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Intentional Ignorance

November 6, 2012

I wrote this essay to offer some essential information about our world and the future of our species, adding my voice to the many cries of alarm over the environmental crisis (lately reaching criticality). [More…]

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Dear Mr. President

On this day of the big climate change demonstration in Washington, organized by Sierra Club and 350.org and supported by Friends of the Earth, Oil Change International, and others, I’d like to offer some useful tidbits on the subject, plus a call to the President for leadership on the issue.

Dr. Cameron Wake, a climate researcher at the University of New Hampshire, points out that the complex nature of climate change makes it much easier to sell the lie than it is to sell the truth, of which climate change skeptics take full advantage.

My first global warming tidbit comes courtesy of Mike Bellamente, the Director of Climate Counts,who has offered some tips for responding to climate skeptics. One tip is to “Know Your Stuff,” meaning have some fundamental facts to counter the mis-information coming from the climate change skeptics.

Here are two basic components of climate change you can keep in your back-pocket until the need arises:

  • The Greenhouse Effect — Temperatures on Earth have remained livable for tens of thousands of years because the greenhouse effect is responsible for trapping heat from the sun in a way that keeps conditions comfortable for all living things, especially humans. This natural phenomenon has been thrown wildly out of balance since the industrial revolution by the steady output of greenhouse gas emissions (mainly carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) to support our society.  For an interactive crash course on the greenhouse effect, visit this site at the National Geographic Society.
  • Natural Change versus Human-Caused — It is 100 percent true that the Earth’s climate shifts naturally between warming and cooling periods (think Ice Age). However, when looking at climate patterns over several thousand years, it has been the drastic rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) since the industrial revolution 300 years ago that is now causing humans to play a strong role in this process. For a slightly more involved understanding of the science at play here visit the OSS Foundation website on the natural cycle of global warming. The message is that we don’t have to rely just on tricky climate computer models to learn how the atmosphere responds to greenhouse gas emissions—we can look at actual history to see how it works.

The full list of tips for dealing with climate skeptics can be found here.

Obama Second Inaugural

The message of today’s demonstration is to urge President Obama to take a strong leadership role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. and around the world. Our message to the President should be: Don’t just “Respond to Global Warming,” Stop It In Its Tracks.

In his inaugural address, President Obama promised to respond to the threat of climate change. Many of our political leaders make nice promises, but sometimes fail to make good on those promises. So you can color me skeptical. About the time the president was delivering his address, I was finishing my reading of Dr. James Hansen’s 2009 book, The Storms of my Grandchildren. This remarkable work is a tour de force on the subject, a comprehensive description of the extensive scientific study, over several decades, of the causes of global warming.

It focuses less on fallible computer models and more on the amazing scientific record of the Earth’s own past experiences with global warmings and coolings over the last few millions of years history. The story includes the last several decades of explosive global warming stimuli for which humanity is directly responsible, with scientific certainty.

I purchased the book for $3.03 and read it on my Kindle. For this physicist, it was a stunning account of the decades-long search for the causes of global warming and the role of human actions in that process. For me it read like a mystery novel—searching for clues and culprits, verifying evidence and documenting the results.

As described in my “New Years” blog posting of 31 December 2012, Hansen finally reached the point in his studies in 1988 when he realized he could no longer follow his natural inclination to just stay in the lab and his office, doing good science research and quietly studying the topic and writing peer-reviewed papers on it in scientific journals. Perhaps naively, he believed that his primary responsibility was just to bring the story to the nation’s leaders, so he took it to the Congress, giving serious testimony to a congressional hearing that it was 99% certain that burning fossil fuels was heating the earth’s atmosphere. After a long period of increasing his attempts to tell our leaders the truth on global warming, Hansen finally reached the point around 2008 or 2009 of realizing that the message was not getting through.

Too little was being done. It was not being taken seriously enough. His book is an attempt to lay out the whole story in an accessible format that nearly any high school graduate should be able to understand and follow. He makes the case very clearly, very thoroughly, and very forcefully as well. I recommend it with but one caution. It is long and some of it is tedious. Never fear, you can skip the longer and more detailed sections or even just read the first few and last few chapters to get an appreciation for his conclusions and suggestions and the exhaustive work it took to complete it.

If you would like to add your voice to those encouraging President Obama to make good on his climate change promise, just go to this Credo Action link and ask him for bold action to confront global warming.

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