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Last Chance


"My immediate reaction when I first read about gobal warming was "we're screwed."
Unless we do World War II all over again,
without guns, and with everyone on our side.
And the "enemy" is carbon dioxide and its kin.

GLOBAL WARMING brings to mind only one other period of human history with such a combination of confusion, fear, weight, grim anticipation, and consequence and that is the days leading to World War II, and then the epic war itself.

I was born in September 1941, well after fighting had begun in Europe. I remember stories of my mother's terror that my father might be drafted, for it seemed a certainty. On "the day that will live in infamy," December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the die seemed cast, except that my father was chief engineer for a company being converted to making war matériel, and he was deferred.

THE WAR EVENTUALLY COVERED A LARGE PORTION OF ASIA AND ALL OF EUROPE, North Africa, the Battle of the Atlantic, many islands in the Pacific, Tarawa, the Phillipines, Okinowa, Kamakzi, the Yorktown, Midway, the carriers at sea on 12/7/1941 and so escaped destruction, the death march at Corregidor, the submarine war in the western Pacific, Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain that stopped Hitler from invading England, Spitfires and their pilots. Hitler's irrational invasion of Russia and holding back his troups at Dunkirk, the boot of Italy, Salerno, the beachhead at Anzio, the Battle of the Bulge (remember "nuts") and even the Bearing Straits connecting Alaska to Russia.

As I have started thinking about it, every moment brings back more memories. D-Day of course when the weather let up just enough and the troups at Omaha beech that scaled the cliffsides and destroyed the concrete pillboxes that were mowing down the invaders. This was not a war in some parts of the world, this was the world at war. This was everything all at one shot. Every bit of man and woman power. "Rosie the Riviter." Submarine action even reached the east coast of the United States. V1 and V2 rockets, except allied troups were closing in on Peenamunde and Verner Von Braun. And the insanely brave and ultimately successful destruction of the heavy water facility in Norway that kept Hitler from making atomic bombs.

"The War" was how I learned to read, from light fiction to Norman Mailer's The Naked and The Dead and Nicolas Monserrate's fabulous The Cruel Sea plus much television and movies and, of course, Victory at Sea. The town librarian even needed a bit of reassurance to loan me books not on the approved list for my age.

Then came Blenchley Park and Enigma and finally William Manchester's biography of Churchill, The Last Lion. "World War II was the deadliest military conflict in history in absolute terms of total casualties. Over 60 million people were killed, which was about 3% of the 1940 world population (est. 2.3 billion)." (Wikipedia)

And two most stunning strengths, both of which bear on climate change: the industrial might of America and FDR (rather than DJT, his anti-matter twin). George C. Marshall, Dwight David Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, George Patton and Field Marshall Montgomery and the multitudes of industrial titians that somehow built this country on the Q.T. almost as if preparing for this conflagration in two parts of the world. The point of this wandering is that it is the only way I can think of to give an idea of hard it will be to scrub the atmosphere. But it also brings to mind comments by scientists that we shouldn't propose negative emissions because they will be too expensive or impractical. Do they expect someone to turn off the stove? Where in bloody blazes do these PhDs get their Ds?

I HAVE FOUND THAT TIME IS THE LAST BUT BEST TEACHER for it can take a lifetime for even a tiny portion of such history to acquire more than an abstract reality. So it was somewhat of a shock the first time I read a story on the web about global warming. By that time (around 2006) I had done enough engineering (including power processing devices for NASA) to have a clue about what it might mean. My term for it was "thermal runaway." And it just melted or burned everything.

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