By Antonio Elio Brailovsky
Since the Industrial Revolution that started in England in the mid-18th century, ours is a civilization of smoke. Since then, we are releasing gases into the atmosphere that are changing the thermal conditions of the planet and causing the greenhouse effect.
All human societies develop assuming a certain type of climatic conditions. The climate is, for us, an organizing axis and an implicit hypothesis of continuity. We build at a certain distance from the river, because there we will have easy water supply but, at the same time, we will be free from floods. If it starts to rain more than before, our cities will flood. If it rains less, we will have problems for the water supply. In other words, in most human activities we have implicit hypotheses of climatic regularity.
The early nomads (like the Jews of the early part of the Old Testament) depended on the climate of the present moment, and that was the main reason for us to become sedentary. Fleeing that form of vulnerability, we became sedentary and began to build cities. Only, by stopping being nomadic, we change the form of vulnerability to the climate. We stop being so tied to the climate of the present moment, the sun and the grasses, and we begin to create rigid structures, which become vulnerable to the changes that the climate has in the medium and long term. The larger the cities and the more complex the human works, the greater their rigidity, and the greater their vulnerability to climatic variations. Due to the conditioning that our culture imposes on us, it is difficult for us to perceive the magnitude of its effects on human societies.
Throughout history, the climate has changed many times. Classical Greece arose at a time of favorable climate in the Mediterranean, which made it possible to allocate part of the surpluses to build democracy and the Parthenon.
To give an opposite example, ancient Rome developed in a much drier stage, and that explains the proliferation of large aqueducts in Roman cities, since the rivers were not enough to supply its urban population. There are historians who argue that the decline of the Roman Empire was influenced by climatic changes that occurred in the first centuries of the Christian era. They claim that there was a time when an agroecological boundary was crossed and it became increasingly difficult to feed and sustain a city of one million inhabitants.
We had a fairly warm Middle Ages and such a cold Renaissance that climatologists use the expression "little ice age" to refer to the period from the discovery of America to the second half of the 19th century.
These changes have been common on our planet. However, this time there is a qualitative difference: it is the first time in human history that our behavior as a species is changing the Earth's climate. Perhaps we are accelerating and deepening a natural process that, without human action, would have occurred much more slowly and with less impact on our lives.
Since the Industrial Revolution that started in England in the mid-18th century, ours is a civilization of smoke. Since then, we are releasing gases into the atmosphere that are changing the thermal conditions of the planet and causing the greenhouse effect. In a closed room, the sun's rays, when passing through glass, transform its light energy into heat. The gases emitted without any control by millions of automobiles and industries do the same with our atmosphere.
Thus, since the mid-nineteenth century, the temperature has not stopped rising, but now the rate is accelerating. Pollution makes what in other times happened slowly, now happens at a pace that makes adaptation very difficult.
To make matters worse, when the phenomenon and its risks became known, a response was expected from the political leaders of the great powers, who are not acting up to the situation. If climate change is already inevitable, what remains for us is to establish an adaptation strategy. And for that, the best thing is to have an idea of what can happen in Argentina. Knowing what is coming is the best way to act on that.
For one thing, it's going to be hotter, but only in general averages. This will be enough to change the intensity of the winds. As a consequence of that, many of the rain-laden clouds will not reach the interior of the country, but will leave their cargo in the coastal areas. This means that in Argentina we are going to have a combination of heavy rains (and consequently, floods) in coastal areas with droughts in the interior of the country. In other words, extreme situations are going to get worse and worse.
When will this happen? It is already happening, without our realizing it. The increased frequency of weather alert notices in recent times is just an announcement of what's to come. Buenos Aires itself is increasingly flooded, despite the work that has been done to alleviate the problem. One reason is that it now rains twice as much as it did a century ago when the drains were designed. That is why it does not make sense to attribute all the responsibility for each flood to the Government of the day, since it is a problem that was being built little by little for a long time. And things are just beginning. We do not know how long it will take for the level of rainfall in the city to double again, but it will surely be much less than in the past.
There is talk of the melting of the ice from the polar caps. The science fiction hypotheses of an ascent of several meters in the level of the Argentine Sea do not seem plausible. However, it doesn't take much to produce disasters, even if those disasters are not shaped like the ones in the movie. It is likely that a slight rise in sea level will cause a marine intrusion that enters through Laguna Mar Chiquita, close to Mar del Plata and occupies the entire center of the Province of Buenos Aires, especially the chained lagoons. That is to say, we can have a large space of sea in the interior of the Province of Buenos Aires, occupying the area that geographers call the? Depressed Salado basin ?. Cities like Chascomús, Lobos, Monte, etc., can follow the fate of Carhué, which was underwater for a long time.
More intense marine storms can increase coastal erosion, which will mean losing all the sand from the beaches of Gesell, Pinamar, San Clemente, etc. Of the spas in that area, we will have just a long peninsula, separated from the continent by an arm of the sea, and with the water reaching the edge of the coastlines, as erosion will carry the sand off the beaches. Those of you who have seen the San Clemente shoreline during a south-east at high tide may have a pretty good idea of what most of our resorts might look like in the future.
Those same storms can affect the city of Viedma, just 2.5 meters above sea level, it will be in danger and may have to be abandoned. Viedma already went through an experience of complete destruction by a southeastern hurricane in the late 19th century and may take similar risks if climate change advances. Which is one more argument about the irrationality that that attempt to transfer the capital of Argentina to that city meant.
In cities that are on the shores of great rivers, entire neighborhoods will have frequent floods and may have to be evacuated permanently. This will affect the entire coastal area of Greater Buenos Aires, from Quilmes to Tigre. But it will also go further, reaching Resistencia, Formosa and Posadas. Until now no one has dared to make a serious forecast of what can happen with some elegant areas located near the water, such as Puerto Madero.
In dry areas, less rainfall will decrease the flow of rivers. This will make Mendoza and San Juan have to reduce their irrigation areas. Other cities, which depend on lower-flow rivers, probably cannot be supplied and must be evacuated. La Rioja may be the first of a series of cities in danger from a permanent drought.
The country's economy will change because some areas will no longer be suitable for current crops, sometimes due to lack and others due to excessive rainfall. There will also be changes in sanitary conditions, as tropical and subtropical diseases such as dengue and leptospirosis spread.
Each of these situations requires the organization of responses, both in the agronomic, urban and health fields. It is time to define adaptation strategies in the short, medium and long term, for a country that is changing. In how much time? In the course of our own lives.
* Antonio Elio Brailovsky
Lic. In Political Economy. Writer.