Posted by: ericgrimsrud | July 28, 2015

Will it be Hillary or Bernie on climate change?

A couple days ago Hillary Clinton came out with her statement on Climate Change (see it at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/28/us/politics/hillary-clinton-lays-out-climate-change-plan.html?_r=0  I had expected her to say pretty much what she did say and was thereby disappointed. We have already seen too much of “all of the above” approaches to the energy question.  While she is clearly in favor of our continued development of alternate means of energy production, she did not say enough about our need to discourage future use of fossil fuels.  Most significantly, she did not even mention our need for a tax on future carbon emissions.

Hillary is a shrewd and experienced politician, of course, and I am sure she knows that if she does not win the specific election in question, her long term agenda will not get to first base.  Therefore, I could envision that if and when she is in office, she might gradually take a much firmer stance against fossil fuel use.  I don’t know that, of course, and am only guessing here about her real plans. Without that guess, however, I would not vote for her at the present time.

This is because we now have another candidate, Bernie Sanders, who is “all the way there” with respect to what I believe has to be done – as soon as possible – that is, instantly upon election – if we are to have any hope in the battle against global warming.  Bernie is forcefully behind the only factor that will really make a difference.  That is an increasingly stiff tax on the combustion of all fossil fuels (see his stance at:  https://berniesanders.com/issues/climate-change/).   We cannot continue to use our atmosphere as a free-of-charge dump for the disposal of carbon dioxide.  It already has way too much of this greenhouse gas in it and the extra we add to it every day will remain there for several centuries.  Only a stiff charge for the continued disposal of that waste will enable us to develop the carbon-free energy and financial systems we absolutely must have within the next decade.

So my question to myself is:  who should I vote for – the seemingly powerful candidate that would very probably win and whose outlook might possibly get all the way to a carbon free economy later – or the one who is clearly already all the way there but might not have the political clout to defeat his Republican opponent in the 2016 Presidential election?  It’s a good thing that I still have more than a year to watch and decide.  If Bernie’s level of public support continues to increase – that would pull me in his direction.  If Hillary shows me that she “get’s it” concerning the real problem before us – that would also affect my vote.

Concerning other potential candidates who might have a clue concerning the looming problem of climate change – the GOP has made things far too simple for me.  It still appears than any candidate that makes it through their “vetting” process will have to be either an actual or a pretend scientific retard who will have to show his or her disdain for our nation’s scientific organizations. They will have to be in sync with the “I am not a scientist” and “its all a big hoax” national leadership of their party.

This last point made above is, perhaps, the saddest part of the dilemma in which we now find ourselves.  How the United States of America in the 21st  Century came to have one of its only two major political parties reduced to such a state of utter anti-intellectualism would be enough to make many of its founders, certainly including Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin, to be ashamed of what they have produced.  How is it possible that over those more than two centuries, the understanding of our natural surroundings by approximately half of our political representatives has actually “advanced” backwards? God help us if any of those scientific Neanderthals of the GOP is elected in 2016!

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | July 23, 2015

James Hansen speaks again

Anyone who has followed the science of climate change is by now well aware of Dr. James Hansen and the central role he has played in climate science over the last three decades.  Therefore, his most recent paper coauthored by 16 others, to appear very soon in Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry (an-open-to-public peer-reviewed journal), will be drawing a great deal of attention – as it should.

Dr. Hansen has suspected that the sensitivity of our climate to changes in our greenhouse gases has been significantly underestimated in climate models, to date, and this most recent paper supports that notion.  New insight into the magnitude of climate change is provided in this paper by its inclusion of ice sheet dynamics – a factor not previously understood well enough to be included in models.  A key and possibly controversial point made in this paper is that the amount of fresh water being produced from the melting of glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica will increase exponentially – rather than linearly – with time if our planet continues on its current course of warming.

As a result of this additional insight, the authors argue that our goal for limiting future global temperature increase should be changed from +2.0 C to +1.5 C because an increase of 2.0 C will prove to be far too distressful to our present civilization. Specifically, the authors predict that an increase of 2.0 C will cause sea levels to rise about 10 feet by the year 2100 instead of 3 feet, as was previously predicted by the IPCC. A sea level rise of 10 feet would obviously cause horrific damage, making numerous coastal cities, including New York, London, and Shanghai, uninhabitable.

