‘Cold War era tools help track climate change today’

Tracking the impact of climate change today has been made possible by tools developed by nuclear scientists to detect radioactivity in the wake of testing of atomic bombs during the Cold War era, says a leading historian.

Their insights and research have contributed enormously to enhancing knowledge about both carbon dioxide, which warms the earth and aerosols, which cool it. Otherwise, scientists today would have been in the dark about atmospheric changes, says historian Paul Edwards from University of Michigan, US.

For instance, in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation tracked the radioactive plume emanating from damaged Japanese nuclear reactors via a global network of monitoring stations designed to measure airborne radioactive particles, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists journal reports.

Facilities built during the Cold War (roughly late 1940s to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991), including US labs constructed to create weapons, now use their powerful supercomputers, expertise in modelling, and skills in managing large data sets to address the threat of catastrophic climate change, according to a Michigan statement.

“Today, the laboratories built to create the most fearsome arsenal in history are doing what they can to prevent another catastrophe – this one caused not by behemoth governments at war, but by billions of ordinary people living ordinary lives within an energy economy that we must now reinvent,” Edwards said. (IANS)

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