First, while I have your full attention, please have a look at the following video.  It is about a half hour long.  If you don’t take the time to do this, you will perhaps not understand the point of this post.  The video can be seen at http://publish.dvlabs.com/democracynow/ipod/dn2013-1121.mp4?&start=1617.0&end=3286.0

Welcome back. If you did, indeed, watch the video provided above, you are now poised to understand the great disconnect that exists between the very best and latest science available on the subject of man-caused global warming and the general public including its institutions of higher learning.

To summarize the video, a main point made by climate scientist Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research (London) is that “radical and immediate changes” in the lifestyles of those living in the “wealthy” countries of the world are needed if we are to avoid catastrophic temperature rises above two degrees Centigrade.  It is via changes in the carbon footprints of these relatively wealthy inhabitants of Earth that needed reductions in total global emissions of CO2 can be most easily and most quickly made – simply by changes in their lifestyles. While these needed changes include many different forms of energy conservation, those highlighted in this video were the methods and frequency of travel chosen by the wealthy.

Now I should also take a moment here to assure you that Kevin Anderson is not just a second-rate scientist “whistling Dixie” concerning his personal biases on an environmental issue.  He is one of the most accomplished and highly respected leaders in the world in critically important field of climate modeling. Modern modeling is done by taking all of the information available, from observations of the past and from the basic principles of physics and from them constructing predictions of the future. The Tyndall Centre for Climate Research is an organisation based in the United Kingdom that brings together scientists, economists, engineers and social scientists from about a dozen of Britain’s top research universities.

So next, who in the public domain should I (admittedly unfairly) choose for a comparison of their activities against the recommendations of Dr. Anderson?  While almost any American organization in the domains of business or education would do, I am going to “pick on” St. Olaf College of Northfield Minnesota here simply because that college happens to be my own alma mater and that of numerous relatives going back to my grandfather, Lawrence Grimsrud, who graduated in 1899. Thus, I am picking on St. Olaf College here because it is “my own” so to speak,  just as when I require a brunt in the telling of my favorite jokes, I usually select either “Norwegians”, in general, or “Ole”, in particular. With this self-effacing approach, I believe that I am less likely to offend someone.

OK, so now let’s use St. Olaf College as an example of an organization that clearly does not yet conform to the recommendations of Dr. Anderson and let’s do that by focusing on the single issue of travel.

St. Olaf is appropriately proud of its extensive “Studies Abroad” programs. A large fraction of its students in all majors take courses in which professor-led trips to distant places are involved.  Even its basketball team now travels to Europe during the summertime apparently because their BB schedule during the academic year prevents their access to St.O’s studies abroad programs.  I was also a BB player while at St.Olaf and have provided some financial support for this new travel program.

In the Spring 2015 issue of the St.Olaf magazine, there is a small article entitled “Why do we travel” reminding us of the obvious, undisputed and time-honored benefits of travel.  It goes on to describe one specific course that recently took faculty and students to Germany where they studied the cultural effects of the Reformation.  Then the article described two upcoming trips offered to St.Olaf alumni, one to the Bay Area of California and another to the Holy Land.

Now let me be clear on one point – I think these programs are wonderful and appropriate for those who can afford them. I would like to be on all of them myself.  But what is lacking in the article I am referring to above is another companion article entitled “How do we travel?” In that proposed article I doubt that the modes of transport reported would be in compliance with the recommendations made by Dr. Anderson in his video interview.  That is, I would doubt that most of those going on that trip to the Holy Land or even to San Francisco will be going by lower carbon intensive methods involving relatively slow mass transport on the seas, rail or in buses. Most would undoubtedly be going by high carbon footprint aircraft and then returning as quickly as they can by the same method in order to get back to their busy lives at home – possibly involving another quick trip to another distant place.

At this point, I think I can already hear the criticisms that are likely to come my way as a result of what I just said.  Most common among them will be, “but Eric, you are far too naive.  The world simply does not work that way anymore.”  And I will agree with that comment in advance, while also pointing out the misuse of the word “work” in it.  As Dr. Anderson clearly states, our current way of living, including travelling, is not “working”.  The status quo modes of transport presently being promoted by St. Olaf College and almost all other sizable organizations are not sustainable. Sure we have to do what we have to do, but must also learn how to do it in a manner that does not pass the bill onto future generations.

