by Ron Spriestersbach
This is a free association stream of consciousness related to global warning. The hero of the story is Dr. James E. Hansen, generally accepted as the scientist-leader in the US in the field of climate change. Itís like the frog and the water. Throw it into boiling water, and it will jump out. Put it into a glass of cold water and gradually raise the temperature and it will boil to death. When the Iraq war started early this century, millions of people demonstrated throughout the world. But now that we know that we are headed for extinction in a couple of centuries, we adapt, basically believe it wonít happen to us, and we do very little.
One day, ten years ago or so, I read something about global warming caused by human activities, and I became alarmed. I went to the Borders Bookstore nearby and bought about eight books, six arguing its existence, and two, denying it. I took them home and put them on the shelf, and didnít have time to read them. I donít remember when I first heard of James Hansen. But, one day I was checking on the books available at Skylight Bookstore and came across a book entitled Censoring Science by Mark Bowen, a physicist friend of James Hansen. It was about how the Bush administration had censored the science of James Hansen on global warming. At the time, he was the Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a Professor at Columbia University in New York. Bowenís book was a detective story about how Hansenís global warming papers were being censored. A young man who had just graduated from a university in Texas was reviewing and “correcting” his papers. It turned out that he had not graduated from college.
I read the book on censoring and then the only book written for the public by Hansen, Storms of my Grandchildren. I, myself, had received Bachelorís and Masterís degrees in Physics at UCLA, and immediately adopted him as my idol. When he was working for his doctorate at the University of Iowa, under Van Allen (famed for identifying Earth’s magnetic radiation belts), he was studying the atmosphere of Venus, which when formed had such a dense greenhouse gas atmosphere that it would melt lead. At that time, he read a paper on global warming, and it hit him that we were gradually generating a thicker greenhouse gas atmosphere around the Earth, mainly because of our burning of fossil fuels. This also endeared him to me, because, as an engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, I had been on the flight team when the Mariner Venus Mercury spacecraft passed Mercury, so I was very into all of that.
I went back and read all of those books I had bought at Borders, and when I was finished with my language studies at Cal State LA, I became a Senior Scholar at UCLA, studying global warming. I did that for two years, and I attended lower division classes with the regular students. Most of the classes I attended included studies of global warming. I was amazed at the lack of emotion by the students when they saw the predictions. In one class, where we studied the oceans, the professor announced that by 2015, half of the coral reefs would be gone. The next class I raised my hand and asked him what would happen by 2025, and he said that I wouldnít want to know. In another class, I learned that the proposed geo-engineering solutions would not work. I would sometimes go from one office to another as I crossed the campus, asking the professors why the students were so calm about the predictions and some told me that many students had their educations paid for by the oil companies. It seemed to me that while I was myself screaming inside, the other students seemed to be happy frogs.
We just experienced COP21 in Paris where the world leaders claimed to decide to cut the emissions, and limit the temperature increases to a point where humans would survive. The comment of James Hansen after COP21 was over was: ìThe Paris agreement is a fraud really, a fake. Itís just bullshit for them to say: ëWeíll have a 2 degree centigrade warming target and then do a little better after five years.`î You may say: ëBut Obama directed the EPA to close down all of the coal burning plants that add such high quantities of CO2.í But then the Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that the president cannot do that. On page A18 of the February 11, 2016 edition of the New York Times announces: Decision on Climate Rule May Imperil Paris Accord.
The Republicans, on the whole, donít believe in global warming. The chairman of the Congressional Science Committee doesnít believe in science. I wonder whether Hansen and I, or you reading this, can spur enough people to action in time to make a difference.
James E. Hansen and Me
by Ron Spriestersbach