The much talked about 2012 has arrived. Inspired by the Mayan prophecy that Armageddon will arrive on Dec. 21, a rush of movies, books, and theories has triggered widespread concern among people around the world. Nevertheless, former vice defense minister Lin Chong-Pin offers new perspectives in his new book titled Global Shift: Exploring the Roots of Rising Disasters published last Friday. Lin says that rather than taking the view that the end of the world is here or ignoring that such a day will ever come, it would be more practical to focus on disaster preparedness and be optimistic for the future.
Weather Risk Explore Inc chief executive Peng Chi-ming said at a press conference last Friday that the global economic cost of natural disasters last year was approximately US$300 billion (NT$9 trillion), making the year the costliest ever. Lin said the end-of-days prophecies are nonsense, but admitted that natural and man-made disasters would become more and more intense in the years prior to 2020.
“Bundle up, it’s global warming” columnist Judah Cohen wrote in the New York Times on Dec. 26, 2010. That is also the first sentence in Lin’s new book. Last year, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that 2010 was the warmest year since 1880, while the US National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced in 2010 that the past decade was the warmest in 131 years. Strangely, the warmest year also presented the coldest winter in Poland, the UK, Germany, the US and China. In other words, the term “global warming” is a simplification that is part of the increasingly extreme climate. It can only explain some of earth’s surface disasters, but it cannot sufficiently explain underground disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis, disasters in space, such as solar storms, or mass bird and fish deaths and other incidents of unknown cause. On Friday, Lin mentioned that after studying climate changes over the past 100,000 years, scientists have found that fluctuations in atmospheric carbon concentration lagged behind fluctuations in atmospheric temperatures by 200 to 1,000 years. Lin said this phenomenon, known as “CO2 lag,” meant that carbon dioxide levels could not have caused the fluctuations in temperatures. He said the fluctuation in atmospheric temperatures is primarily a result of solar activity and the number of sunspots.
Lin said the earth’s magnetic field is changing faster and faster, which could cause geomagnetic secular variations, geomagnetic excursions, or a geomagnetic reversal. Although there is no consensus among scientists about the relationship between sharp increases in earthquakes and volcanic activity and changes in earth’s magnetic field, a connection cannot be ruled out. Changes in the earth’s magnetic field can cause disruptions on a global magnitude and have an impact on living creatures, but scientists believe that since the earth is still protected by the atmosphere, living creatures will not be exterminated. Nevertheless, changes in earth’s magnetic field are undeniably a new challenge that humanity will have to deal with. Lin stressed that as global disasters are becoming more diverse, intense, frequent, and complex, we should lessen the impact of disaster by improving our own immune systems, finding green energy sources, and stopping the wrangling over whether global warming is man-made or natural.
(Lin Ya-ti, Taipei Times)