Month 6, Day 19: Saturday POTUS

I had finished writing this last night, but hadn’t had time to tag it. Then my wife and daughter called from India and I put it away for the morrow. In this letter I’m combining current events with some old exhortations. How I wish James Hansen was wrong. How I fear that he’s right.

Dear President Obama,

Congratulations on securing British Petroleum’s commitment to set aside twenty billion dollars in escrow. Given how long it usually takes the victims of corporate negligence to have their day in court, this is a tremendous accomplishment.

The behavior of BP and its contract partners has been appallingly irresponsible. But while it’s easy to blame the oil companies, we need to do more. As you correctly pointed out in your oval office address, our nation (and, indeed, the world) needs to end our addiction to fossil fuels.

We’re going to run out of them, sooner rather than later. Often the money we spend on them goes to countries that regard us as enemies. These are good enough reasons. But the real reason for us to stop burning oil and coal is the enormous damage inflicted on the planetary biosphere by increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It is crucial for humanity’s survival and well-being in the centuries to come that our levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide be brought below 350 parts per million, as noted by Dr. James Hansen, the climatologist whose work was silenced by the Bush administration (surely a piece of irresponsibility that can rank with British Petroleum).

Your administration will be remembered with gratitude by generations yet unborn if you can start this process. The window of opportunity is rapidly closing; the environment is going through an increasing cascade of “tipping points,” each one of which makes recovery to a hospitable climate more difficult.

Right now Dr. Hansen is on record as saying “Obama doesn’t get it.” He thinks you don’t take the likelihood of a climate catastrophe seriously.

I think it’s time for you to prove him wrong.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders

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