A New Climate Era: Severe Winters or Economic Prosperity?

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A New Climate Era: Severe Winters or Economic Prosperity?
A New Climate Era: Severe Winters or Economic Prosperity?
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The combination of severe frost and snow - and then a sharp warming - was simply explained in the Moscow meteorological office: "A different climatic era has come." In the West, they talk about stopping the Gulf Stream - that is, they hint that cold anomalies in winter in Europe may become the norm. Alas, in what happened in the world this winter - both in Moscow and in Texas - there is absolutely nothing new. "Abnormal" cold weather is repeated here and there year after year. This is the consequence of an exotic but regular event in the southern seas. However, a new climatic era is still waiting for us. And American scientists believe that it is because of it that the per capita GDP in Russia will quadruple. We figure out if they are right.

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The average temperature in February 2021 was very low in both Russia and the United States. In Moscow, for example, -10.5 ° С, -3.8 ° С lower than the average in February. In Texas, we are generally talking about minus 20 - despite the fact that in this state, lying at the latitude of Algeria and Libya, frost is, in principle, a rarity. A typical comment on the Russian Internet at the same time: “Well, what kind of global warming are we offered to fight? Is this warming, in your opinion?"

A number of people with advanced degrees echo: “An approaching global cooling is expected in Russia. Oleg Pokrovsky, a professor at the Russian State Hydrometeorological University, informs about this … Serious climate changes are taking place throughout Russia, and in the future it threatens with a global cooling. Global warming, which has been talked about for so long, is a big question. " Sounds very impressive: "Hydrometeorological University". Inevitably, you start to wonder whether to buy the shares of coal companies - the global cold snap!

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However, the tables of average long-term temperatures clearly show: if we take long-term trends, then, to put it mildly, there is no global cooling - neither in Moscow, nor even on Wrangel Island (and indeed in Russia in general).

If we turn to more serious people, then they also say strange things. Here is Tatyana Pozdnyakova, chief specialist of the Moscow and regional meteorological office, commenting on the events of this February: “This can only say that the climate is changing, another climatic era has begun.”

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Further, the expert says that usually cyclones went across the planet and Russia from west to east, due to which severe cold weather was "locked" by warmer air masses in northern latitudes, and warmer ones - in the south. Now everything has changed - cyclones can move from north to south, bringing weather to Moscow from the northern ocean this February or "almost tropical" - in summer.

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Pozdnyakova asserts in this regard: "And, I do not exclude that in the coming years there may be even more weather cataclysms." It seems that the latest works of Western scientists indicate weather cataclysms: the Gulf Stream, they write, has slowed down at a record - for the first time in a thousand or two years.

Is she right? Should we really prepare for colder winters and monstrously hot summers? Is there a new climatic era?

The February 2021 cold was as predictable as the blackout in Texas - or the onset of winter in Russia

Let's start with "stopping" the Gulf Stream: the work to which we linked above really makes the press write about the "record weakening" of the transport of warm waters in the Atlantic (well, do not ignore the work in a peer-reviewed scientific journal!). And if you believe this, then it is worth waiting for cold winters in Europe as the new norm.

But there is a nuance: it was not for nothing that some mass media wrote "Of course, the results should be taken with caution, especially since the probable reasons for the slowdown in the Atlantic circulation have not been specially studied." Indeed, the authors of this work did not study such reasons. Moreover, the primary data on the heat transfer of the Gulf Stream themselves were not collected, but they used materials collected by other scientists - moreover, not direct measurements (a thousand years ago there was no one to carry them out - there were no thermometers), but "proxy" - indirect data based on the isotopic the composition of certain ancient organisms and rocks.

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But the authors of another work, who tried to rely on measured data, and not "proxies" (they often give a decent error), came to exactly the opposite conclusion: there is simply no weakening of the Gulf Stream. The press, however, does not cover this work, but covers the first one, about a record weakening. Why - it is clear: to voice trivial news in the style of "everything is as usual, and even with the Gulf Stream" is sad. It’s boring to write to the author of the news and read it to his audience.

Now let's move on to more pressing issues. Is the February mega-snowfall in Moscow - as well as the blackout after freezing temperatures in Texas - "anomalous events"?

Alas, in fact, the current February events - snowy mountains in Moscow, plus not a weak frost - were by no means sudden.