So who is this guy, again, who brings us this most distasteful news at a point in time when we are not even on track for limiting future warming to 2.0 C?   Ever since James Hansen first sounded the global warming alarm in his historic testimony to the US Congress back in 1988, he has consistently been ahead of the scientific curve. His predictions have generally been both more dire and more accurate than those of the IPCC.  This new paper also offers some “good news”, however.  That is. it explains what we can do to avoid temperatures in excess of 1.5 C. Perhaps the moment has finally come when Congress will do more than ignore his advice. We will soon see. Time for needed action appears to be running out.

For a preview of the paper in question, see http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/07/20/climate-seer-james-hansen-issues-his-direst-forecast-yet.html   Keep an eye out for its impact in the next week or so.  Also note that this paper has not yet gone through the normal scientific review process which will very likely take several weeks and result in at least some modifications of the initial version.

(note added on 7/27/2015).  Dr. Hansen has now provided an op ed in which he describes his recent paper in a condensed and lay-public friendly manner while also providing a link to the full paper.  I highly recommend that you have a look at:    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-james-hansen/multi-meter-sea-level-rise-is-an-issue-for-todays-public_b_7875828.html?utm_hp_ref=yahoo&ir=Yahoo

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | July 17, 2015

Are our plants about to turn on us?

First, consider the following facts.  Over the Industrial Age, mankind caused the emission of about 580 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere. This has changed the level of atmospheric CO2 from 280 ppm to 400 ppm.  If all of that extra carbon emitted by mankind had stayed in the atmosphere, the level of CO2 today would have been 550 ppm rather than 400 ppm.  Thus, we know that only 40% of the extra carbon emitted stayed in the atmosphere and about 60% went elsewhere – about 30% to the surface layers of the oceans and about 30% to plants.

So yes, what the Deniers like to say “CO2 is plant food” is true at the moment – even though the atmosphere does not like the 40% it gets (because of the global warming it causes) and the oceans do not like the 30% they get (because of the increase in acidity it causes).  And now even that simple statement about “plant food” is being questioned as it pertains to the future – because plant scientists are finding that plants are becoming stressed by changes associated with climate change.

Increased levels of carbon dioxide have caused plants to grow faster, but in the process other nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorous, that are required for further growth have become limiting factors.  In addition water levels and climate conditions have worsened in many regions.  All of this appears to be reducing the ability of plants to soak up that 30%  portion of mankind’s extra emissions.  In addition, as the ocean surfaces warm and become more acidic, the oceans are also expected to take up a continuously smaller portion of the excess carbon.

Therefore, an increasing fraction of our total carbon emissions in the future are expected to stay in the atmosphere because plants and the oceans are expected to take up less of it.  In addition, as global warming continues we can expect to see some vegetation that used to be sinks for carbon turn into actual sources of carbon.  One example of this is the organic matter presently stored in the permafrost of the Arctic.  As those regions of the world get warmer, that organic matter will be broken down by microbes and converted to gaseous CO2.  Also an increase in the death of trees in some of our most massive rain forests is being noted and as they decay CO2 is emitted.

Since none of these factors have been included, to date, in the IPCC’s estimates of future CO2 levels, our “allowed” future emissions of carbon – if we are not to exceed a temperature increase of 2.0 C – will have to be significantly lowered  relative to previous estimates.  Thus, when we hear today that we have just 35 years left at current emissions rates before we cross the dangerous climate change threshold, we should reduce that time limit by 5 to 10 years.  All of this is because nature will be quietly boosting her own carbon emissions over the coming decades and an increasingly larger fraction of all emissions, both natural and man-caused, that will be staying in the atmosphere.

Sorry, but that appears to be the way the mop will be flopping. Those hoping for an easy way out of the corner we have painted ourselves into will continue to be disappointed.  Gosh, it would be nice to be able to be a Denier – if only I weren’t cursed with a knowledge of the science involved!

