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The ‘Forever Legacy’

What is happening now? Where is it going? What can we do about it?

Taking the Long View: The ‘Forever Legacy’ of Climate Change

"Climate change projections often focus on 2100. But the geological record shows that unless we rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we will be locking in drastic increases in temperatures and sea levels that will alter the earth not just for centuries, but for millennia.

"A century or two from now, people may look back at our current era — with its record-breaking high temperatures year after year, rapid disappearance of Arctic sea ice, and gradually rising sea levels — as part of a much cooler and far more desirable past. The spate of extreme weather events in the past month — which have devastated America’s fourth-largest city, Houston; spawned a massive hurricane that tore through the Caribbean and Florida; and swamped large swaths of India and Bangladesh — may well be a prelude to more monster hurricanes, Biblical rain events, and coastal inundations brought about by extreme weather and vastly higher sea levels." (emphasis supplied)


OPINION via Facebook Twitter Email

There are really just two choices, and each reflects many characteristics of humanity, some in ways we would expect and others that are surprises. The primary issue is to choose a time, perhaps a century into the future, and decide what kind of life we wish our descendents to have at that time and along the way. We can optimize for the short term or the long term. Short term is see what you can get away with and hope for the best. Long term is something like the mobilization on the home front after Pearl Harbor and dedicated programs like the Manhatten Project.

It is tempting to say that the first would be the easy way for the next two or three generations while the WWII way would be hard for the next century. (I personally believe it would be the other way around, but that is unforseeable. Courage usually results in a better frame of mind.)

Another way of putting it: miniminize climate change or minimize the effects of climate change.

Obviously you have to do some of each and this shows how difficult a position we have put ourselves in.

In 1959 Edward Teller spoke to the 100th anniververary celebration of the oil and gas institute. Following is an except from his text. From that speech and from their own research the fossel fuel industry knew they were destroying the earth. They supressed information and marketed as hard as they could.

The ease with which money trumps everything including the very planet itself is one of the fundamental puzzles of humanity. I will return to this later. Following the Teller quote is a report from the New York Times about Dr. James Hansen's testimony to congress in 1988. Hansen at the time was NASA's man in charge of climate issues. The testimonies are remarkably similar.

Another fundamental human problem is the ease with which "expert" testimony is shrugged off no matter how dire the predictions as long as they are some distance in the future. This seems characteristic of humanity.

"Whenever you burn conventional fuel, you create carbon dioxide. [....] The carbon dioxide is invisible, it is transparent, you can’t smell it, it is not dangerous to health, so why should one worry about it? Carbon dioxide has a strange property. It transmits visible light but it absorbs the infrared radiation which is emitted from the earth. Its presence in the atmosphere causes a greenhouse effect [....] It has been calculated that a temperature rise corresponding to a 10 per cent increase in carbon dioxide will be sufficient to melt the icecap and submerge New York. All the coastal cities would be covered, and since a considerable percentage of the human race lives in coastal regions, I think that this chemical contamination is more serious than most people tend to believe."

—Edward Teller 1959

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"Dr. Hansen, who records temperatures from readings at monitoring stations around the world, had previously reported that four of the hottest years on record occurred in the 1980's. Compared with a 30-year base period from 1950 to 1980, when the global temperature averaged 59 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature was one-third of a degree higher last year. In the entire century before 1880, global temperature had risen by half a degree, rising in the late 1800's and early 20th century, then roughly stabilizing for unknown reasons for several decades in the middle of the century. Warmest Year Expected– In the first five months of this year, the temperature averaged about four-tenths of a degree above the base period, Dr. Hansen reported today. ''The first five months of 1988 are so warm globally that we conclude that 1988 will be the warmest year on record unless there is a remarkable, improbable cooling in the remainder of the year,'' he told the Senate committee." New York Times, June 24, 1988 re James Hansen addressing congress

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Oil baron Rex Tillerson showing his determination to keep the home fires burning.

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