If we open the press for the beginning of November 2020, we will see the headlines: "La Niña will respond to the cold and snowy winter in Russia." There were still three months left before the February events - but according to the mentioned link, they already stated:

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“The natural phenomenon of La Niña is emerging in the South Pacific, and could be the most powerful of its kind in decades. Experts from the World Meteorological Organization predict a cold and snowy winter in Europe, as well as various cataclysms in other regions of the planet … the peak of this phenomenon occurs just in the winter months."

Let's remind: Moscow is located in Europe. In other words, Western meteorologists knew what would happen in our February months ago. By what means?

It's all about the words “La Niña”. The most important weather (but not climatic - it is important not to be confused) switch on our planet is called El Niño / La Niña ("Boy" / "Girl"). El Niño is a sharp warming of waters in the equatorial part of the Pacific Ocean, a situation in which the rise of cold water from the depths in this part of the largest body of water on the planet temporarily stops. Without cold water from the depths, surface waters begin to heat up - and the air above them stops cooling.

This completely changes the whole picture of winds in this part of the world. The Pacific Ocean is huge - and as a result, the influence of "Boy" spreads across the planet. It was due to the very strong El Niño that the winter of 2019-2020 - that is, the last one - was record-breaking warm throughout Russia, from Kaliningrad to Kamchatka. In the capital, we recall, for the first time in the history of observations, the average January temperature was above zero. In general, during the period of strong El Niño, the average temperature on the planet is always higher than normal.

La Niña is, as you might guess, the opposite El Niño. A situation when cold (3-5 ° C lower than usual) water from the depths of the equatorial Pacific Ocean suddenly begins to rise and take heat from the atmosphere. Sometimes they try to explain this by the periodic weakening of the trade winds, but their cause is ultimately unknown.

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Whatever the reason unknown to us, but the average temperature of the Earth's surface at La Niña falls. The transfer of winds from west to east in temperate latitudes is also disrupted - and cyclones can begin to move along atypical routes from north to south.This was already the case in 2011. And, which is typical, in February 2011, the average temperature in Moscow was -11, 0 ° C, or 4.3 ° C below normal. That is, it was colder then than this February - except that there was less snow.

The same can be seen for the other side of the ocean. In February 2011, Texas - as in 2021 - was hit by an ice storm, just of a slightly lesser force. And there were also massive power outages, failure of power plants, the formation of hydrate plugs in gas pipes, and the like. The Texas press this year drew the right conclusion from this - in articles with headlines such as: "Texas Blackout - a predicted disaster."

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Could this become a "new climatic era" as predicted by the meteorologist Pozdnyakova? Could the number of "weather cataclysms" increase? No.

Strong La Niña is not only temporary, but also rare. The last one was ten years ago. If this La Niña drags on, something similar may happen next year, but such a cold February cannot become a systematic phenomenon. The average period of the El Niño / La Niña cycle - the alternation of rises and falls in the average temperature on the planet - is 3-8 years. No one knows why he fluctuates within these limits, as well as when exactly his next cycle will come.

But scientists already understand one thing for sure: the vector of climate development looks in a completely different direction - and in a completely different climatic epoch. Cold and snowy winters are not at all what awaits us in the future.

What will really happen to the Russian climate, and why is the US so worried about it?

El Niño / La Niña have existed for at least ten thousand years, and for all their severity, they are still not the phenomena that can shape an era. But anthropogenic activity adds to the atmosphere more than 37 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year - a hundred times more than volcanoes and other abiogenic factors. And the warming is really quite real - this is evident from the fact that we perceive this February as something unusual. Meanwhile, in the XX century it would be quite ordinary February, nothing special. Now, to arrange it, you need a strong La Niña - without her, the winter is much warmer.

And we must clearly understand that warming will really affect Russia more than any other country with a large population. Just look at the two maps below: Russia today and Russia 2071-2100. It is easy to see that the bulk of our country today is classified as "Cold, no dry season, cold summer" (aqua). And by the end of the century, the main part of the country will be in the "Cold, no dry season, hot summer" (blue) climate. Today, more than 95% of the population lives in the second - but it is too cold for them to live in the first.

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Let's take a look at the map of changes for the European part of Russia: it turns out that on its coast of the Arctic Ocean the climate will be approximately the same as it is now in the middle zone, and in the middle zone it will be noticeably warmer than today.

