Extrapolations: The real science behind Apple’s climate change play

Apple’s new star-studded climate change drama has kernels of real science Extrapolations. In the first episode alone, we see raging fires, water shortages, and disappearing arctic ice. These threats are real.

The show does some things to tell a story. (Spoiler alert!) Walruses face more danger than we do from humans. But considering their position”Vulnerable“Because of oil and gas drilling and shrinking sea ice, the species probably warrants a little walrus rage in the first episode. There’s nothing like “summer heart,” the medical condition we see in the second episode. But the heat does. Put extra strain on the heartAnd it already is A great weather-related killer In America.

on the edge Put together this guide to some of the big science themes in the first three chapters Extrapolations, all of which begin streaming today. We break down how the show compares to the real-life climate crisis on our doorstep and whether some of the solutions it presents will actually work.

We see raging fires, water shortages and Arctic ice disappearing – these threats are real

Series 1:

How much is the planet warming?

The season opens in 2037, when the world faces warming close to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures. This may not seem like a big change, but it comes with dramatic consequences for life on Earth. With that much warming, 99 percent coral reefs For example, expected to disappear. Bad weather can make things worse for people too. Severe fire seasons, and rising sea levels. At 2 degrees of warming, more than 70 percent of the world’s coastlines are inundated by sea-level rise. Over 0.66 feet (0.2 meters). Strong tropical cyclones, Category 4 and 5 storms, become more common. Every summer in the Mediterranean, the region burns with wildfires 62 percent growth. And 388 million people worldwide Experiencing water scarcity.

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The landmark climate agreement reached in Paris commits the world’s nations to curb global warming.Well down”2 degrees Celsius. The world is already getting a little warmer Above 1 degree Celsius. Unfortunately, under current policies, the world is still on track to catch up Close to 3 degrees Celsius in 2100.

Can desalination save us from drought?

In the show, a billionaire shares the patent for his desalination technology with drought-stricken countries.

The first episode doesn’t go into much detail about what makes his “sophisticated” desalination technology so great. Modern desalination techniques have been around for decades, and in some parts of the world – esp Middle East and North Africa – is already heavily relied upon. Israel, where most of the first chapter takes place, is desalinated around 70 percent its municipal water supply.

But desalination is not a silver bullet. To begin with, it is very expensive because it is very energy intensive. Two main methods are used: blasting with heat to vaporize the water, then recondensing it without salt; or using immense pressure to push water through a reverse osmosis membrane to filter out salt.

Desalination is not a silver bullet

Not only do those two processes require a lot of energy, but most desalination plants still run on fossil fuels. So producing drinking water this way, with today’s dirty energy system, creates climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions. While renewable energy replaces fossil fuels, desalination wastes remaining brine to solve another pollution problem.

Chapter 2:

Climate change is pushing vulnerable species to the brink. Can you destroy them?

The episode follows Sienna Miller as a researcher for an organization that archives the genomes of species on the brink of extinction. The goal is to one day “bring these creatures back.” This is one of the most controversial concepts within extinction, conservation.

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You may have heard of a biotech company trying to bring A dodo-like creature And woolly mammoth-elephant mashup life, for example. These initiatives are big on hype and lack results. Even if they are successful, they don’t actually bring back the same animals that went extinct. The technology they are working on will create hybrids using distant relatives of species. Image of a tufted elephant with a tall domed head.

Scientists on the edge He argued that more attention should be paid to preventing the extinction of species. Today, around One million animal and plant species face extinctionMore than at any other time in human history.

Can people talk to other animals?

My favorite character of the season was the humpback whale voiced by Meryl Streep. It interacts with Miller’s character through some kind of animal illustration technology. It is clearly within the realm of science fiction.

Scientists are investigating whether whale songs can be decoded

But scientists are investigating whether whale songs can be decoded. NPR’s podcast Invisible A neat one chapter About a Try It seeks to understand non-human communication using artificial intelligence. Other scientists are investigating whether nonhuman primates can even communicate through something like language. Some of these Research Tiktok’s sensory bunny is inspired by the dog, which presses buttons to hear scratches.

Chapter 3:

How much of Miami will be underwater in the future?

The episode is set in humid Miami in 2047, where rising sea levels threaten to destroy the local synagogue. In fact, Miami faces Sea levels will rise two or more feet by 2060 and around Six feet at 2100. This is an existential problem for Miami-Dade County. It is about six feet above present sea level, on average, and higher 877,000 people live below that elevation.

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Matthew Rhys, Heather Graham, Alexander Sokovikov and Noel Arthur Extrapolations.
Image: Apple

Are sea walls the solution to sea level rise?

A major plot thread in this episode follows a synagogue applying for “conservation” from the state of Florida, which will determine how and where to build protective structures such as sea walls. Although sea walls may provide some shelter to communities at greatest risk of flooding, they are only built to withstand so much abuse that they will eventually fail. United Nations Panel of Climatologists It recently warned that seawalls could promote a false sense of security and put more people at risk if population continues to swell along low-lying coastlines.

Sea walls are also controversial because they typically protect only select properties or communities. As we see in the episode, what is deemed worthy of protection is fraught with ethical questions—and perhaps a healthy share of injustice and corruption. Also, protecting a piece of coastline would actually increase land loss to its neighbors. Sea walls Divert the wave energyIt does just that Someone else’s problem.

What we can take from these first few episodes is that humanity cannot simply engineer its way out of the catastrophes that climate change brings—not with sea walls, extinction, or desalination. But we can work to reduce these perplexing greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the dire scenarios we see playing out on the show.

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