Year 4, Month 4, Day 15: Hardly A Man Is Now Alive

Mind you, this is the same paper that recently shut down its Environment reporting entirely:

James E. Hansen, the climate scientist who issued the clearest warning of the 20th century about the dangers of global warming, will retire from NASA this week, giving himself more freedom to pursue political and legal efforts to limit greenhouse gases.

His departure, after a 46-year career at the space agency’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, will deprive federally sponsored climate research of its best-known public figure.

At the same time, retirement will allow Dr. Hansen to press his cause in court. He plans to take a more active role in lawsuits challenging the federal and state governments over their failure to limit emissions, for instance, as well as in fighting the development in Canada of a particularly dirty form of oil extracted from tar sands.

“As a government employee, you can’t testify against the government,” he said in an interview.

A hero. Resurrecting the Paul Revere meme for James Hansen. April 2:

Two hundred and thirty eight years ago, courageous patriots sounded a call; a midnight ride alerted the Minutemen to the arrival of the Redcoats — and the consequences are both an indelible part of our nation’s history and an irrefutable testament to the value of an early-warning system.

The modern equivalents are the world’s climate scientists, who have been trying to wake up a complacent citizenry for decades.

Dr. James Hansen’s resignation from NASA in order to devote himself to alerting America and the world to the climate crisis is a measure of the trouble we’re in. Dr. Hansen and his colleagues have received opprobrium and insult simply for doing their jobs responsibly. If Paul Revere had faced an analogous situation in April 1775, he’d have to persuade “every Middlesex village and farm” not only that the British existed, but that King George’s army posed a danger to their lives and liberty.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 12, Day 23: The Menace From Earth

The Miami Herald notes a new report from NASA detailing ecosystem transformation in the wake of climate change:

Global warming could bring a major transformation for Earth’s plants and animals over the next century, a NASA study says, driving nearly half the planet’s forests, grasslands and other vegetation toward conversion into radically different ecosystems.

The ecological stress could give a boost to invasive species, but at the expense of natives, reducing the diversity of plants and animals overall.

And humans are likely, almost literally, to cut them off at the pass: When plants and animals attempt to survive by shifting their geographical ranges, as they have in past episodes of climate change, they’ll be blocked by farms and cities.

“If half the world is driven to change its vegetation cover, and meanwhile, we’ve fragmented the surface of the Earth by putting in parking lots and monoculture agricultural zones and all these other impediments to natural migration, then there could be problems,” said lead author Jon Bergengren, a global ecologist who was a postdoctoral researcher at Caltech when he did the study.

“When, suddenly, plants and animals aren’t living in habitats to which they’re adapted, then you start to get an unhealthy planet,” he said.

The comments on the article are a mass of stupid. Plus ca change…

Sent December 19:

Conservative politicians routinely ramp up their anti-immigrant rhetoric for the benefit of their xenophobic constituents. Curiously, however, they dismiss the extralegals most likely to cross America’s borders in a post-climate-change future.

Let’s leave aside the obvious fact that climate-driven resource wars and geopolitical instability are likely to lead to vastly increased numbers of refugees in the coming decades. Rather, let’s focus on the immigrant populations which will do the most damage to America: invasive species. Migrating from their customary ecological niches in response to rapid climatic shifts, these visitors will be part of a traumatic environmental transformation over the next century, rendering vast parts of the United States unrecognizable.

While disease-bearing insects, non-native plants and other such unwelcome visitors will have far greater economic impact on our nation than any undocumented human immigrants, you won’t hear any candidates for election mention them at all. I wonder why?

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 11, Day 25: It Looks Like It’s Climbing Clear Up To The Sky

The Gannett News Service for New York’s Lower Hudson Valley is called; they run an article about the study of climate change’s impact on New York state:

If you lost power after the recent nor’easter or struggled with flooding from Tropical Storm Irene, gear up. There’s more to come.

Scientists at some prestigious New York universities say the recent bizarre weather may be a part of a trend in the coming decades as the state faces an outsize effect of climate change because of its northern latitude and geology.

“It’s certainly an excellent example of what is to come,” said Klaus Jacob, a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Palisades-based Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, one of several scientists who authored a study on the impact of climate change on New York state.

“It has been relatively rare till now. What will be different is that it will be more frequent. Therefore the impact will be more severe,” Jacob said.

This letter was a little longer than 150 words; I didn’t have time to pare it down due to various domestic exigencies. Sent Nov. 21:

The Energy Research and Development Authority study on climate change’s likely impact on New York State is just one of several recently released documents to discuss the shape of our future in a post-greenhouse-effect world. Along with the globally relevant work of NASA, the International Energy Agency, and the IPCC, regionally-focused climatologists have helped build a pile of scientific evidence far higher than your average denialist’s head. The picture they paint of the coming century is not a pretty one.

Those “once-in-a-lifetime” storms are going to be coming once or twice a decade; maybe even more often. More droughts, heat waves, shattered infrastructure, disrupted agriculture — our children and grandchildren may not be able to forgive us our decades of apathy.

While it will take many centuries for excess atmospheric CO2 to dissipate even if we stopped burning fossil fuel tomorrow, there is no longer any time for temporizing if we are to avoid catastrophic outcomes. Our politicians must stop protecting the oil industry’s profits, and bend their efforts towards protecting all of us from the consequences of climaticide.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 3, Day 23: Ignorance Vs. Attendance

The Pasadena Star-News has a pretty good article on the recent study from NASA that subtracts most of the non-human drivers of climate change from the equation and finds (surprise!) that we clever apes are in fact responsible.

The crucial paragraphs are buried, of course:

Michael Ghil, a distinguished professor of climate dynamics at UCLA familiar with the research calls the graph “pretty striking.”

But while he says the study “adds another brick in the edifice of the scientific evidence,” he warns, “it’s not going to convince people who don’t want to be convinced.”

“The political controversy about action to be taken is fairly independent of accumulated scientific evidence. The evidence for anthropogenic effects is there,” he said.

Sent March 14, in between watching the disaster in Japan and feeding my daughter and her friend some snacks.

The findings of the JPL study make it clearer that human activity, in particular our relentless transferal of carbon into the atmosphere, is the prime driver of global warming. To anyone who’s followed climate science over the past several decades, this conclusion is hardly surprising — but a disturbing proportion of Americans no longer trust or understand science and scientific method. Even if we ignore the climate crisis, a national loss of scientific literacy is a tragic choking of our hopes for a prosperous future. But when the consequences of runaway climate change are factored into the picture, it’s an intellectual as well as an environmental catastrophe. When ideology supersedes fact, it’s a recipe for disaster. Our nation’s citizens and policymakers cannot afford ignorance’s long-term consequences. Those who derive financial reward or political capital from distorting scientific facts act against the best interests of our nation and our species.

Warren Senders