RADICAL changes are indeed required RIGHT NOW and they can be done right now by changes in the lifestyles of the more wealthy countries, organizations, and individuals of the world. Concerning travel, only low carbon methods should be used and if travel by aircraft is necessary, that aircraft should be power by bio-diesel fuel which is carbon neutral, but considerably more expensive.

The issue of climate change is no longer just a scientific and/or economic issue.  We now know enough about the science as to make it a MORAL issue. Furthermore, I believe it is now the most important moral issue on the table.  Given the historic commitments of St. Olaf College to moral issues and its service to mankind, it would be most appropriate for St. Olaf College to become an even better institutional example in the fight against global warming by moving to a higher level of “walking the walk”.

If you are still confused about the necessity of what I have recommended here, please have another look at the video referred to above.  Then tell yourself, if you are not going to put your trust in the likes of Kevin Anderson, you are putting it in the likes of Rush Limbaugh or, more likely, in more moderate “greenwashers” who only “talk the talk”. If I am in error by favoring Anderson’s recommendations, you can blame that on the excellent education I received at St. Olaf College concerning a wide variety of subjects within both the sciences and the humanities – in which the importance of one’s service to mankind was emphasized.

Again, sure we have to do what we have do, but we also have to very quickly learn how to do those things in a manner that does not pass the bill onto future generations. That is, we have to pay for our selected life styles right now in the present as we make our choices. And this can be accomplished. For example, cars, buses, trains and even aircraft can be propelled by carbon neutral bio-fuels whenever that trip needs to be taken. And, of course, we can also consider more carefully whether or not that trip really needs to be taken. It’s really a matter of personal will, choices and political action. As far as I know we still have a free market system that responds to the professed needs and preferences of its members. And our educational institutions are in a perfect position for changing those preferences to the significantly higher levels now demanded by the latest science of climate change. We have painted ourselves into the corner we now find ourselves because we have not payed sufficient attention to such warnings in the past. Obviously, I would like few things better than to see my alma mater, St. Olaf College, embrace this opportunity for assuming a higher level of leadership during this most dangerous period of either environmental recovery or demise. .

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | May 22, 2015

A peek at nitwits in positions of power

I sometime wonder if the Republicans who I regularly paint as being scientific morons on this blog are really that bad. That is, given all the scientific information they have been provided by our nation’s very own scientific organizations and our official adviser on all scientific issues, the National Academy of Sciences, surely you might expect them to be at least moderately well-informed, right?  Well if you happen to think so, have a look at the following video and then think again.

What is shown here is a discussion among Republicans serving on the Committee on Natural Resources in response to a suggestion by the President’s Council on Environmental Quality to include carbon pollution and the effects of climate change in the consideration of environmental impacts of federal projects.  Needless to say, the Republicans on the committee don’t like the idea and, in addition, clearly express their distain for the consensus view of professional climate scientists.  Note also that in order to add a speck of legitimacy to their pathetic cause, the only professional scientist they invited to attend this meeting was John Christy of the University of Alabama, Huntsville, one of the very few professional scientists in our country who does not believe that man is causing climate change.  As one Democratic member of the committee stated near the end of this video, this committee should be “congratulated” for finding such a person”.

Another moment that should have proved humorous to any intelligent listener was provided by Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas when he asked of Christy,

You ever feel like Galileo? You remember Galileo? The overwhelming amount of science was against Galileo, and the other side of this got money from the Church, they got money from the government from their research opposing Galileo, and yet Galileo was right.

As any historian knows, the scientific observations and facts where, in fact, on Galileo’s side while the other side only had power and money. So why would Christy, whose side only has power and money, feel like Galileo?

For a more thorough analysis of Christy’s flawed congressional testimony see http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2015/may/21/congress-manufactures-doubt-and-denial-in-climate-change-hearing

In conclusion, no, I don’t think I give the Republicans too little credit for smarts when it comes to the subject of climate change. The saddest fact is that these nitwits have power.  They control both houses of congress.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | May 20, 2015

What is Obama’s fossil fuel plan?

In contemplating that question, I will admit that I am not sure I understand what President Obama is presently doing.  On one hand, he gives speeches in which he appropriately describes the great danger man-caused warming poses to mankind  and very forcefully urges the development of the alternate renewable sources of energy.  Then at the same time he supports an “all of the above” energy policy within the USA that includes the continued development of our sources of gas and oil.  As a specific example, if he is indeed aware of the primary cause of man-caused global warming, why would he be supporting our installation of off-shore drilling facilities in the Arctic Ocean?  (for a recent report on this topic see huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/19/climate-change-polar-pioneer-seattle_n_7306298.html)  Since our climate scientists tell us that the world already has far more readily available fossil fuel reserves than it can afford to use, why would Obama support efforts to find more?

