of itself. Severe harvest failures will be commonplace. Ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland will shrink past the point of no return, promising sea rises measured not in millimetres, as today’s are, but in metres.

不幸的是,2021年恐怕是21世纪最凉爽的年份之一了。若在未来数十年内,全球均温比前工业时代升高3度——即使每个人都兑现了当下的坚定承诺,气温仍可能继续上升——很多热带地区恐怕会热到无法进行户外工作。珊瑚礁以及赖其生存的生物将会消失,亚马逊雨林将变成一片空荡。严重的粮食歉收将变得司空见惯。南极洲和格陵兰岛的冰盖将萎缩到不可逆转的地步,从而导致海平面不再以今天的毫米为单位,而要以米为单位持续上升。

Six years ago, in Paris, the countries of the world committed themselves to avoiding the worst of that nightmare by eliminating net greenhouse-gas emissions quickly enough to hold the temperature rise below 2°C. Their progress towards that end remains woefully inadequate. Yet even if their efforts increased dramatically enough to meet the 2°C goal, it would not stop forests from burning today; prairies would still dry out tomorrow, rivers break their banks and mountain glaciers disappear.

6年前在巴黎,世界各国都承诺要尽快实现温室气体净零排放,将温度升幅控制在2°以下,以避免最坏的噩梦成真。在这方面我们取得了一些进展,但仍远远不够。然而,即使各国大力加紧努力,实现了2°目标,也仍无法阻止当下森林燃烧,明日牧场干涸,河流决堤,高山冰川消失。

Cutting emissions is thus not enough. The world also urgently needs to invest in adapting to the changing climate. The good news is that adaptation makes political sense. People can clearly see the need for it. When a country invests in flood defences it benefits its own citizens above all others—there is no free-rider problem, as there could be for emissions reduction. Nor does all the money come from the public purse; companies and private individuals can see the need for adaptation and act on it. When they do not do so, insurance companies can open their eyes to the risks they are running.

因此,只减排是不够的。全球急切需要付出努力适应气候变化。好消息是调适具有政治意义。人们能清楚地看出这很有必要。国家投资防洪,本国国民是最大受益者——与减排不同,这里不存在“搭便车”的问题。资金也不全是从公共财政中支出;公司和私营个人都能认识到适应气候变化的必要性,并积极行动。要是他们无动于衷,保险公司可以帮其认清其所冒的风险。

Some adaptation is fairly easily set in place. Systems for warning Germans of coming floods will surely now improve. But other problems require much larger public investment, like that which has been put into water-management in the Netherlands. Rich countries can afford such things. Poor countries and poor people need help, which is why the Paris climate agreement calls for annual transfers of $100bn from rich to poor.

有一些适应性措施实施起来相当容易。德国洪水预警系统现在肯定会得到改善。但其他问题就需要更大的公共投资,比如在荷兰水资源管理上所倾注的投资。富裕国家能负担得起这么大的开销。贫困国家和贫困人民则需要帮助,这就是为什么巴黎气候协定呼吁富裕国家每年向贫困国家支付1000亿美元的原因。

The rich countries have not yet lived up to their side of this. On July 20th John Kerry, President Joe Biden’s special envoy on climate change, reiterated America’s pledge to triple its support to $1.5bn for adaptation in poorer countries by 2024, part of a broader move to increase investment in adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. More such efforts are vital.

在这方面,富裕国家目前尚未兑现承诺。7月20日拜登的气候特使约翰·克里(John Kerry)重申,美国承诺到2024年,将向贫困国家提供的适应变化所需融资增至三倍,达到15亿美元,此为其一,美国将在更广泛的领域,增加向发展中国家在气候变化的适应和缓解方面的投资。更多类似举措必不可少。

But they also have limits. Making do with less water may be possible; getting by on none is not. Some levels of temperature and humidity make outdoors activity impossible. There comes one flood too many, after which you abandon the land. When the reef is gone, it is gone.

但上述举措也有局限性。水资源减少,人类也许还能勉强过活,但若水资源枯竭,人类将无法生存。温度和湿度达到某一水平,人类将无法从事户外活动。经历过一次特大洪水,土地会被弃置。珊瑚礁一旦消失,就永远无法恢复。

If the Paris goal of keeping the rise below 2°C is met, the full extent of those limits will not be tested. But emission-cutting zeal may not accelerate as required. And the climate system could prove more sensitive than it has shown itself to be to date, as some scientists believe possible, producing more warming per tonne of carbon in the atmosphere.

如果巴黎气候协定的2°目标得以实现,那么以上极端情况将不会发生。但减排热情未必如所需那般一飞冲天。一些科学家认为,气候系统有可能比迄今所展现的更为敏感,大气中每一吨碳会产生更严重的温室效应。

Hence it is also prudent to study the most spectacular, and scary, form of adaptation: solar geoengineering. This seeks to make clouds or particle layers in the atmosphere a bit more mirror-like, reflecting away some sunlight. It cannot provide a straightforward equal and opposite response to greenhouse-gas warming; it will tend, for example, to reduce precipitation somewhat more than temperature, potentially changing rainfall patterns. But research over the past 15 years has suggested that solar geoengineering might significantly reduce some of the harms from greenhouse warming.

太阳能地球工程是最壮观、惊人的一种适应形式,对其进行研究也不失为明智之举。这一研究试让大气中的云层或粒子层变得更像镜子,从而反射掉部分阳光。它无法直接等量抵消温室气体的增温效应;而往往是通过减少降水(而非降低温度)等方法,从而有望改变降雨模式。近15年来的研究发现,太阳能地球工程有可能会大幅减轻温室效应所造成的一些危害。

What nobody yet knows is how such schemes could be developed so as to reflect not just the interests of their instigators, but also those of all the countries they will affect. Different countries might seek different amounts of cooling; some ways of putting solar geoengineering into effect would help some regions while harming others. Nor is there yet a compelling rejoinder to the risk that the very idea of such things tomorrow reduces the incentive to be ambitious in cutting emissions today.

如何制定此类计划,使其不仅仅反映发起国之利益,也能反映其所影响的所有国家之利益,目前尚无人知晓。不同国家也许要实现的降温程度不同;实施太阳能地球工程可能会让一些地区受益,而另一些地区受灾。若人们一味想着未来会有太阳能地球工程这类解决方案,会否浇熄当下我们实现减排的雄心壮志,对此风险也还没有一个令人信服的应答。

When good men do nothing当好人无所作为时

To think about solar geoengineering requires facing those problems—and the risk that powers with little interest in them may try out such schemes regardless. It also means facing squarely what kind of being humankind has become. Watching the rising waters of the Liffey, Burke “considered how little man is, yet in his mind how great…Master of all things, yet scarce can command anything.” Manipulating the climate that humanity has destabilised—unwittingly, at first—spurs similar thoughts of simultaneous power and impotence. It is not nature that humans cannot command, but themselves, in all their insignificance and world-altering might. ■

要考虑实现太阳能地球工程就要面对这些问题,以及风险——对这些问题不感兴趣的国家,很可能会不顾一切地尝试推进此类计划。这也意味着,我们要正视“人类已经变成了什么样子”这个问题。望着利菲河不断上涨的河水,伯克“想到人类多么渺小,但在他心中自己又是多么伟大…万物之主,却什么也主宰不了”。人类先是破坏了气候的稳定性,又试图操纵之,起初不知不觉,而后产生了与伯克类似的想法:我们既强大有力同时又无能为力。人类既微不足道,却又有着改变世界之能力,人类无法掌控的并非大自然,而恰恰是我们自己。

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