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Back in 2015, American researchers published in Nature an analysis of how all this could affect the Russian economy. Their conclusion: per capita GDP in Russia for climatic reasons should grow by up to 200%. In a commentary to the New York Times, the first author of this work put it even more sharply: “By 2100, US per capita GDP due to warming will decrease by a third of its potential level without warming … Canada, Scandinavia, Iceland and Russia may increase their per capita GDP to five once - if they have enough people to ensure a sufficiently rapid growth of their economy."

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How exactly? In the West, they are aware of what a rare inhabitant of Russia will immediately call: our country in the past two decades has shown rapid growth in industries directly related to the climate. During this time, wheat exports have grown from a million tons per year to more than 40 million tons per year - and as a result, it ranked first in the world in this indicator.In some years, it accounts for every fifth ton of exported wheat in the world.

Over the past decade alone, its export from our country has doubled - with a simultaneous growth of domestic consumption by ten percent. In addition, there is more protein in local wheat - its nutritional value has increased. Indeed, as the temperature rises during the ripening period of wheat, the amount of protein in it increases.

The matter is not limited to wheat: agricultural exports from Russia have grown sixfold over 20 years and reached tens of billions of dollars a year, overtaking arms exports. What can I say, even if the export of rice from our country has caught up with the import - although back in the 1980s, rice was practically not grown here for obvious climatic reasons.

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Of course, the Russian authorities like to say that all this is the result of the introduction of new agricultural machinery, progressive technologies and support for agriculture. Far less often they mention - if they do so at all - objective parameters such as precipitation and average temperatures. And these parameters in Russian agricultural regions have improved markedly over the past 20 years.

But their American counterparts do not forget about the climatic part of the Russian success story: “Russian agricultural dominance,” says Rod Schoonover, a former director of environment and natural resources at the US National Intelligence Council, “is an unexpectedly emerging national security problem [USA], which is an underestimated geopolitical threat”.

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The fears of American elites are summed up by the author of the same work in Nature: in his opinion, warming by 2100 will reduce the per capita GDP of the United States by 36%, but may increase it by 3-4 times in Russia. Today, the PPP GDP in our country lags behind the American by about half. Reducing this gap by a factor of four, other things being equal, will mean equalizing the actual per capita GDP in our two countries. The United States is extremely worried about this scenario: and with today's Russia, they do not really know what to do. They do not want to face a country that is equal to themselves in the economic sense.

To summarize: from a geopolitical point of view, global warming means that the area suitable for human life in Russia will increase markedly - perhaps several times. This is tantamount to the annexation of many millions of square kilometers of new lands to the current Russian state. Therefore, it is not surprising that the United States is extremely wary of this geopolitical future of our country.

Are American Experts Right?

It may seem that American scientists just played a little with their modeling, as, frankly, this has happened to them more than once. Perhaps they were mistaken somewhere and as a result, the golden age outlined above will not happen in our country?

First, about the climatic side of the issue. Undoubtedly, American researchers are not the only ones who expect our country to flourish from global warming. Let's open the work of Russian scientists: millions of square kilometers of the Asian part of Russia will lose the "permafrost" in the upper layer of the soil and become more habitable.

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Another scientific work: with the maximum predicted warming, summer temperatures in Siberia will increase by an average of 5, 7 degrees, and precipitation - by 140 millimeters per year (after all, warming is normally accompanied by an increase in precipitation). Results: if now 80% of the Asian part of Russia is unfavorable to the living of people, then by 2100 this share may fall to 38%. From a purely climatic point of view, the capacity of only the Asian part of the country will increase fivefold - that is, five times more people will be able to live there. than now.

Another work of Russian researchers shows that part of the deserts and semi-deserts of southern Russia have already turned into steppes - with a corresponding change in fauna. This is partly attributed to a decrease in livestock grazing there, but since the beginning of this century, the livestock population in these areas has reached Soviet values.

A more likely reason for the overgrowth of deserts and semi-deserts is an increase in the amount of precipitation falling here. All models predict - and Earth's past confirms this - that as average temperatures rise, precipitation also increases. If the overgrowth of the south of the country is due precisely to this, then the current changes will benefit not only the middle zone and the northern part of the country.

It is possible that both domestic and foreign scientific works somewhat underestimate the real potential of warming in Russia. The fact is that almost all existing climatic models incorrectly reproduce the climate of the ancient Earth during warm periods. For the Mesozoic and Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum, all existing models predict overheated tropics, where it is impossible to live, and rather cool circumpolar latitudes.

