Worst Case Climate Scenario Could Be Even Worse Than Thought
When scientists set out to model the impacts of climate change, they use four different Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), which each represent a different possible radiative forcing, i.e.a total of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions measured in Watts per square meter, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC.)
The four different RPCs.IPCC
Each RCP also sets a different option for global temperature, rate of greenhouse gas emissions and total atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration by 2100, as G.P. Wayne explained in a summary for The Guardian..
The total greenhouse gas concentration (in parts per million of carbon dioxide equivalent) for each RCP.Ilinri
RCP8.5 represents the worst-case emissions scenario and assumes high, unregulated economic growth and increased burning of fossil fuels.
For example, when researchers predicted that low-lying atolls could be uninhabitable by 2030-2060, the earliest date is based on RCP8.5.
Now, a paper published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that RCP8.5 might not be bad enough. That is because researchers have underestimated the degree of uncertainty in calculating rates of economic growth on both a global and regional per capita basis. Greater uncertainty means that growth rates could be higher than projected, leading to higher greenhouse gas emissions. The study found that there is a 35 percent chance that global greenhouse gas emissions will therefore be worse than the levels predicted by RCP8.5 for 2100.
"The implication is that if we are producing more and consuming more, we must assume that emission rates will grow significantly faster than we thought," study co-author and assistant professor in the University of Illinois (U of I) Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics Peter Christensen said in a U of I press release published by EurekaAlert! "In the absence of meaningful climate policy, higher baseline growth scenarios likely imply higher emissions growth around the world. The level of uncertainty revealed by this study will shift our modeling of physical and social processes related to changes in the climate and the baseline for policymaking," he said.
Just because RCP8.5 might be worse than predicted does not mean that humanity will actually follow a worse-case-scenario trajectory. That scenario assumes no action is taken on climate change, and global deals like the Paris agreement indicate that many countries are already moving to take action.
"We've already locked in a certain amount of climate policy," Glen Peters of the Center for International Climate Research in Norway, who was not involved with the research, said in a New Scientist article about the findings.
But higher economic growth might mean that the less catastrophic RCPs have underestimated both potential emissions and the amount of action required to combat them. "The results will also affect estimates of emissions pathways under a variety of policy scenarios," Christensen told The New Scientist.
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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