While I am not at all sure that I understand what’s happening here, I suspect that some of  it is driven by the same “logic” that I saw while living in the fossil-fuel-rich state of Montana for some 35 years.  In that state, even its most progressive Democrats tried to be the leading cheerleaders for Montana’s development and export of its gas, oil, and even coal.  These Democrats included Montana’s then Governor, Schweitzer and present Governor Bullock, and its two Democratic Senators, Baucus and Tester. While these Democrats acknowledged the threat posed by climate change, they also favored an “all of the above” policy which I then considered to be a “cop out” (see my previous post at ericgrimsrud.wordpress.com/2013/03/29/the-all-of-the-above-cop-out/) for anyone who claims to understand the global warming problem.

What I learned from my Montana experience is that the politicians there do not dare to grow too strong a conscience concerning the AGW problem because they know that if they did, they would be immediately replaced in the next election cycle.  The fossil fuel lobby in that state has far deeper pockets than its environmental lobbies.  At our national level, however, I don’t think such a face-off would be as one-sided and I could imagine that a strong environmental stance could actually prove to be a winner for the Democrats. Thus, I am still puzzled by President Obama’s present encouragement of gas and oil developments.

Therefore, in an attempt to see a positive side to Obama’s actions, I am tempted to guess that his reasoning might be along the following lines.  In the last decade with the technical breakthroughs of gas and oil recovery in North Dakota, the USA has become one of the main suppliers of these two commodities in the world. Therefore, the US is now in a much better position to affect and even set global prices for gas and oil.  If the USA can create a glut of these two commodities so that their retail prices plunge and stay low for a decade or so, perhaps the development of the more expensive and dirty forms of fossil fuels, such as those derived from tar sands and shale, would be terminated for financial reasons. The removal of these virtually inexhaustible supplies of  dirty fossil fuels as well as coal from the market place would constitute a great improvement in our long-term prospects for survival.

If this is what President Obama is thinking, his next challenge would then be to limit the amount of gas and oil that the world burns in the coming decade probably via an increasingly stiff price on carbon. While that would also be no small task, it would be much more manageable than our current situation in which the developers of the non-traditional fossil fuels derived from tar sand and shale are understandably desperate to see a pay-day for their huge investments. While their losses might be considered unfortunate, that does not constitute an argument.  Sympathy for the losers has never been a driving force in our economy.  If it were, we would all be driving Edsels today.

If my speculations expressed here have any merit, we must hope that the next President of the USA is also not fond of “Lemons”, as our present Republican leadership seems to be.  Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, boasts that one of his first orders of business when (and if, he should have added)  his party captures the Executive Branch in 2016 will be to give a green light to the Keystone XL Pipeline, thereby opening that spigot between the vast Canadian tar sands and the markets of the world.

Again, I do not claim to know exactly what President Obama’s strategy is but trust his level of integrity and intelligence enough to hope that something beneficial might be in the works. While I clearly hope so, I would also welcome any other thoughtful ideas you might like share on this post via its “comment” section.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | May 18, 2015

On that 97% scientific consensus

First, it’s time to inject a bit of humor on this website.  If you haven’t seen it already, have look at this video which sets the tone for this post.

For a more serious and very recent assessment of the question, “is it really true that 97% of our professional climate scientists studying man-caused global warming agree that it is occurring and should be addressed in a timely manner?” see

http://www.corporateknights.com/channels/climate-and-carbon/97-per-cent-consensus-climate-change-still-gets-challenged/

This claim by professional scientists and their organizations has been repeatedly questioned over the last several years.  Nevertheless, surveys among actual climate scientists (that is, scientists whose day job is to study this specific issue and whose work is sufficiently credible as to pass the peer reviews system of our scientific journals) have repeatedly supported this claim.  Yes, the scientific agreement on this issue is as close to being “unanimous” as any complex scientific issue can be.  It’s time to face the problem (which we have not yet appropriately done) move on to solutions (which need to be applied immediately).