For more details and references to these sobering additional insights, see:http://www.corporateknights.com/channels/climate-and-carbon/overestimating-global-carbon-budget-14362488/

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | July 11, 2015

On the raising of (Judas) Goats in Montana

Whenever  I observe an elected politician doing the bidding of well-healed corporations at the expense of the general public, I begin to suspect that there might not be any good reason for their actions other than the fact that their future livelihood might depend on the generosity of their corporate friends.  Such behavior can be entirely legal if carefully done, and due to the recent Citizens United ruling of our Supreme Court, is now even more likely than ever to occur.  It should not be surprising, therefore, to see that a few such Judas Goats among our elected officials get properly trained – that is, to lead their herds to slaughter for their own personal gains.  I am therefore wondering if Montana’s new Congressman, Ryan Zinke, is about to provide us with an excellent example of this phenomenon.

As reported in a short news release in the Daily Inter Lake of Kalispell, Montana, of July 10, the Obama administration is presently trying to correct what it believes are inappropriate sales of Montana coal deposits – by which the coal companies involved are attempting to avoid paying the State of Montana the full value of those deposits. In defense of their actions, the coal companies point out that the laws they are abiding by have been on the books since 1980. What this article failed to point out, however, is how the Citizens United ruling – which allows unlimited campaign donations – has changed everything – in favor of the well-healed. .

Ironically, one of those most strongly resisting a change in those now outdated 1980 laws is Montana’s own congressional representative, Republican Ryan Zinke, whose recent election to the House just happens to have been strongly assisted by one of fossil fuel corporations involved in the contested sales.  The question now before us, of course, is whose interests is Congressman Zinke serving in this case?  Is it those of the public or those of the corporations?  Surely, the public would prefer to receive the full value of their assets, would they not?  And other than his own self interests, I don’t see any valid reasons for Zinke’s actions in this case.  If there are any, I would be glad to hear what they are and post them on the comments section of this post.  Of course, this offer is also extended to you, Representative Zinke, should you like to send me that list.

For a more complete account of the details of these coal sales, see Thom Hartmann’s recent article at https://mail.google.com/mail/ca/u/0/#inbox/14e4bfbfc02f198d.

In it, he provides the financial details of the sale and offers a creative, if also humorous, solution.  That is, since large corporations now have the right to donate unlimited amounts to the election of public officials, we now also need an analogous investment mechanism by which individual citizens can also get a “piece of that action” via their smaller investments in creative financial products such as a “Zinke Fund”, for example, that looks for new ways to give away public assets to private interests.  As Hartmann points out in the Zinke example, the “returns” for such “investments” in our “public servants” can be extraordinarily high.

Toon of the Week, thanks to Union of Concerned Scientists

2015 Toon 28

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | July 10, 2015

The BS concerning oil independence continues

We hear lot from our country’s fossil fuel corporations about the great need of our country to have our very own supplies of oil so that we are not dependent on foreign supplies.  OK, but then along come articles such as the one appearing this morning in the Washington Post  (see it at http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/brand-connect/wp/enterprise/lifting-the-crude-oil-ban-would-reinvigorate-u-s-economy/  )    that tells the larger story concerning our oil corporation’s real interests.

This article, entitled “Lifting the crude oil ban would reinvigorate the US economy” is provided by the ConocoPhillips oil corporation and is all about the EXPORT of our oil and has nothing to do with saving it in order to establish our independence.   So please do have a close look at this article and the next time you hear one of these corporations tell you about our need to become oil-independent  you should tell them, OK, but then let’s save that oil within our own country’s borders and, for that purpose, why not just leave most of it in the ground until it is needed here.

Just for emphasis in your statement to them, you might want to inject a “STUPID” in there somewhere, but I myself don’t think that word applies here.  These guys are not stupid with respect to the promotion of their product.  They just hope you are.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | July 8, 2015

An explanation of the ice core record

In my previous post, I provided an “exam” that I had made up in an attempt to inject a bit of humor onto this blog.  In the process, however, I received some serious questions concerning one of the figures I had used.  Therefore, I am now going to use this “teachable moment” for providing an explanation of that figure, which is shown again below.  In order to digest what is about to follow, a few brain cells will have to be temporaritly dedicated to the task.  Because of the central importance of this figure, however, I can assure anyone who has some interest in the science of climate change that they will feel rewarded for their efforts. This figure really does provide the essence of what we are up against.

