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時間:2022-10-17 來源:本站 點擊:258次





Climate change: The environmental disasters we've almost fixed

There are no simple solutions to complex problems like climate change. But there have been times in the past when the world has come together to try to fix an environmental crisis.


How did we deal with acid rain, for example, or the hole in the ozone layer? And are there lessons for tackling the bigger issue of global warming?


1970, '80s and '90s: Acid rain

酸雨 :1970 - 1990年代

It's the 1980s, and fish are disappearing in rivers across Scandinavia. Trees in parts of the forests are stripped bare of leaves, and in North America some lakes are so devoid of life their waters turn an eerie translucent blue.


The cause: Clouds of sulphur dioxide from coal-burning power plants are travelling long distances in the air and falling back to Earth in the form of acidic rain.


"In the '80s, essentially the message was that this was the largest environmental problem of all time," says Peringe Grennfelt, a Swedish scientist who played a key role in highlighting the dangers of acid rain.

把酸雨的成因、危害和应对方式推上媒体头条的关键人物之一,是一位名叫格兰费尔特(Peringe Grennfelt) 的瑞典科学家。他说,“在80年代,人们心目中有史以来最大的环境问题就是它(酸雨)。”

Headlines warning of the threats of acid rain were commonplace. For years there had been obfuscation, denial and diplomatic stand-offs, but once the science was settled beyond doubt, calls for action quickly gathered momentum. It led to international agreements curbing the pollutants from burning fossil fuels that acidify rain.


Amendments to the Clean Air Act in the US saw the development of a cap and trade system, giving companies an incentive to reduce emissions of sulphur and nitrogen, and trade any excess allowances. Each year, the cap was ratcheted down until emissions dropped dramatically.

美国空气清洁法案修订案(Clean Air Act)出台,引导和鼓励厂矿企业减少硫酸、硝酸排放,规定了排放上限和交易体系,允许企业在体系中交易剩余配额。而且,排放上限每年下调,直至有害酸性气体排放大幅度减少。

So did it work? Acid rain is now largely a thing of the past in Europe and North America, although it remains a problem elsewhere, particularly in Asia.


However, Canadian scientist John Smol, a young researcher back in the 1980s, says in many ways acid rain was a "success story", showing that countries can come together and deal with an international problem. "If you don't price pollution, people will pollute. We learned that for sure," he says.

不过,加拿大科学家斯莫尔(John Smol)认为,从很多方面来看,人类战酸雨这件事应视为成功的例子,因为它展示了各国能够携手共同解决国际问题。他补充道:“如果不给污染明确标价,人们就会毫不在意地继续污染。这是我们得到的教训。”

1980s: The ozone hole


In 1985, news of another looming environmental problem hit the headlines. Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) alerted the world to a large and expanding hole in the ozone layer above the Antarctic. It was caused by the chlorofluorocarbons - greenhouse gases better known as CFCs - then used in aerosols and refrigerants.

1985 年,又一个紧迫的环境问题成了头条新闻。 英国南极调查局 (BAS) 的科学家们向世界发出警报,提醒世人,南极上方的臭氧层中存在一个巨大空洞,而且这个空洞在不断扩大。造成这个空洞的罪魁是氯氟烃,即所谓的温室气体,有一个人们更熟悉的名字叫 CFC,当时广泛用于气溶胶和制冷剂。

"Suddenly it goes 'boom', and it drops really quickly," says BAS polar scientist Anna Jones, referring to the dramatic thinning of the band of gas that shields the planet from harmful UV rays.

BAS 极地科学家琼斯 (Anna Jones) 指出,为地球上的万物和人类抵挡杀伤力极强的紫外线的臭氧层正在迅速变薄,“突然嘭地一下就破了,(穿透之处臭氧含量)急剧下降。”

Ozone over the Antarctic had been diminishing since the 1970s, but news the hole now covered the entire Antarctic continent triggered worldwide alarm. In 1987, world leaders signed the landmark Montreal Protocol, hailed as one of the most successful environmental treaties of all time.

自 1970 年代以来,南极上空的臭氧一直在减少,但鲜为人知,没有引起关注。英国科学家拉响了全球警报。臭氧层毁损严重成为国际大事。1987年,世界各国领袖在加拿大签署了被誉为有史以来最成功的环境条约之一的《蒙特利尔议定书》。

Ozone-depleting chemicals were phased out, with industry switching to "CFC-free" aerosol cans that appealed to green consumers. "It was a global problem, but industry, the scientists, the policymakers came together," says Dr Jones. "They acted quickly; they acted with a mechanism that allowed continual tightening of that protocol. It's a very important template for how you can make things work."


