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“It is not enough to be aware of climate change, we must use public transport more and change our habits”

The Ateneo Libre de Benalmádena in collaboration with the Cineclub Más Madera celebrates this Wednesday, January 19 at the Casa de la Cultura, at 7:00 p.m., its second cinema forum that will deal with climate change and its consequences. This striking cultural activity, which premiered last year with great success, focuses on reflection and in-depth debate on matters relevant to society, together with the screening of related films and the participation of leading personalities in each subject addressed.

On this occasion, the documentary film Santuario, starring the brothers Javier and Carlos Bardem, which deals with a campaign by the ship of GreenpeaceArtic Sunriseto claim the protection of Antarctica, and to introduce the subsequent debate, there will be Fausto Polvorinos Pascual, AEMETmeteorologist and member of the Juan Carlos I scientific expedition to the Antarctic scientific base.

Ole Benalmádena interviews Fausto Polvorinos so that we can learn more about his profession and he can answer some questions about climate change, an issue that arouses great interest and uncertainty, as it stands as one of the most serious problems facing the humanity.

-What led you to become a meteorologist?

-(Laughs)… as a child I liked to look at the clouds… I remember that when I read the TBO, Carpanta saw shapes of roast chicken in the clouds and something similar happened to me, when I looked at them I always saw strange things… In high school I had a classmate whose father was a meteorologist and since science was they were good because I thought: I’m going forward with this profession… I was 15 years old. I decided very young.

-How has the way of working of forecasters changed since you started working to the present?

-Ugh, a lot. Before to make a map There was the person who collected it in a teletype, the one who collected it in code, the ones who painted the data, then another person linked them and then they were studied… this process took a minimum of 12 hours… Now everything has changed a lot by the speed of calculation, telecommunications, by satellites and by radars.

-And I sense that there is more reliability…

-Of course. Today, the person who says that we are wrong is misinformed. Much is right, but there is still a very long way to go. Now people are not satisfied with knowing if it is going to rain, but rather they want to be certain of what time, with what intensity… Technical advances have been crucial in meteorology. I remember that when I was giving classes in Latin America on satellite images, they asked me why we were better than the meteorologists in their country. I replied that in the United States they have some means, in Spain theirs and in their country others… they ask all meteorologists the same thing, but the technical means available to us are not the same and that counts for a lot… as well as, obviously , have the preparation to use them.

-How did you get the opportunity to work in Antarctica?

-In AEMET there is an Antarctic group and in 2014 there was a public call because they were looking for predictors. There was a public contest, they chose me and there I went to make predictions. I went twice. The first one was in 2015 and I really liked the experience… what’s more,  I could have retired early at the age of 60 and I waited to be able to come back…

-Fausto, what has been the meteorological phenomenon that you have seen and has impressed you the most?

-If I had to stay with one it would be with the floods in the province of Malaga. One of the most difficult things to predict is where a waterspout is going to discharge… They have a force that leaves you in awe…

-Which would you have liked to see?

-Well, two things: the tornado in Malaga and some rains in the Chillar river, which were tremendous and completely changed the landscape of the ravine of the hunters. Everything, obviously being safe (smiles), but it is the force of nature that shrinks your heart.

-Fausto, what do we mean when we talk about climate change and what is the difference between it and the weather?

-Meteorology is the study of the atmosphere and its phenomena while weather is the study of meteorological variations and variables. The climate is the average of the meteorological variables in a given time.

To illustrate the difference between weather and climate we could say that the weather would be the state of mind of a person and the climate their character. The change of time is something natural and it does it continuously, the climate is slower. There has always been climate change throughout history. There have been times in the history of the earth when the temperature at the poles has been 10 degrees and others when almost the entire earth was covered with ice.

It could be said that the weather is what we see when we look out the window and the climate is what the old woman with the curtain would see when she looks out the window because she has data from every day of observation. The weather would be the concrete and the climate the statistical.

Currently, when we refer to climate change   we do so as a synonym for global warming of anthropogenicorigin.

– The global warming that scientific reports tell us about is encouraged by human activity, but do natural factors also influence it?

-Yes of course. The climate has changed in the history of humanity over time due to factors external to the earth, such as solar activity. The sun almost always sends the same energy but it varies depending on the oscillation of the earth’s axis and the earth’s orbit. The climate can also change due to internal variations of the earth such as volcanic explosions… And then there are anthropogenic factors that focus on the human being: their way of life, the way they cultivate the land, livestock, the industrial revolution… precisely It is these activities carried out by human beings and with which they emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which are causing an acceleration in what we call global warming. From the 1950s to the present, the increase is 1.6 degrees more… which is a lot.

-Is the thesis that associates the increase in the greenhouse effect with global warming correct?

-Yes. Now working with models. Climate models are very complicated because there are many interrelationships between the variables. But the reality is that if we refer to temperature, when you introduce greenhouse gases into a mathematical model, let’s say that the evolution of temperature is correct. If you don’t put them in, the model leaves the temperature horizontal, when in fact it is rising.