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | May 17, 2015

The five stages of Denial Disease

As I explained in a recent post, the Deniers of man-caused global warming are now tending to “deny their denial”.  But this does not mean that they are no longer devoted to the obstruction of preventative action against climate change. Most of them  will simply move along to another stage of denial. All of this is thoroughly explained in a recent article posted at http://www.skepticalscience.com/lukewarmers-third-stage-of-climate-denial.html

My own take on  this phenomenon is provided below.

There are apparently five stages of denial – which all share the common goal of obstructing action on climate change.

  • Stage 1: Deny the problem exists
  • Stage 2: Deny we’re the cause
  • Stage 3: Deny it’s a problem
  • Stage 4: Deny we can solve it
  • Stage 5: It’s too late

We have seen lots of evidence of Stage 1 and Stage 2 denial in the last decade – so they do not need to be further explained here.  As evidence for warming continuously grows, however, the arguments behind Stage 1 and 2 have become increasingly childish.  Therefore, Deniers are increasingly denying their former Stage 1 and Stage 2 existences and are now arriving at Stage 3.

Stage 3 denial primarily takes the form of “sure, climate change is happening but its detrimental effects will probably not be great enough to worry about”.  This stage of denial is increasingly favored by Deniers because it does not require a complete denial of the problem and allows the Denier to retain at least a bit of intellectual credibility. Nevertheless, this view as also not supported by valid scientific studies. That is, in scientific terms, a doubling of our CO2 levels from the pre-Industrial Age of 280 ppm to 560 ppm is certain to occur with business-as-usual practices in the mid to latter portions of the current 21st Century. And this doubling is expected to cause an average surface temperature rise of about 3 degrees C which would be sufficient to cause very large and catastrophic changes to our planet. Thus, like State 1, Stage 3 is not actually supported by any real science.  It simply provides the Deniers with a somewhat less embarrassing stance.

As the relentless advance of AGW proceeds even further into the 21st Century, we can expect the Stage 3 Deniers to morph into Stages 4 and then 5.  In doing so, they will finally admit that even their Stage 3 claim is erroneous and that AGW is, indeed, causing great changes to our planet.  At this point, however, they will still not be willing to take forceful action against AGW because, they will first say “the problem cannot be solved” and then “its too late to even try”.  Their reasons for these stances will be the same as always –  claiming that we cannot afford to interfere with the business-as-usual forces that they sold their souls to at the very beginning while in Stage 1.

An obvious question to pose at this point is why would people be so dense, devious, or even evil as to embrace these self-destructive stages of denial?  I will not try to answer that question here because it concerns forces operative within human beings that go well beyond my own level of understanding.  I just know from my own observations that Deniers do sometimes express their “reasons” even if they make sense only to themselves.  Some, for example, have told me that they don’t trust the government – as if there is some better organization in which they can place their trust.  Some say that they have their life savings invested in the continued production of fossil fuels – as if they can “take it with them” at the end of those lives. And some have told me that “God will take care of us” – as if He does not expect us to be good stewards of the gifts He has given us.

Since I consider all such “reasons” to be non-sense, I will simply refer to them here as constituting symptoms of what might be called “Denial Disease”.  Thus my goal in this post is only to list those symptoms and stages so you can recognize an infected person when you are exposed to one.  Perhaps some of you can even envision “cures” for that person much better than I can.  For example, one might inform those afflicted that while the disease itself will not necessarily be passed on to their descendants, its consequences certainly will be. For the good of all living creatures, present and future, we must immediately eliminate this curse to humanity. It is far more dangerous than the ebola virus.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | May 12, 2015

Trans-Pacific Partnership would be good for the planet

President Obama has recently been doing his best to get The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) approved by the US Congress.  The members of this international trade agreement would include Australia,  Brunei,  Canada,  Chile,  Japan,  Malaysia,  Mexico,  New ZealandPeru,  Singapore,  United States,  Vietnam, and potentially China.

This agreement has been strongly opposed especially by Democrats for very real and defensible reasons – the main one being that it might lead to fewer jobs and lower wages for American workers.  Nevertheless, I favor the TPP because these types of trade agreements will help the entire world address its greatest problem – the relentless advance of global warming.  As many US critics of forceful action against climate change say “sure we should address climate change, but what about China and the rest of the world?” Indeed, what about them and how can we induce them to also take forceful action?