However, real data from excavations and analyzes of ancient rocks indicate a completely different picture. The tropics were teeming with life, and 900 kilometers from the South Pole the average annual temperature of modern Yalta was +13 (with 1120 millimeters of precipitation per year). This is much, much warmer than any model predicts. Now in Antarctica, at the same distance from the pole, the average temperature is 60 degrees lower than in the Mesozoic.

This contradiction is called the "paradox of the cool tropics": it turns out that the poles were on average 60 degrees warmer, and in the tropics and at the equator - at least a few degrees warmer than today. And this despite the fact that some data show: the seas in the tropics during warm times could be even slightly cooler than today. This paradox means that any modern climatological work can significantly underestimate the degree of warming in Russia in the next tens and hundreds of years.

As can be seen from the graph, the average annual temperature at the North and South Poles during the warm periods of the Earth's history roughly corresponded to the climate of Moscow in the 20th century. At the latitude of today's Moscow, the climate was similar to that of Taiwan today.

Of course, in the foreseeable future there will be no Yalta on Franz Josef Land - this requires warming much stronger than the current one. But the onset of the Yalta warm and humid climate in the middle zone in the next few hundred years still cannot be ruled out - unless, of course, developed countries begin to remove CO2 from the Earth's atmosphere forcibly.

And yet, we must admit: American researchers are not entirely right. First, there will be no "climate-related" drop in the per capita GDP in the United States by 2100 - rather, there will be growth. Secondly, in Russia, with the current economic and demographic policy of the authorities, there will be no growth of the population of Siberia, no growth of per capita GDP by 3-4 times due to climatic reasons. Why?

Why the new climate era will not lead to a decline in the US economy

On the first point, it's simple: the assumption of a downturn in the American economy is based on the idea that as warming warms, the productivity of American agriculture will decline. Meanwhile, this is extremely doubtful.

To understand what will happen to the warmer States as it warms, it is useful to take a very warm country that is most vulnerable to global warming - say, Bangladesh - and find out what has already happened to its agriculture during its course. The average temperature in Bangladesh is +26 degrees, and in the USA - +12.4 degrees (that is, as in the circumpolar regions of the Cretaceous period). Obviously, no amount of global warming will make the United States warmer than today's Bangladesh. So what has global warming done to the vegetation of this tropical country?

Agriculture in Bangladesh between the 1970s and 2010s - the peak of the intensity of observed global warming - showed a strong increase in yields. The main crop of the country is rice, and its yield in 1970 was 11 centners per hectare, and in 2011 - already 30 centners per hectare. During the same period of time, potatoes made a leap from 33 to 196 centners per hectare.

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The results are quite predictable: the food of local residents has improved dramatically, and now it is the best in the history of the region. A country with an area of ​​the Vologda Oblast and a population larger than the population of the whole of Russia is coping with the food problem better and better - but Russia, with such an area, would definitely not be able to feed its population.

One can object to this: crops are fertilized, treated with pesticides, and so on. All this is not an indicator. Well, that's true - although the American economy in 2100 is unlikely to not use fertilizers and pesticides, which means that it should not be expected to decline. Nevertheless, taking a look at what is happening with wild plants in Bangladesh is also very interesting.

Wildlife is doing very well there: in 1986-2015, local trees increased their water use efficiency by 29 to 46%. Efficiency of water use is the ratio of the amount of water consumed by a plant to the increase in its biomass per unit of time.

The reason for such an increase in the efficiency of its use, scientists conclude, is an increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the earth's air over the same period. It was about 15% - which provided a spurt in the development of local "wild" plants. After all, it is from this gas that they obtain carbon, from which they mainly build their biomass. Interestingly, most climate models promise Bangladesh an increase in rainfall due to warming.

Maybe such positive consequences of anthropogenic CO2 emissions have only in Bangladesh, while in other hot parts of the world it leads to the oppression of all living things? No: in 2000-2017, a quarter of the total increase in leaf area on the planet was in tropical and equatorial regions (south of 25 degrees north latitude and north of 25 degrees south latitude).

And this is a lot: if all over the world after 2000 the leaf area has grown by 5.39 million square kilometers, then in the indicated warm zone of the planet - by 1.49 million square kilometers. Conclusion: even in the warmest parts of the world, there is no depression of vegetation due to global warming. On the contrary, the strongest growth is evident.

