Bright blue sky over dry field.

Cincuenta años de vacilación climática

SYDNEY – En noviembre de 1965, al presidente de Estados Unidos Lyndon B. Johnson le presentaron el primer informe de gobierno en la historia donde se advertía sobre los peligros que podían resultar de quemar grandes cantidades de combustibles fósiles. Cincuenta años es mucho tiempo en política, de modo que es remarcable lo poco que se ha hecho desde entonces para enfrentar la amenaza que plantea seguir haciendo lo mismo de siempre.

En un lenguaje extraordinariamente profético, el comité de asesores científicos de Johnson advertía que liberar dióxido de carbono a la atmósfera resultaría en temperaturas globales más elevadas, causando el derretimiento de los casquetes nevados y el rápido ascenso de los niveles marinos. "Sin darse cuenta, el hombre está realizando un enorme experimento geofísico", advertían los científicos. "En unas pocas generaciones está quemando los combustibles fósiles que se acumularon lentamente en la Tierra en los últimos 500 millones de años… Los cambios climáticos que se pueden producir por el mayor contenido de CO2 podrían ser perjudiciales desde el punto de vista de los seres humanos".

La premonición del comité no es una sorpresa; la existencia del efecto invernadero ya era conocida por la ciencia desde que el físico francés Joseph Fourier sugirió en 1824 que la atmósfera de la Tierra actuaba como un aislante, atrapando el calor que, de otra manera, escaparía. Y en 1859, el físico irlandés John Tyndall llevó a cabo experimentos de laboratorio que demostraron el poder de calentamiento del CO2, lo que llevó al físico y premio Nobel sueco Svante Arrhenius a predecir que quemar carbón calentaría la Tierra -lo que para él era un desenlace potencialmente positivo.

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