co2-800k-620x353.jpg

This figure shows the concentration of carbon dioxide thought to have been present in our background atmosphere over the last 800,000 years. All but the most recent of these measurements came from an “ice core record” provided by the EPICA Dome C research station located on a remote polar plateaus of Antarctica, about 1,300 miles from the South Pole and managed by a consortium of European countries.  The CO2 trapped in the air pockets of that very long ice core are assumed to reflect the CO2 content of the Earth’s atmosphere at the time when the snowflakes that led to that bit of ice were first formed and settled to the ground. The age of each cross section in the ice core can be determined by counting the number of visible “rings” from the top of the core.  These rings are formed by the increased transport of dust to the Antarctic continent during every summer season.

The reason for including this figure in the exam referred to above was to show the extremely sharp rise in CO2 observed during the Industrial Age at the very right edge of the graph where CO2 rises sharply from 280 ppm to 400 ppm.  Nevertheless, most of the questions I received concerned the rest of the graph in which the CO2 level is shown to have risen and fallen several times between about 180 and 280 ppm over the 800,000 year time span.  The bottoms and tops of these oscillations are known to be associated with the glacial and the interglacial periods, respectively, of the last 800,000 years with the last interglacial period in which we now live (called the Holocene) starting only about 12,000 years ago. The cause of these oscillations in and out of glacial periods is now well-known and will be explained in the remainder of this post.

A quick summary:  These oscillations between glacial and interglacial periods are caused by three factors.  One is the exact position and orientation of the Earth as it rotates around the Sun.  Another is the decrease or increase in glaciation on the Earth as it either warms or cools.  The third is the emission or absorption of carbon dioxide as the Earth either warms or cools.  For more details of each of these factors, read on.

Over the last 50 million years, the Earth has been cooling and changing from the hot “water world” it used to be with sea levels about 70 meters higher than today. Due to plate tectonics, the continents of the world have also been drifting northward. India, for example, was an island in the Southern Hemisphere (SH) 60 million years ago and drifted northward until it rammed into the continent of Eurasia in the northern hemisphere (NH).  As a result of this drift, a majority of the Earth’s total land mass today is in the NH with oceanic surfaces more prevalent in the SH. As we will see, this fact, along with the detailed way in which our planet rotates about the Sun combine to cause the glacial / interglacial oscillations shown in the first figure.  So how exactly does our planet rotate about the Sun?  That question will be addressed next.

The path of the Earth’s rotation about the Sun is defined roughly by a circle which the Earth traverses once each year.  Simultaneously, the Earth spins about its rotational axis once each day.  If that was all there was to the Earth’s orbit, however, there would have been be no glacial to interglacial transitions and the Earth would have had the same climate year after year during the last million years.  The fact is, however,  the detailed motions of the Earth relative to the Sun also include three minor twists and turns that are caused by the gravitation pull of the other planets in our solar system.   These minor perturbations cause the natural climate changes we are trying to understand here and are called the Milankovitch cycles in honor of the Serbian mathematician who correctly predicted them back in the 1920’s.

One of these minor perturbations is to the orbit taken by the Earth. Its nearly circular path actually changes continuously between circular and slightly elliptical.  The other two variations concern the rotational axis of the Earth. The angle of its tilt relative to the Sun continuously changes by as few degrees and it also wobbles (precesses) continuously. For more details concerning the Milankovitch cycles,  I will refer you to Wikipedia.  For our purposes here we only need to know that these subtle changes in our planet’s motions create continuous alterations in how our Northern and Southern Hemisphere is irradiated by the Sun.  For example, whenever these minor orbital effects cause the north pole to be pointed more directly towards the Sun, the summer season then experienced in the NH will, of course, be somewhat warmer than usual. More on the importance of the NH’s summer later.

Next, we need to think about the extent of glaciation that exists throughout the Earth at any point in time.  This has a large effect on the Earth’s temperature because incoming radiation from the Sun is effectively reflected back into space if that radiation strikes a snow or ice covered surface and tends to be absorbed if it strikes either the ground or the surfaces of the oceans.  We call the fraction of sunlight reflected  the “albedo” of the Earth.  The total albedo of the Earth in its present condition, for example, is about 0.30 indicating that 30% of incoming solar light is reflected back to outer space.  Therefore, increased glaciation of the Earth will  increases the reflection of incoming sunlight and this, of course, will cause the Earth’s temperature to decrease.