Despite the success of the Montreal Protocol, there have been setbacks. It was discovered that hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), developed as alternatives to ozone-depleting chemicals, were potent greenhouse gases.

《蒙特利尔议定书》取得了成功,也遇到了挫折。人们发现,作为消耗臭氧层化学品的替代品开发的氢氟碳化合物 (HFC) 其实是一种强大的温室气体。

And while the ozone hole is "on the road to recovery", ozone-depleting chemicals stay in the atmosphere for a long time, meaning repair is a long, slow process.


1920s to 2020s: Leaded petrol

含铅汽油:1920年代 - 2020年代

For decades we used leaded petrol as fuel - as companies added lead additives to help petrol burn more efficiently. Leaded petrol releases lead particles into vehicle exhausts that can be breathed in, causing a variety of health problems, including heart attacks, strokes and impaired mental development in children.

几十年来,我们使用含铅汽油作为燃料——因为公司添加了铅添加剂来帮助汽油更有效地燃烧。 含铅汽油会将铅颗粒释放到可吸入的汽车尾气中,导致各种健康问题,包括心脏病、中风和儿童智力发育受损。

After a long battle between scientists, regulatory authorities and industry, a consensus around the health risks emerged, and rich nations banned leaded petrol from the 1980s onwards.

经过科学家、监管机构和行业之间的长期斗争,围绕健康风险达成了共识,富裕国家从 1980 年代起禁止使用含铅汽油。

Use in developing countries lingered on, however, owing to the fuel being cheaper to produce than unleaded petrol. Following a long campaign by NGOs, industry groups and governments, under the umbrella of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the final drop of leaded petrol was pumped into a car's tank only months ago.

然而,由于这种燃料的生产成本低于无铅汽油,因此在发展中国家的使用仍在继续。 经过非政府组织、行业团体和政府的长期运动,在联合国环境规划署 (UNEP) 的保护下,几个月前最后一滴含铅汽油才被注入汽车油箱。

And while the world has officially eradicated leaded fuel, lead pollution lingers on in the environment in dust and soil, where it can persist for a long time.


Lessons for climate change?


With climate change dominating the news agenda, we hear very little nowadays about the likes of the ozone hole. Yet, there are parallels between these crises and the monumental one that is climate change.


For a long time, acid rain was a source of international conflict, with some denying its very existence and the fossil fuel industry pitted against environmentalists. Does that sound familiar?


According to Prof Smol, the debates and discussions over acid rain were training for the more complex issues of climate change. "The first lesson I learned was that we had to effectively communicate the results of our studies, not just to other scientists but to policymakers and the public at large," he says.


"If there is an information vacuum, it will be immediately filled by vested interest groups."


Prof Smol says the situation is even more complicated today, with the growth of social media and the spread of misinformation.


When it comes to the international push to eliminate leaded fuel, Rob de Jong, head of UNEP's sustainable mobility unit, says a key lesson was the value of a harmonised approach. "The whole leaded petrol campaign heavily invested in public awareness, heavily invested in social and community action, heavily invested in focusing on the impact this has on children."

在谈到消除含铅燃料的国际努力时,联合国环境署可持续交通部门负责人德荣(Rob de Jong)表示,一个很有价值的经验是协调一致的方法。“整个(淘汰)含铅汽油运动大力投资于提高公众认知,大力投资于社会和社区层面的行动,大力投资于唤起各界重视含铅汽油对儿童的影响。”

And the steps taken by the international community to reduce ozone-depleting chemicals show - on a smaller scale - the kind of co-operation that will be needed to tackle the warming world.


"The climate change problem is much more complicated to solve than the ozone problem because we don't have immediate alternatives to fossil fuels in the way that we had alternatives to CFCs," says Dr Jones. "But, that's not a reason for not doing something - the problem is too important, it's too big and they need to get on with it.

琼斯说:“气候变化问题比臭氧问题要复杂得多,因为我们没有像氟氯化碳那样的化石燃料直接替代品。但是,这不是不行动的理由 —— 这个问题太重大,需要持续不断地应对。

"When industry and governments have come together in the past they have solved a globally-threatening environmental problem - now they need to show they can do it again."



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  华商报记者 任婷









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