I think the best answer to that question is to create international financial relationships that put us all in the same boat as much as possible.  This will tend to happen as we all increasingly become part of a shared economic system in which many countries are bound together by tariff-free trade relations.  Such agreements will drastically increase the understanding of the inner workings and problems of other member nations and will facilitate solutions to global environmental problems.  And to be more specific, perhaps the only viable solution to the world’s greenhouse gas problem is to install a world-wide carbon tax on the combustion of fossil fuels that gradually becomes stiff enough to cause CO2 emissions to fall to near zero levels within the next couple decades.  If an international group as large as the TPP along with our European allies could accomplish this feat and then charge carbon import duties on goods from non-complying countries, all countries of the world would very likely invoke similar carbon taxes for fossil fuel use.

Another common criticism of the TPP heard especially within the USA is that other countries would then have a greater voice in determining what happens in the USA.  This, I think, is true but also necessary.  We now know very well that the Earth is physically much too small as to allow its many individual countries to do their own thing without regard to impacts on the entire globe.  We all share the same environment and that is literally true with respect to our atmosphere and oceans.  And it is the perturbations of these two entities that are causing our greatest environmental problems – that is, the increasing greenhouse effect of our atmosphere and the increasing acidity in our oceans.

Whether referring to individual human beings or to the only planet we have, if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.  While I agree that the TPP might cause some problems for Americans, my take is that we must do what we have to do for planetary survival while also helping those negatively affected by that process. So while I have the greatest respect and admiration for Democratic leader, Elizabeth Warren, on this issue I side with President Obama, who undoubtedly knows what I have said here but for political reasons is hesitant to use the argument.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | April 27, 2015

What if Professor Harold Hill came to Montana ?

While recently living near Kalispell, Montana, I was a participant in the local arguments concerning the subject of climate change that appeared in the local newspaper called the Daily Inter Lake.  During that period, another frequent contributor was a recent transplant from California named Dr. Ed Berry who I came to regard as a classic Denier of man’s effect on climate.  While he did not know even the basic elements of climate science, it appeared to me that he was able to convince many locals including the newspaper’s Editor that he was an experienced and accomplished expert on the subject. After numerous op ed give and takes with Dr. Berry, I came to believe that there was no point in continuing them any longer in that specific newspaper and instead sent a version of the following letter to its Editor, Frank Miele.  Since I have been informed by Mr. Miele that he will not be running my letter in his newspaper, I thought that I would at least share it with the readers of my blog.  The remainder of this post shows that letter slightly modified for this format.  

Do credentials matter at the Daily Inter Lake?

Whenever I manage to get a Letter published at the Daily Inter Lake concerning the problem of global warming,  I can expect to see it promptly followed by another from the Dr. Ed Berry of Bigfork in which he does his best to negate the effects of mine. Therefore, I was not surprised to see such a letter recently (on March 22) run again right after mine (on March 17).  All of this is fair, of course, if one accepts the notion that any person’s view on a given subject merits as much exposure as another. So now I suppose I could take the option of pointing out in scientific detail in yet another letter, why Dr. Berry’s comments are scientifically out-of-bounds and downright silly.  In that process, however,  I suspect that the general public might not know the science well enough to clearly see which one of us is full of it and might simply come away with the impression that the science of man-caused global warming is, indeed, still not settled.  This, of course, is the goal of the deniers of man-caused global warming and I decided not to play that game in this instance.

Then upon watching the 1962 classic “The Music Man” with my grandchildren last weekend, a more appropriate response occurred to me.  In that movie, Professor Harold Hill is shown doing his thing – selling musical instruments along with uniforms and promised instructions for River City’s new “boy’s band”.  Professor Hill  is, indeed, a thoroughly likeable and superb salesman – even though he also a total fraud who knows next to nothing about how to play musical instruments.  Nevertheless, his message is in resonance with the dreams of the good folks of River City and they fall for it. The locals made one obvious mistake, however. They certainly should have checked out Dr. Hill’s credentials.

The Professor claimed that he was a graduate of the distinguished Gold Medal Class of ’05 of the Gary Conservatory, Gary Indiana. Turns out, the town of Gary, Indiana, did not even exist until 1906, but only Marian, the librarian, figured that out and by then, she had fallen in love with the Professor.