Next, note that because the NH has much more land mass than the SH, the total changes in the extent of glaciation on Earth at any point in time will depend largely on what’s happening  the NH – where between glacial and interglacial periods the southern extent of glaciation over North America, for example, changes from the position of Kansas in the USA to the Arctic coast line of northern Canada.  Similarly large changes in glaciation also occur over the continents of Europe and Asia during a glacial to interglacial transition.  The SH, by comparison, does not have such vast land masses over which large changes in glaciation can occur. None of Australia is never covered with glaciers and all of Antarctica is always covered with glaciers.  Therefore, there is relatively little change in the extent of glaciation over those two continents of the SH and neither one contributes significantly to the the Earth’s total changes in albedo as it moves between glacial and interglacial periods. Thus, it is in the NH where large changes in glaciation and changes in the reflection of incoming sunlight can occur.

If you have followed the sequence of thoughts provided so far, you will now understand why we can declare the following simple rule of thumb:  the direction of glacial / interglacial changes is determined largely by how “nice” the summers are in the NH.  If by changes in the Milankovitch cycles, the NH is being provided “good”  (that is, warmer) summers relative to the average, then the glaciers of the NH will retreat northward. On the North American continent, the southern edge of glaciation might thereby begin retreat from Kansas to Minnesota and through Canada and up to the Arctic Ocean.  These changes in glaciation would then have a large effect on the amount of solar radiation that “sticks” to the Earth versus that which just “bounces off”.  Thus, as more sunlight sticks as the glacier recedes, the Earth gets progressively warmer.  Thus, a relatively small change in the Milankovitch cycles is greatly amplified by its effect on the glaciers of the NH.  Conversely, when the Milankovitch cycles change so as to cause the NH to have cooler than average summers, the opposite events occur. The glaciers of the NH then begin grow and advance southward causing increased sunlight reflection and continuously lower temperatures..

OK, but we have not yet explained the changes in CO2 concentration observed over the last 800,000 years as shown in the first figure and the answer to this question also brings us to the third major influence on the Earth’s temperature.  When the Earth is warming as it comes out of a glacial period, the oceans begin to warm as well, of course, and as they do they release a large amount of CO2 into the atmosphere.  This release of CO2 occurs several hundred years after the initial period of warming caused by changes in the Milinkovic cycles and the Earth’s albedo.  But from that point forward, the increasing level of CO2  provides a third driving force for continued warming during the following 5,000 years required to reach the next interglacial period.

An increasing level of CO2 provides additional warming because CO2 is a Greenhouse Gas (GHG)  providing a “blanket” of thermal insulation between the surfaces of the Earth and outer space.  The GHGs manage to do this by absorbing infrared (heat) radiation emitted by the Earth and its lower atmosphere and then reemit IR radiation in all directions including back down towards the Earth’s surface. Without the GHGs the major portion of the IR omitted by the surface would simply pass into outer space thereby creating a colder world.  The amount of warming thereby caused by the continuously increasing CO2 level is then further amplified by causing increased vaporization of water, as well, which is ubiquitous throughout most of planet and is, itself, a powerful GHG.

As an addition to the above explanations, I will provide another figure showing ice core records obtained again form the Dome C site and also from the Vostok site some 600 miles away which is managed by Russia and provides the same type of information going back about 450,000 years.

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This figure shows the temperature deduced from these two ice cores and in the bottom row shows the relative amount of glacial ice thought to be on the planet at all times over the last 450,000 years (deduced from separate geological measurements).

There are several points worth noting in this figure. One is that the temperatures deduced over time at the two different sites are in excellent agreement. Since these sites on the Antarctic plateau share the same background atmosphere, this  result would be expected and lends credibility to the ice core analysis technology  Another point of interest is that the variations in temperature with time closely match the variations of the CO2 level shown in the first figure – as would be expected if the causes of the glacial / interglacial oscillations provided above are valid.  And finally, extent of glaciation or “ice volume” over the entire Earth does, indeed, correlate well with the rise and fall of temperature and CO2 levels, as would be expected if the explanations for the glacial / interglacial cycles provided here is correct.