Regarding climate change, there are things that are very clear and proven, such as the rise in temperature, the rise in the level of the seas and the increase in the temperature of sea water. Then there are others that are not being seen although the models predict them.

-Fausto, why is CO2 so worrying today when there are other gases –such as water vapor- with greater greenhouse effect power?

-Well, because since 1970 it has been increasing a lot. The earth has a balance between CO2 and temperature. Until man arrived with the industrial revolution, the earth had a balance between this gas and temperature. If the temperature rose a lot, the CO2 fell and vice versa. Something that does not happen, for example, on Venus, which is not capable of getting rid of CO2 and is boiling, or Mars, is not capable of retaining it and is freezing.

The earth had that balance and we human beings are breaking it. The increase in CO2 and other greenhouse gases, what they do is like putting a blanket on the earth that does not allow it to cool down, hence the “greenhouse”. And these gases are mainly produced by us.

-How is it possible that there are places where the winters are getting colder if the planet is getting hotter and hotter?

-It’s not exactly like that. We are seeing adverse phenomena such as La Filomena, which attract a lot of attention, but that is within a trend that is warming. Within the global warming trend there are spectacular phenomena that go in the opposite direction. Climate change is a complicated issue for human beings because it is slow and we are hardly aware of it. It’s not like a flood or a snowfall, you see them… climate change is a distant danger. To explain with an example, it would be like when the Titanic collided with the iceberg. From when it brakes until it crashes, a while passes, but there is no solution now…

The reality is that the earth is warming up and that is clear. If we take the data from year 42 on the temperature at Malaga airport, which is data that can be extrapolated to Benalmádena, the 15 warmest years, except for two, are the last. The increase in temperature is indisputable.

-We are witnessing more and more frequently natural disasters or extreme phenomena. Do you think this will be the trend in the future?

-The models say yes. In our area they infer that there will be less but more intense precipitation. What has caught my attention lately has been the floods in Germany…

-Can ecosystems adapt to climate change?

-Some yes, but others no. I was recently in Cazorla and there are some pine trees there, the Salta pines. As the atmosphere warms, the pine tree grows a little, but of course there is a limitation and they could disappear… it will depend on each species. What is certain is that there will be many species under stress and that some will not be able to adapt.

-Is Spain becoming Africanized?

-Yes, I think so. In the sense that there will be less water resources, and the increase in temperature, yes. At least that’s what the models say. As the temperature rises in summer there will be more evaporation and therefore more dryness. And in the rainy months… I have noticed that in Malaga the rains are delayed…

-How important is planting trees?

– There are discussions on this matter. The reality is that tree planting is good because it retains land. For example, Malaga gained a lot from the replanting of the mountains. Trees are important, in addition to storing CO2, to stop the breakdown of the soil because they protect it.

-I think that AEMET has developed a report on the meteorological influence on covid, do you know this study?

-I have not had the opportunity to read it, but it is true that we all commented that as happens with the flu, that in the winter there would be more covid. In winter the air moves very little and remains for a long time. There is more atmospheric diffusion… In winter it is as if we had a closed room. When a front comes and passes, it cleans it. But between front and front, the air stays still for days and days. In cold cities it can be seen as a hood of dirt, the air is denser. In summer, however, the heat causes air to rise and spreads dirt and pollution.

-What measures can we adopt individually to curb global warming and get involved in reducing climate change?

-Citizens can collaborate in the non-emission of greenhouse gases and at this point the use of public transport is key. Also, in addition to leaving your private car parked for as long as possible, you can contribute by consuming seasonal products as this avoids transport from another country, making purchases in nearby shops… in short, avoiding habits that increase CO2 and those that produce them the most are those related to transport.

When we go to work we always think of private transport and we should give a Copernican twist to the matter. The fundamental task lies with governments, but citizens can also contribute. I get the feeling that climate change has reached the public as a fad and although we are aware we have tremendous consumption habits…  

If one, in a particular capacity, wants to help curb climate change, one must not only be aware, but also make a change of habits from now on.

Anything that involves avoiding and/or reducing the use of transport, which emits the most CO2, will be an excellent contribution. You can also limit the use of heating and air conditioning, because although it sounds very unpopular, it is not bad to be a little cold in winter and a little hot in summer… if we use energy that uses gas, we are contributing to global warming.

Obviously, when voting, we can also demand that political parties include the fight against climate change in their agendas.

-Out of curiosity, Fausto, do you check the weather on your cell phone?

– (Laughs). No, nooo. I advise people to look at it on the AEMETpage. What I do is make my own predictions. And what I have to admit is that everything has changed a lot and any moderately informed person can know what the weather is going to be like tomorrow. We meteorologists are left for more complicated things, such as predicting whether or not there will be fog at an airport.

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