What is the likelihood that the tropics and equator will show rapid vegetation during strong warming, and the USA, much colder than the tropics and equator, will show a sharp decline in the period up to 2100? To be honest, the question is rhetorical and hardly requires an answer. But still: outside of computer modeling, it is indistinguishable from zero.

Total: no drop in American per capita GDP due to climatic reasons will happen. On the contrary, a rise is likely.

And will not help the Russian economy

Let's take a typical near-equatorial country, for example, Nicaragua. The average annual temperature there is +26 degrees - such that it will never be in Russia, under any global warming. Precipitation there is from 1000 to 3000 millimeters per year - again, we will not have it like this in a thousand years. Harvests per year are removed from two to three. There are more cattle than people, and no one grazes it: due to the excellent climate, it grazes itself, and all year round. But the local population lives at times poorer than ours.

A similar picture is in neighboring countries, as well as in the equatorial countries of Africa, Indonesia, and so on. In the entire equatorial zone, there are literally two countries with a per capita GDP higher than Russia's: Singapore and Malaysia, which is trying (as far as the mental capabilities of its authorities allow) to copy it in everything. Everything.

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These examples show that objective benefits are in most cases nothing. The wealth of peoples is achieved not even by their labor (a typical Nicaraguan peasant injects more and heavier than a typical Malay), but by their brains. Moreover, 80% of the results are determined not even by the brains of ordinary citizens, but by the brains of those who control them. The dynasty of Lee Kuan Yew and his son rules Singapore well - therefore, the per capita GDP there is several times higher than ours.The Malays copy the actions of the neighboring dynasty by a C, but still show a per capita GDP at least not lower than that of Russia.

The Russian authorities (as well as the opposition) are not aware of what drives economic growth. From this statement, their representatives show that there will never be any equalization of the per capita GDP of the United States and Russia. As long as the level of macroeconomic literacy of Russian politicians in any part of the spectrum is the same as today, we will always live poorer than Americans.

With this absolutely nothing can be done - even if in Franz Josef Land they start to shoot three mango crops a year (which is obviously unrealistic). Subjective advantages (the mental abilities of the elites) are more important than any objective advantages of a nation - this is shown by the entire economic history of mankind. A simple example: American economic elites understand why printing trillions of dollars of money can do without inflation, but ours cannot. As long as this remains so, nothing will fundamentally change.

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Therefore, no amount of warming will help us. Judging by the fact that in terms of the macroeconomic program, our opposition is no different from the authorities, it will not help with any political changes. Never.

And yet, a new climatic era will come - and that's good

However, human life is not only about the economy. The state of our psyche directly depends on how much time a person can spend in nature, and how he feels at the same time. The cold causes us the same answer as the typical distress - therefore, the number of those who want to live in cold places and in Russia is much less than the number of those who want to live in the middle lane or in the south of the country.

A number of scientific studies have shown for quite some time that the degree of human satisfaction with life is highly correlated with climate. According to empirical data (incomplete, because hot countries are poorly studied in this regard), it reaches its maximum at an average annual temperature of +13, 9 ° C.

But humidity, wind, precipitation and sunlight do not affect the feeling of happiness. +13, 9 ° C - this is higher than almost anywhere in modern Russia (with the exception of extremely southern points, like Sochi and Derbent), and even slightly higher than in the polar regions of Antarctica during the Cretaceous period. But, definitely, by 2100 the situation in our country will noticeably change, and in some places the Cretaceous Antarctic level of heat will still be achievable for our fellow citizens.

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It is clear that climate mitigation will inevitably reduce the annual “dose” of stress experienced by the average Russian. And this, in itself, is not so bad - and even better than a developed economy. Let's take the rating of the most prosperous regions of Russia: the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug (Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug) occupies the first place, the Magadan Region is in the second place, and Chukotka is the third. At the same time, Moscow is in sixth place, and St. Petersburg is in tenth. The criteria for the "success" of the region were simple: wages and gross product per capita. Of course, economically, there were very cold places ahead.

But if we look at the demographic history of these regions, we will notice: people either do not go there very much (Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug), or they run (Magadan Oblast, Chukotka), and have been running for a long time. Three times more people lived in Chukotka thirty years ago than today. And the life expectancy in such places is usually less than in the conventional Belgorod region. Conclusion: the economy for many is still less important than the general conditions for life.

And they, in the new climatic era, in our country will become noticeably less severe. And this cannot but rejoice.

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