That will have to do it for now in explaining the first figure shown above and the reason why we have had both glacial and interglacial periods over the 800,000 years.  For more details and addition information, I can refer you to a more complete “short course” on the subject of climate change offered on my main web site, ericgrimsrud.com.  Just go there and hit the short course tab.

Finishing with the BIG QUESTION: in our modern Industrial Age how can we expect to get away with increasing our atmospheric CO2 to levels so much higher than have seen in more than a million years?  The answer to that question is clearly not yet known by anyone who takes the science seriously.  We are presently doing an experiment on the only planet we have and most of our scientists who know a great deal about this think we might very likely be headed out of our present interglacial period in a direction that is opposite of that from which we came. In that case, we will be saying goodbye to mankind’s beloved Holocene and hello to a hotter and unknown period to be increasingly called the Anthropocene – whatever that place turns out to be.

 

 

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | June 27, 2015

An exam for professional aptitude

We hear a lot today about the need for increased testing in our public schools.  The reason for these additional exams is commonly claimed to be to ensure that students are learning properly and that the teachers are doing their jobs. If we do that, however, I would like to see a test of the sort provided below in which the student’s potential for fitting into our country’s various professional opportunities are also assessed.  That multiple choice exam might something like the following.

Question #1:  We commonly use numbers to indicate the relative magnitudes of some quantity of interest.  For example, would 400 of something be greater than  280 of those things.

a) yes      b) no       c) I am not a mathematician

Question #2:  We often use graphs to indicate trends in time.  If you were asked to make a plot of the world’s population from say 0 BC to the present, do you think the line produced by those annual data points would curve upward?

a) yes      b) no      c) I am not a statistician

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May Temperature Anomaly

Question #3:  Take a moment to inspect the graph shown above.  It shows the average surface temperatures of the Earth for the months of May over the last 125 years.  From this graph, do you think that the surface temperatures in May have increased over the time span shown?

a) yes     b) no       c)  I am not a meteorologist

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co2-800k-620x353.jpg

Question #4:  Take a moment to inspect the graph shown above.  It indicates the level of CO2 in the background atmosphere over the last 800,000 years.  Be sure to note the very sharp spike at the very right edge of the graph.  This spike began about 160 years ago when our CO2 level was 280 ppm and resulted in the current value of 400 ppm.  Note also the the CO2 level had never previously exceeded 290 ppm during the 800,000 year period shown.  We also know, of course, that the Industrial Age began about 160 years ago.  From these date, would you suspect that the recent surge in background CO2 levels to 400 ppm was caused by mankind’s activities during the Industrial Age?

a) yes     b) no    c)   I am not a geologist

Question #5:   Scientists know that CO2 and the other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere provide an insulating layer or blanket around the surfaces of the Earth.  If you put on a heavier coat, do you think you would get warmer?

a)  yes    b) no      c) I am not a physician

Question #6:  This exam has admittedly been heavily weighted toward scientific competency, so let’s finish with a question from the humanities.  Some think that the country of England is older than the United States of America.  Do you agree with that statement?

a) yes   b)  no   c)  I am not an historian

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OK, that is the end of the test and the question now is how do we grade it.  In doing that we must now recognize that the “answer key” depends on where and how the students will fit into the needs of our society and for that reason there should be three different answer keys, as related below:

If we want to produce students that will fit into any one of the following professions – medicine, nursing, pharmacy, optometry, law, dentistry, engineering, construction, research science, insurance, veterinary science, real estate, plumber, acting, janitor, bank teller, auctioneer, electrician, dancing, forestry, hotel management, coaching, art, music, economics, computer technology, architecture, business owner, sales, journalism, education, military, farming, mental heath care, airline pilots, social work, ministry, librarian, and homemaking – then the students who answered (a) to each question should be steered towards those professions and given scores of 100%.

All is not lost, however, for the others.  For those who selected (c) for all of the questions will find that they are well suited for and indeed needed by the controlling political party of our country – the GOP.  Note, for example, that the present leaders of the House (John Boehner) and the Senate (Mitch McConnell) are both from the GOP and, when asked about their views of the global warming problem both responded with “I am not a scientist”.  Thus, those who answered (c) on all questions will feel right at home in the modern GOP and should be able to find political positions at all levels of government.

