~ PROLOGUE ~ HOW I MET THE CLIMATE ~ THE MEANING OF SCIENCE ~ THE STATE OF THE CLIMATE ~ BEGINNING
ONE CHANCE ~ TRIBES ~ SENTIENCE ~
~ AGONY ~ LETTER TO PRESIDENT REIF OF MIT
WHO IS AT FAULT ~ CRITIQUE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES ~
WORLD CLIMATE AUTHORITY ~ A BIT OF BIO ~ APOLLO 8 ~ EPILOGUE
THE NEW YORK TIMES blames you and me for not stopping climate change.
Above is a screen shot from a New York Times promotion for a magazine issue on climate change. Below is a quote from Jacobin Magazine about the New York Times magazine story.
"Once upon a time, we almost solved climate change, but then human nature got in the way. This is the thesis of novelist Nathaniel Rich’s new article on climate change, comprising an entire issue of the New York Times Magazine, entitled “Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change.” The decade in question is the 1980s, when, in Rich’s telling, a “handful of people” — a small group of scientists and policymakers, based entirely in the United States — nobly tried to save the rest of us from the doom now approaching. The story follows the environmental lobbyist Rafe Pomerance and the climate scientist James Hansen as they try to raise the alarm about the greenhouse effect, with help from some surprising allies — the occasional Republican senator and concerned representatives of oil companies. The climax comes in 1989 when the United States, under the “environmental president” George H. W. Bush, torpedoes a promising effort to reach an international agreement to reduce carbon emissions. From this narrow look at a brief period of American history, Rich draws the conclusion that we are all — “we” as in humanity, “we” as in the human species — to blame for the catastrophe that we failed to prevent. Interspersed with pictures of our beautiful, wounded planet, the thesis is laid out in stark pull quotes — “All the facts were known, and nothing stood in our way. Nothing, that is, except ourselves.” It is not the right conclusion. The 1980s were an important decade, but not for the reasons Rich thinks. He’s rightly gotten flak for letting the fossil-fuel industry and Republicans off the hook. But even beyond that, his narrative misses what actually happened in the decade in question: the eighties were when the new right consolidated power and limited democratic control over economic processes in order to reorganize capitalism in service of renewed growth. They are a combination of dozens of natural systems that we loosely divide into long term and short term and call them climate and weather. However, we have now taken a climate that took thousands of years to reach equalibrium, to establish itself into a relativly steady state interrupted only by ice ages. Then we introduce what is effectivly a time bomb of carbon dioxide.
In just a few decades we move carbon from 270ppm to 412ppm and continue to add more and more, while also releasing more and more methane. There is no longer enough time to make predictions with an exponential rise hanging over our heads and wondering what we have overlooked.
Now we also have humanity not prepared for comprehending such problems, a newspaper, The New York Times, that does a extremely poor job of covering the topic (it does not have a science editor) and then blames the public for not stopping climate change.
This is one of the most heinous derelections of duty in the history of mankind. I followed the Times for 15 years and can confirm that this is an understatement. But to try to cover up its neglect with a Sunday Magazine devoted to the topic that claims that "we," meaning you and I, could have stopped it decades ago is is brazen and pitiful. It is, of course, one of those situations where there is no backing up, no making good, no fine that will cover the damage, nothing expect a reading public (me) trying to find words adequate to the task, and there are none. And now feeling guilty for not writing something to someone, sometime before now.
The Times has one science journalist on its staff who does not have a science degree. (This information is from Wikipedia as of September 7, 2019.)
I have wondered about this for about 15 years, but did not research the topic until now, and I am flabergasted. What many would regard as the most prestegious newpaper in the United States I would expect to have one or more PhD scientsts on its full-time staff, a PhD science editor, and given what has been happening to the climate a team devoted to the topic.
Years ago I told my wife there should be a sizeable box on the front page with a black band around it and a weekly full page devoted to climate change.
After years of neglect it published in 2017 two magazines on climate change. The points they attempted to make was that it could have been stopped years ago. Following is a link to a video about one of the magazines: Magazine on Climate Change
"How Not to Talk About Climate Change BYALYSSA BATTISTONI, Jacobin."
It is infinitely complicated by assumptions about what education means. I heard a PhD professor in a light snow say ”See its snowing. What‘s this about climate change?” And perhaps that PhD history major/editor at the New Yorker considers himself well-educated without ever having taken one rigorous science course. Or scientists whose idea of panic is "it is highly likely...."
Even science or engineering majors at MIT may not learn what an open mind is.
As an engineer who has worked with high energy equipment, there is nothing quite like smoking, melting, components with a familiar smell of electronic disaster to create an appropriate paranoira when working with unknowns. And that includes the climate, for its energy is nearly infinte, and it combines opposites: fire and water, heat and cold, wind beyond imagination and the unexpected in unexpected quantity.
My mentor, Amar Bose, had nearly a fetish for not accepting conventional wisdom. He could be difficult to deal with, yet you learned there was no other way. And still somehow unbelievable destruction like hurricane Dorian, killing heat waves, unspeakable drought is not enough to put us on a war footing. Instead we have an unspeakablely dumb president and a congress for whom science is some kind of oddity rather than a way of verifying knowledge. We have 50,000 gun deaths compared to 12 in Japan, and view a barrier of smoke as if it were concrete.
There is a remote chance of pulling this out of the fire, but if Trump is reelected it will require an armed rebellion.