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


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 temperatures in May have increased over the time span shown?

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



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 400ppm 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


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 find work in those 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:

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   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:  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.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | June 8, 2015

An “American” view of the climate change issue

In my recent post entitled “The disconnect between modern climate science and St. Olaf College, for example”, as a spokesperson for that modern view, I used the British Scientist, Dr. Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research.  If there is another scientist in the world who is even more qualified for explaining that modern view, that person would certainly be our own Dr. James Hansen, the recently retired head of the NASA- Goddard Laboratory for Space Science Research in New York City.  Since I have previously described his background and accomplishments on this blog (see August 2013 post bearing his name), I will immediately move on here to report his latest views on this subject.  They can be seen at

You will note in this article that Dr. Hansen will be receiving one of Great Britain’s greatest honors for scientific accomplishment tomorrow – even though he is an American.  Therefore, also keep your eye out for his additional comments in that presentation.

The central point you will note in Dr. Hansen’s view, like that of Dr. Anderson, concerns the urgency of the AGW problem.  That is, because we have waited too long for action, we must now bring down CO2 emissions dramatically right now in the present decade and the only way we can do that is by vastly increasing the efficiency of energy use by the most wealthy among us.  That is the only means we have for making needed changes quickly.  While all of the others are important, they take too much time for the needed immediate effect.  Because it is the accumulation of CO2 over time that matters and because we are now in an era of exceptionally high CO2 emissions, it is what we do now that matters the most for the long term – more even than what we will be doing during the next decades.

Get it?  If not, please stop and reread the above paragraph more slowly and carefully.  Its point is what I mean when I refer to the “most modern view” of the climate change problem.  Those that think we are on an acceptable course now and that we can make most of the required adjustments later just don’t get it.  We are now well past the point in which that approach might have worked.

I will now raise another specific issue concerning the need for immediate changes and again will pick on my alma mater, St. Olaf College, as an example of apparently “not getting it” yet.  I suppose I could pick on Carleton College this time instead, but still feel so badly about beating up on them during my tenure as a St.O. basketball and baseball player back in the ’60s that I don’t want to cause any additional misery on that campus quite yet – maybe later!  (Seriously, however, I would be most interested to learn Carleton’s stance on the issues I am raising here).

So what is that second issue? Two posts ago, you might recall that I suggested that St. Olaf College could be more sensitive than it appears to be concerning the means and frequency of global travel by high-carbon-footprint methods.  In this post I will mention another way that environmentally conscientious organizations could do a lot to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels.  That method would be to divest themselves from the fossil fuel industries.  Therefore, I asked St. Olaf’s president if St. Olaf College had divested itself from those industries and, if not, whether it intended to do so any time soon.  His response to both of these questions was “no”.  Therefore, I will suggest that by this measure, also, St. Olaf College might not be sufficiently connected to the latest scientific views of climate change.

While I can imagine why St. Olaf College has taken its stance on the two issues of institution-related travel and the investments of its endowment,  I will not speculate here as to what those reasons are and will wait instead to be informed of them by President Anderson of St. Olaf during a meeting he has graciously agreed to have with me later this summer. During that visit I also look forward to learning about all the great things I am sure St.Olaf College is doing for the education of what will become our next generation of leaders in an increasingly complex world. The main point of my message here is to show that the leaders of our present generation are not doing enough to ensure that those future leaders will have even a fighting chance.

If you don’t already know how to follow the “score” in this “game” against global warming, just keep an eye on what’s known as the “Keeling Curve”. Its the only score that matters.  The rest is just PR.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | June 5, 2015

Oh Jeb, there you go as well!

I had hoped that the Republicans might be able to come up with a 21st Century candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America in 2016 and harbored the notion that you,  Jeb Bush,  might be one.  And then you recently made the following statement:

Look, first of all, the climate is changing. I don’t think the science is clear what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural. It’s convoluted. And for the people to say the science is decided on, this is just really arrogant, to be honest with you. It’s this intellectual arrogance that now you can’t even have a conversation about it.

Now really, Jeb, what do you mean by “you can’t even have a conversation about climate science”?  Did you not watch the video I showed in my recent post entitled “A peek at nitwits in positions of power” ?  It showed members of your party having such conversations in the halls of congress .  Better still, if you really do need to have an honest conversation about climate change, why not just call me or thousands of others who know a lot about that subject?  Your comments make me think that you really don’t want to have an honest conversation with anyone about climate change and that by avoiding one, you are simply pandering to the “nitwits” of your party.

And Jeb, when you say you “don’t think the science is clear”, what you are really saying is that you think  the science of climate change is not yet sufficiently clear as to do something about it.  And then you go on to essentially say that it is “arrogant” to think that we do know enough to do something about it – as our own National Academy of Sciences and your own Pope suggests. That one really leaves me speechless.  What do you think the leaders and citizens of other countries would think of a USA that has such a scientifically retarded Commander in Chief?

Tell you what, Bubba #2,  you just lost the votes of intelligent and responsible Americans who believe that a basic understanding of and respect for science is an essential and minimum requirement for a US President today.  Most of the Republican offerings for 2016 are such “frozen in time” sorts, like Senator Joseph McCarthy of the ’50s reincarnated.  And now you are also doing your best to cast doubt on the credible scientific institutions of our country that are doing their best to combat what really is a “clear and present danger” to all of us. They sure don’t make Bushes like they used to and that fact disappoints me because the other current offerings of the Republican Party appear to be living in the 20th Century, at best. Many appear to be reincarnates from the “Gilded Age” of the 19th when the only function of the little bit of government we had was to grease the skids for America’s booming industries centered on coal, oil, rail, steel and lumber. It took a Republican named Teddy Roosevelt to introduce a more “Progressive Era” at the turn of that century in which other aspects of American life were given overdue attention.. .

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

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 diminishes 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 short 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 powered by bio-diesel fuel which is carbon neutral, but somewhat 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 or, even better, have a look at the formal lecture by Dr. Anderson that I highlighted on this web site over two years ago (see it at . Then ask yourself whether you are going to put your trust in the likes of Kevin Anderson or in the likes of Rush Limbaugh or, more likely, in the moderate and numerous “greenwashers” among us who “talk the talk” but skip the tough parts about individual participation.  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 responsibility and 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 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 global environmental change. .

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

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 scientific 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  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 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

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).

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