In addition, there is also a great future within the GOP for those somewhat braver soles who chose (b) for answers to all of the question.  The present Chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works is none other than James “its all a big hoax” Inhofe, a prominent GOP leader from Oklahoma.  In running the environmental programs of the USA from his office, he is going to need more than “a few good men” in order to carry out his objectives.

So there you go. There will be jobs for everyone in the future. Some will find employment in the traditional professions and others in the “new age” ones being created by our present GOP leadership. In signing off, I will also admit that we will surely need our very best and brightest to fill positions in these new age professions. How, for example, are we going to reduce the levels of CO2 in our atmosphere by developing ever more sources of fossil fuels? And I am sorry that I can be of no help with that one.  I am not a magician.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | June 19, 2015

Halleluiah, our Leader has arrived !

On this blog (October 2014), and in a chapter of my book (Thoughts of a Scientists, Citizen, and Grandpa on Climate Change), I previously provided some speculation concerning the type of leader that would be needed in order to successfully arrest the relentless advance of global warming.  As an example of such a leader in a different era,  I chose Winston Churchill for the work he did the 1930’s and 40’s before and during WWII.  The reason he was so perfectly suited for the challenge then faced by the Western Democracies was because Churchill clearly understood the profound underlying differences between a free democratic society and whatever it was that Hitler and his Nazi party were offering.  It is true that under Hitler, the trains of Germany began to run on time and it’s economy turned around providing its citizens with jobs and wealth.  Many in England and the USA expressed great admiration for Germany’s accomplishments during the 30’s and wanted to lend support rather than resistance to Hitler. While one does not hear very much about those folks these days, among those enthusiastic admirers were Americans of substantial influence, such as Charles Lindbergh, the famous American aviator, and Joseph Kennedy, then Ambassador to Great Britain and later, the father of an American President and three US Senators.

If Churchill’s dim view of the Nazis had not won out in that era, the rest of the 20th Century would have undoubtedly turned out very differently.  Since the “science” of societal change is accompanied by enormous uncertainties, we don’t know for sure exactly what that end result might have been or exactly how long it would have taken to get there.  Fortunately, however, that experiment was not done because the citizens of Great Britain first and later those of the US had the good sense to recognize a bad direction when they saw one and followed a leader they could rally behind.  Churchill found the common ground with those folks by pointing out the essential intangibles of a good life that are possible only with a democratic form of government.  To a great extent, WWII was fought because of the moral leadership provided by an authority on the subject of self-governance and a population sufficiently well-educated to understand and appreciate what he was talking about.

When wondering if we would ever find another equally prepared moral authority for addressing the even greater challenge before us today concerning global climate change I have not been optimistic.  Frankly, I did not think such a person existed. After all, from what place and experience would such a person possibly come from?  While professional scientists have possessed the greatest level of knowledge concerning the topic, a scientist’s role has traditionally been to advise – and they have clearly done that – rather than to lead – as several  have tried to do.  While our elected officials are expected to be the ones that lead, when they try to – as in the case of Al Gore – they are accused of being politically biased and are more apt to be ridiculed than listened to by the other political parties.  The perfect leader for the war against climate change would have to be someone that is respected by all at the onset and whose responsibility is clearly to look after all people of the world.

And then just when I had concluded that no such a person exists – out comes Francis, the  Pope of the Catholic Church – bearing a forceful stance concerning our “moral obligation to be good stewards of the planet God has given us”.   Perfect!  I should have known. The scientists of the world have clearly provided their distinctively dire predictions.  Climate change is now primarily a moral issue and we finally have the perfect leader for facing it on that basis.  Halleluiah !!  It is Pope Francis who can lead all of mankind to its next “finest hour” and an environmentally sustainable future.

For photos of the two great leaders I have raved about here and another writer’s similar take on all of this, see: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/06/17/3670578/pope-climate-change-churchill-humanity-needs/

2015 Toon 29

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | June 12, 2015

A stinky solution for beef eaters

Always looking for some good humor concerning this sobering topic, I happened across the following web site.  Enjoy its two videos and helpful tips, such as the “baby powder shampoo”, the  “sandpaper scrub” and the “dirt bath”.

