El camino científico a Copenhague

BERLÍN – El 10 de junio de 1859, seis meses antes de que Charles Darwin publicara  El origen de las especies , el físico John Tyndall demostró una serie asombrosa de experimentos en la Royal Institution de Londres. El encuentro estuvo presidido por el príncipe Alberto. Pero ni él, ni Tyndall, ni nadie en su distinguida audiencia podría haber anticipado de alguna manera hasta qué punto los resultados de los experimentos podrían preocupar al mundo 150 años más tarde.

Este mes, miles de personas de todo el mundo, entre ellas muchos jefes de Estado, se reunirán en Copenhague para intentar forjar un acuerdo destinado a reducir drásticamente las emisiones atmosféricas de un gas invisible e inodoro: el dióxido de carbono. A pesar de los esfuerzos de algunos países líderes para reducir las expectativas previas a la conferencia sobre lo que se puede lograr y lo que se va a lograr, a la cumbre todavía se la sigue considerando la conferencia más importante desde la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Y en el corazón de la conferencia aparecen los resultados de los experimentos de Tyndall.

Pero la historia comienza incluso antes que Tyndall, con el genio francés Joseph Fourier, un huérfano educado por los monjes. Fourier ya era profesor a la edad de 18 años y se convirtió en el gobernador de Napoleón en Egipto antes de reanudar una carrera en el mundo de la ciencia. En 1824, Fourier descubrió por qué el clima de nuestro planeta es tan cálido -decenas de grados más cálido de lo que sugeriría un simple cálculo de su equilibrio energético-. El sol aporta calor y la Tierra irradia calor de nuevo al espacio -pero las cifras no estaban en equilibrio-. Fourier detectó que los gases en nuestra atmósfera atrapan el calor. El llamó a su descubrimiento l’effet de serre -el efecto invernadero.

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