So what does this have to do with Dr. Edward X. Berry’s presence in Kalispell, MT?  The movie suggests that instead of just taking a newcomer’s word that he is an accomplished climate change physicist, why not check out his credentials. Is this person really what he claims to be or is he just trying to sell “good news” concerning a grave threat to mankind.  For that purpose, I have looked for a professional resume of Dr. Berry’s that would list his contributions to the science of climate change and came up with zip. If one does professional level research in any area of science, the job is not done until all the paperwork is in and in inspecting the trail Dr. Berry claims to have been on, I have found no such paperwork – only what I perceive to be scientific nonsense – such as that displayed on his personal website at edberry.com.

Dr. Berry’s path through science can be seen in the Bio section of his website.  In it you will see that he attended two graduate programs in physics, one at Dartmouth and another at the U of Nevada, Reno in the early 1960’s. Both of these programs were in their infancies at that time with limited offerings and no established reputations. Coming from one of our country’s most prestigious universities, Cal Tech, where he suggests that he was taught by likes of two-time Noble Prize winner, Linus Pauling, one might have expected such a Cal Tech graduate to have been placed in one of the top, instead of the bottom, graduate programs of the  USA.  It would appear, therefore, that this Cal Tech graduate was not well regarded by the faculty of  Cal Tech – to be accepted into good graduate programs, an applicant needs to have received good grades and good recommendations.

It is also possible, of course, that a scientist could be a late bloomer and spring to life after his undergraduate and graduate studies. When that happens, however, the accomplishments of that person would still be evidenced by a string of peer-reviewed papers describing his work during that productive period.  Look again at Dr. Berry’s Bio referred to above.  There is no such record of professional activity and accomplishment even after the year 2001, when Dr. Berry states that he began to focus entirely on the specific issue of climate change. If I have missed something of relevance in Dr. Berry’s resume, I would be pleased to be informed of it by any interested party.

Enough said – perhaps you can see why the “The Music Man” reminds me of the considerable influence Dr. Edwin X. Berry has apparently had on the media of that relatively isolated region of Montana known as the Flathead.  Even Dr. Berry’s method of instruction reminds me of Professor Hill’s whose “think system” consisted of humming  Beethoven’s Minuet in G. By this method, the Professor said, “you don’t have to bother with the notes“.  And by that method, “you can talk, you can talk, you can talk, talk, talk – you can bicker, bicker, bicker, talk, talk, talk, – all without having to know the territory!”

So how will this story eventually end, I wonder. Will Dr. Berry’s limited background be appropriately exposed so that he retreats back to Sacramento where he would be forced to watch the sea level rise in his own front yard or, as in the movie, will he be saved by a respected local official who has fallen in love with him. While I don’t know of any librarians in the Flathead who are likely to play that role, I do know of a local newspaper Editor who might continue to try. It would be quite a setback to Editor Miele, I suspect, if he lost the spiritual leader of the local Denier’s Band.

Eric Grimsrud,  Liberty Lake, WA,  April 26, 2015.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | April 20, 2015

Will we be trying Solar Geoengineering soon?

We are  now aware of a relatively simple way to compensate for the warming effects of our increasing levels of greenhouse gases.  It is called “solar engineering” and is accomplished by blocking a portion of our incoming solar radiation.  A simple way to do this is to mimic very large volcanic eruptions that inject sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere.  Once there, SO2 molecules go on to form particulate matter and these particles increase the reflection of incoming solar radiation back into outer space.  Most of these sulfate particles will stay in the stratosphere for a year or two. Thus, a continuous flow of SO2 added to the stratosphere  via high altitude aircraft could established any level of light reflection and cooling desired.  And this scheme could be adopted with relatively little cost.

So will we be using this scheme any time soon? Since the answer to that question might soon  become affirmative, it is imperative that we carefully consider and be prepared for any potential problems that might accompany this scheme.  Most of the anticipated problems will fall into one of two types – one concerns the science involved and the other, the politics.

Concerning the science, the questions are of the “unintended consequences” nature.  For example, will these added sulfate particles have any effect on the ozone layer of the stratosphere?  We need a healthy ozone layer in order to screen out incoming ultraviolet radiation.  Also, what will be the effects of this scheme, if any, on local weather and precipitation patterns?  So far, scientific “experiments” have only been done via computer models but that research has been encouraging.  Another advantage of this scheme is that the sulfate particles could be removed by natural processes whenever we wish by discontinuing SO2 injection.  A great deal of additional research concerning this scheme is presently underway as we consider using it.

