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Monday, September 20, 2021

K. Synolakis: The heatwave we are living in now may be normal at the end of the century


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The heatwave that has hit the country in recent days has been described as one of the ten longest lasting in the last 35 years. The APE-MPE addressed the chairman of the National Special Committee on Climate Change, academician Konstantinos Synolakis, in order to understand the ways in which climate change burdens life and climatic conditions both in our country and globally.

What are the consequences, what are the solutions and what are the estimates for the future? "What we are experiencing this year may become the norm at the end of the century," says the distinguished professor.

As Mr. Synolakis points out in the interview he gave to APE-MPE: the Earth's climate. "Because overheating provides more energy and water vapor to the gaseous masses, the intensity of extreme meteorological phenomena increases, and at the same time they become more and more frequent."

He notes that "according to the most ominous forecasts of climate models show that in 2100 there may be more than 40 days of heat per year - there are models that show up to 90 days of heat in Central Europe" and adds: "The intensity and duration in future depend on carbon dioxide concentrations, as it increases, so does the intensity and frequency of extreme heat waves. That is, what we are experiencing this year may become the norm at the end of the century, depending on how much we manage to reduce emissions. "

The first step in tackling the problem is to understand that there is a problem

Commenting on the unprecedented scenario that is taking shape on the planet with the forest fires in the USA, Siberia, the Mediterranean, which this year especially in our country started in May, the deadly floods in Germany, India, China, the unusually high temperatures in areas near the North Pole, Mr. Synolakis points out:

"As we can see from the surprise with which the world community dealt with the phenomena you mentioned, humanity was not prepared. For example, effective preparation for extreme flood protection presupposes the elaboration of the flood conditions of the last hundred years, and on the basis of these, the planning of the flood works for the next hundred years ".

He goes on to say: "In the last decade we have begun to understand that the phenomena we consider extreme - that is, those that, on average, occur once every hundred years, or less frequently - occur much more frequently and the increase in frequency occurs earlier than what we were counting on, even a decade ago. We need to understand that. The first step in dealing with any problem is to understand that there is a problem. "I'm afraid that, globally, we as human beings do not understand how immediate the problem of overheating is - remember that President Trump was blind and denied the need for immediate action."

The issue is not just a cost shift, it is a matter of survival

Is the EU adequately positioned in relation to the consequences of climate change, but also in shaping a new era of sustainable development with respect for society and the environment?

The respected Academician explains: "The" Fit for 55 "package is a package of measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Europe to -55% from 1990 emissions. Europe is now at -24%, ie the next For 8 years we have to reduce emissions a little more than we have reduced them to 31 years, that is, from 1990 until today, with the ultimate goal of climate neutrality in 2050.

The package includes 12 strategies for industry, transport and heating of buildings or cooling, which as we go with the heat waves, will probably be more useful in Greece.

With the package there can be taxes on imported products produced with high emission technologies. Emission costs will increase for industry, airlines and shipping, which will have to invest directly in new non-polluting technologies.

Especially in transport and the cement industry there is a long way to go to achieve the goal of climate neutrality. "Carriers should not think 'stubbornly', and continue to do so without taking substantial initiatives, thinking that they will pass on the cost of emissions to the consumer."

"The issue is not just a cost shift, it is a matter of humanity surviving," he said.

"Of course, in addition to what the governments are planning, we all need to take on our personal responsibilities. We must always think about how we can save energy and water in our daily lives, how to significantly increase recycling, and how to reduce overconsumption - these are small actions that are at our discretion. We must also start demanding that the products we buy not only be produced but also transported with green energy ", the professor continues and points out:" If we do not succeed, I am afraid that governments and international organizations will impose it on us, for to save humanity, and no one wants such coercion ".

Climate law will be the most important legislation that will affect the survival of the country

Is our country properly prepared for the challenges to come? At what points is it necessary to emphasize the strengthening of our country's position in relation to tackling, but especially the adaptation to climate change?

The chairman of the National Special Committee on Climate Change (EEKA) states: "Greece is preparing a climate law that, in my opinion, will be the most important legislation that Parliament will ever consider, as it will have a catalytic effect on the country's survival. us in the 22nd century. The law provides for climate neutrality by 2050. What does this mean? Greenhouse gas emissions from what sources are left until 2050, say from "difficult" industries and the "last" transports, but also the absorptions from the gas sinks that will have been developed by then, such as. the storage in rocks that once had hydrocarbons, I estimate that they will have balanced by the year 2050. More simply, we will absorb from the atmosphere as much carbon dioxide escapes us ".

At the same time, EEKA's proposals for the new law, among other innovations, provide for a 55% reduction in emissions by 2030, the process of reviewing, ie tightening, the targets and how the national strategy for adaptation to climate change will be developed.

Mr. Synolakis reminds that the Prime Minister has already announced the de-lignification of the country by 2025, noting that "the newest lignite power plant was launched in 2015, from 2020 its conversion is being discussed, so there is a 180 degree turn in the national our policy, in a very short time ". "Renewable Energy Sources will have an increasing share in energy production, with the ultimate goal of complete independence from fossil fuels, even gas, by 2040, and much earlier, if green energy storage technologies are developed rapidly. »Estimates the professor.

What more needs to be done?

"Climate law is a framework and while it describes goals and procedures, it does not describe specific measures. The easiest measures are obvious. Immediate action is required to replace the passenger car fleet with zero-emission vehicles, ie either electric or hydrogen cells or biofuels. Burning oil for heating must be stopped quickly and just as ambitiously as de-lignification. And here the question is whether we will have natural gas as a transitional fuel in the new era or we will have heat pumps. We must also start building buildings without or with minimal cement - for example with wood, which is a material that accumulates carbon ", Mr. Synolakis emphasizes and adds:

"An important issue for Greece is adaptation. Climate change brings not only extreme heat and floods, debilitating pressures on ecosystems as we now see them, but also rising sea levels. The rising level will largely wipe out most of the country's sandy beaches, which are already devastated by man-made interventions and mismanagement due to ignorance and interests. We must, "from tomorrow" begin to protect them with enrichment, that is, transporting back to the beaches the sand, which has moved in recent decades from the beaches to the deeper waters. "Otherwise we risk seeing them only on old postcards."

Closing the interview with an optimistic tone, the internationally renowned professor points out: "Comparing our country's position with others in Europe and the world, we need to be optimistic and understand that if we work hard, we will succeed and stabilize the climate. We have a central position in world energy policy, and perhaps in the 22nd century we can reverse the cataclysmic changes we are already experiencing. Thus, our great-grandchildren will have hopes to live in a Greece that will be reminiscent -climatically- of it 50 years ago ".


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