See   http://www.skipshowersforbeef.com/   and hit the menu tabs at the top.  Learn and Enjoy!

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | June 10, 2015

German exceptionalism

Germany’s economic and military dynamism along with its geographic centrality have posed problems for Germany itself, as well as the rest of the world, during much of the 20th Century. With the dissolution of the Hapsburg Monarchy at the close of WWI, Germany was absolutely devastated but under the leadership of its infamous Fuhrer rose again to its pinnacle of near world domination only 25 years later and then had to be crushed a second time. Whatever one thinks about the role that country played in the 20th Century, it is clear that Germany has produced people of exceptional will and capabilities. It should also be noted that many of her highly educated citizens accomplished great things both before and after migrating to other countries in response to Germany’s horrific leadership in the ’30s.  For example, most of the scientists who were responsible for winning the nuclear arms race during WWII were actually from Germany and its satellite  countries – having received their educations and initial research experiences there. By 1940, the Allied countries, including the USA and Britain, had not yet produced enough physicists with sufficiently advanced understanding of nuclear processes as to successfully undertake the Manhattan Project. We managed to do that because of the indispensable assistance provided by displaced Germans.  In most other fields as well, including both the sciences and the humanities, German exceptionalism has been evident throughout the 20th Century and now continues into the 21st.

Germany is, indeed, now once again showing itself to be an international leader – whether it is trying to be one or not – just by the example it is settling in facing the universal challenges all countries have.  For example, one of the greatest problems facing all countries today is that of climate change and Germany appears to be doing a better job of responding to it than all other industrialized nations.

I  was therefore struck by an opinion piece I read yesterday in the Washington  Post (see it at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/taking-climate-change-seriously-in-school-in-germany/2015/06/08/bb43fb4c-0e00-11e5-9726-49d6fa26a8c6_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1.  While in Germany to cover the G7 conference, Catherine Rampell noted the extensive coverage given to the issue of climate change in Germany’s public schools.  To summarize, she states that it’s like “being on an entirely different planet”, rather than just a different country.  In German schools the global warming issue permeates all courses both in the sciences and the humanities and is not presented as merely one side of a legitimate two-sided issue.  In German schools it appears that science is given its due respect and their students are spared the nonsense commonly accompanying the teaching of this issue in our country

The German public and its political leaders are also apparently not as scientifically challenged as so many in America are and are facing the problem of greenhouse gas warming with much more vigor than we – that is, straight on,  right now, and in their own backyards.  As a result, about 30% of all of the energy produced in Germany is already supplied by the solar panels and wind mills on homes and farms throughout Germany. While the nay-sayers of America say that the alternates cannot power a country, Germans are showing us that they can – even in their relatively northern and cloudy country (they don’t have an Arizona, you know) . All of this reminds me of the ’60s and 70’s when the automobile manufacturers of Japan embarrassed those of the US by making cars that our industrial nay-sayers said could not be made.

Nevertheless, many Americans continue to insist that we are the “most exceptional” of all while the party that most often makes that claim continues its efforts to “dumb down” the coverage of climate change in our public schools.  If those efforts continue, American students might soon have to learn about klimawandel (climate change), as well as the means of fighting it, from German text books rather than the increasingly light-weight offerings of our public schools. In addition, we might again have to rely on German-educated scientists and engineers to help us with the technologies of survival that will be required in a hotter world.

In 1940, Adolf Hitler asked “What is America but beauty queens, millionaires, stupid records and Holywood?” While that rhetorical question was quickly answered in spades by what Tom Brokaw called our “Greatest Generation”, I wonder what would happen if German Chancellor Angela Merkel made the same statement today concerning the battle against climate change. Such a statement by her would clearly be justified. Due largely to the USA’s enormous propensity for self indulgence, it continues to be much more a part of the problem than a part of the solution.  And I agree entirely with President Obama when he says that there have been times when the USA has behaved in a less than exceptional manner. On the climate change issue now is such a time. Therefore, I am very pleased to see that Germany is doing its best to fill the void of exceptional leadership that exists today on this most important issue of our times and wish her well.

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