Even if the science continues to look satisfactory, however, a great deal of thought concerning the politics involved must also be considered.  Some of the anticipated problems will revolve around the question of “what is the right temperature for the Earth?”  One’s answer to this question is likely be depend very much on where you live.  High latitude countries of the  Northern Hemisphere are likely to prefer higher temperatures than those closer to the Equator.  Pakistan, for example, is in urgent need of lower temperatures and lower sea levels while Russia is not.  If we find that local weather patterns are affected by SO2 injection, then some countries might have to endure more sacrifice than others for the good of the entire planet.  Requests for international compensation in the form of financial assistance and/or population relocation would be sure to follow.

David Keith of Harvard University (formerly at the University of Alberta in Calgary) is a leading expert in the field of geoengineering whose work I have followed for many years. Through his interactions with all regions of the world, he is well aware of the political as well as scientific issues that will have to be faced if we pursue this scheme. Thus, I found his recent Washington Post opinion on this topic to be most informative.  You can see it at http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/whats-the-right-temperature-for-the-earth/2015/01/29/b2dda53a-7c05-11e4-84d4-7c896b90abdc_story.html

Upon reading about this and other geoenginering schemes, one is initially inclined to say “no way!, we should not do untested experiments such as these on the only planet we have”.  On the other side of that argument, however, is the equally sobering thought, “what other choices do we have?”   Even if we halted all greenhouse gas emissions today, we still can expect to experience extensive warming and degradation of existing civilizations during the next several centuries.  In addition, CO2 emission rates continue to increase every year so that the background level of CO2 increases about 2 ppm per year.  By mid century, our atmosphere will contain well over 470 ppm CO2 if we continue on our present course.

Thus, we presently find ourselves between a rock and a hard place.  In retrospect, of course, we should have listened to James Hansen’s testimony to Congress way back in 1988  (see that testimony at http://www.skepticalscience.com/pics/ClimateChangeHearing1988.pdf ).  We did not heed his warning, however, and have still not heeded it 27 years later – as CO2 emission rates continue to rise.  Oh what a web we weave in our mindless pursuit of  short-term wealth.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | April 13, 2015

Deniers are now denying their denial

Organizations representing the Business-as-Usual / Fossil Fuels interests of America have begun to change their stance on the issue of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) – by acknowledging the prevailing view of climate scientists that mankind is causing global warming. Therefore, they are now distancing themselves from the pseudo-scientific “experts” they used to point to for “proof” that the science behind AGW was not yet settled. These organizations include the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heartland Institute, both of which have previously funneled a lion’s share of funding to denial efforts.  For additional details concerning these apparent changes of attitude, see Dana Milbank’s recent Wa, fshington Post op ed at http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/climate-change-deniers-are-in-retreat/2015/04/06/942eb980-dc9f-11e4-be40-566e2653afe5_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

An obvious question then arises – why would these Business-as-Usual fossil fuel interests do this? Have they suddenly become scientifically smarter? Have they suddenly grown a conscience with respect to the future welfare of humanity?  Are they really now willing to admit that fossil fuels should be left in the ground?  Pardon my skepticism, but I doubt very much that any of these altruistic thoughts are driving their altered views.  A far more likely reason is that these organizations now realize that the American public has become too aware of and concerned about the relentless advance of AGW as to believe the scientific non-sense the Deniers have been putting out.  Therefore, the former Deniers know that the challenge before them is to find different arguments that might play better in the public domain while allowing their friends in the fossil fuel industries to continue and even expand their operations for as long as possible.  Thus, I fully expect that the Deniers will be morphing into another species that might more accurately be labeled the “Deceivers”.

So what will the altered arguments of these Deceivers be?  In essence, they will likely argue that continued use of fossil fuels is necessary because, they will claim, alternative sources of energy cannot replace them any time soon.  While that argument does not insult the intelligence of the public quite so much as their previous denial of the problem, it does nothing to solve man-caused global warming and, fortunately, it is also not correct.  Replacements for fossil fuels are available and can be implemented within a decade or two.  The only hurdle we have to getting that done is that age-old one that accompanies all major changes –  some powerful people’s oxen will invariably be gored when major changes are made. But then, that is how free markets are supposed to work, is it not?  For example, the owners of livery stables of America were undoubtedly not pleased when Henry Ford began to turn out affordable cars in the first decade of the 20th Century. But any arguments those blacksmiths put forth at that time were not even remembered in subsequent decades as millions began to benefit from the booming auto industries of the USA.

Another argument the Deceivers are likely to make will concern the scientific term climate “Sensitivity” – which quantitatively indicates how much temperatures will increases with a given increase in greenhouse gases.  The Deceivers will argue that the magnitude of that term is so small that global warming won’t be so bad even as we proceed with Business-as-Usual for a few more decades.  The big problem with this argument, however, is that it is also contrary to prevailing thought within our scientific communities – Sensitivity is not that low.  For this reason, we can expect the Deceivers to continue to carry on the Denier’s past programs for “science bashing” – in order to minimize the public’s trust in science.

So keep an eye out for these altered efforts to prevent forceful action on climate change – they will be coming to your neighborhood soon.  In addition, we will still have some of the classic Deniers around. Surely Senators Inhofe of Oklahoma and Cruz of Texas, for examples, will continue to sing the same old Denier’s tunes while an increasing number of even their fellow Republicans plug their ears in embarrassment.

The goal of the Deceivers will be more subtle than before.  That is, simply to delay action on climate change for as long as possible.  There is, indeed, a lot of “gold in them there hills” – just ask as the tobacco industries.  Unfortunately, the “cancer” associated with deferred action on climate change will attack our entire planet and will prove to be equally detrimental for all and not just the abusers of the substance in question.

Thus, our government has both the right and obligation to stop the growth of this cancer. That is clearly our only hope.  So please keep that point in mind, when you hear the Deceivers complain about “government interference” or “carbon taxes” in discussions of our future means of power production. Only after the playing field has been leveled by the inclusion of a stiff carbon tax can free markets be put to good use. We cannot continue to let our atmosphere be used as a garbage dump free of charge.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | March 11, 2015

GOP Traitors to Science and Country?

In several of my posts on this blog, I have been particularly critical of the GOP because of their Neanderthal take on the subject of climate change and science, in general. Their leadership in Washington DC seems to be proud of their denial of climate change (Senate Environmental Committee Chairman, James “it’s all a big hoax” Inhofe, for example) as well as their ignorance of the subject (Majority House Leader John “I am not a scientist” Boehner, for example).  Unfortunately, their party is now in control of both houses of congress and very well might be selling the future of mankind down the river. They appear to believe that the natural world will unfold in the manner they prefer rather than in the manner science predicts. Note, for example, that in the GOP-controlled state of Florida, it has been declared illegal to use the word, Climate Change, in any of that state’s literature – even though Florida is predicted by scientists to be the state most affected by future climate changes.

To hold such ideas, one must become essentially a “traitor” to the long-held and time-tested concept that science provides mankind with our best understanding of what Mother Nature is likely to do in response to the impacts of mankind. The notion that the GOP has become a traitor of this sort to the general welfare of mankind is additionally evidenced by their recent behavior with respect to other issues currently on the table in Washington DC.  That is, the GOP seems to be trying to set themselves up as a “separate state” with the USA.  This point was most cleverly related by Dana Milbank in his Washington Post column today.  It can be seen at http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/republicans-set-up-their-own-breakaway-nation/2015/03/10/1618f6d4-c749-11e4-b2a1-bed1aaea2816_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines&wpmm=1

The column referred to above is priceless – please have a look and return. While the GOP has not yet suggested abdication from the United States of America, their behavior does bring up memories of our pre Civil War era when the slave states used that threat in order to affect all US policies. After the slave states did abdicate in 1860, they then tried to set up their own independent relations with other countries of the world.  Unfortunately for those defectors, President Lincoln did not  even recognize the so called “Confederacy” to be more than a traitorous faction within the United States of America and dealt with them accordingly. Hopefully, president Obama will have the good sense to follow Lincoln’s example in dealing with this emerging “separate state” for whom Milbank has coined the term “Republicania”.

Hopefully, the GOP of today will also follow the advice of their founding father and will endeavor to solve our national problems and international relations via our existing institutions of government and the individuals who have been elected to serve within them.  Included in those institutions is the Executive Branch, of course, but also our National Academy of Science commissioned by President Lincoln in 1863 to provide advice on issues of national importance. The recommendations of the NAS have been clear on the subject of climate change – as our sitting President knows. The fact that our GOP of today ignores them is shameful and a disgrace to our nation’s reputation.

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