Posted by: ericgrimsrud | September 24, 2018

Jesus of Nazareth on climate change

I recently received a letter from an acquaintance named Roland James of Morehead, Minnesota.  He is a 1969 graduate of Concordia College (Morehead) and, therefore, undoubtedly shares a Norwegian Lutheran educational background such as my own.  He subsequently spent many years working within the public energy utilities of Arizona and became a strong advocate for the discontinued use of fossil fuels.  The concise letter he sent me is provided below.  After reading it, Mr. James and I strongly recommend that you also read the sermon by Rev. Peter Sawtell referred to below.

Mr. James’ Letter:

The paradox:  If we save the conventional Big American Way of Life based on fossil fuels, we will lose life itself.’  
Mark 8:27-38:  Jesus tells his followers to “deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”  It is clear that truly following Jesus is not safe or easy. He explains further: “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” — the paradox of both saving and losing one’s life.

“Those who want to save their life will lose it” undermines much of superficial and egocentric “am I saved” Christianity.   And Jesus continues, “those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” If you put your own individual salvation and welfare on the back burner and live in love and compassion, seeking justice and focusing on God’s intention for the well-being of all creation — then you will find a life of abundance in community, service and faith. Only by letting go of what we think of as normal is there a path to the abundant life.  But this isn’t only about our internal life. It is also a sacrificial, risk-taking way of living that Jesus called “taking up your cross” out in the world. 

 What is called “business as usual” is now a suicidal way of life.  All we have to do to destroy the planet’s climate and biosphere and leave a ruined Earth to marginalized people around the world, to our children and grandchildren, and to other species is to keep doing what we are doing today.   Just continue with the 10% richest on Earth releasing carbon dioxide and methane at current rates–and the world in the latter part of this century will be climate hell, not fit for life.    

.If we “first worlders” cling to comfortable affluence and consumerism and our addiction to fossil fuels — if we try to save that way of life — we will lose it. But if we give up that exceptional privilege, we will have made a turn toward the sustainability that will bring life to the whole Earth community. That is a modern and social application of the message of Jesus.  Excessive concern about one’s self-interest is not life-giving, whereas commitment to justice and the health of the community brings life.

For first-world Christians, losing our excessive self-absorbed life is essential. There’s a parallel practical truth for our entire society. We need transformation to conservation and efficiency and in energy sources and cultural values. We need to lose our attachment to business as usual if we are to survive as a human species. May we have the courage to do that.

 The related and more detailed sermon on this topic by Rev. Peter Sawtell can be found at

In summary, it is evident in many quarters that the fundamental messages of Jesus of Nazareth have been effectively muted by our business-as-usual leaders and that we Christians no longer recognize the paradox and dilemma we are presently in.  Thus, many self-proclaimed Christians seem to think that they can have it both ways. For example, the President of my own alma mater, St. Olaf College, when recently asked why some of his college’s endowment funds remain invested in the fossil fuel industries, he is reported to have responded “because that gives St. Olaf College a ‘seat at the table’”.  That response is laughable on its face and differs entirely from that reported of Jesus when he came upon members of his faith using their temple for distinctly questionable business-as-usual purposes.  According to Mother Nature, as well as to Jesus of Nazareth, any organization or species that does not use its God-given gifts and intelligence for the preservation and betterment of its members is not fit for life and will surely loose it.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | September 3, 2018

A scientifically credible reason for the actions of St. Olaf College

Warning!  This post is intended for adults only.

While criticizing American institutions of higher educations (as represented several times on this website by St. Olaf College and Harvard University) for their inadequate leadership in our fight against global warming, I have wondered what their real reasons for their inactions are.  If the leadership of those institutions know that our continued use of fossil fuels will eventually lead to the demise of the human civilizations on this planet, that might suggest that these academic leaders are sociopaths who do not really care about the future of human beings.  Since I personally know faculty and administrators at St. Olaf College, however,  I am absolutely certain that they are not sociopaths – they care very much about all citizens of the world.  So that then leaves me with a dilemma – why do the actions of St. Olaf College and so many other colleges and universities on this issue – such as their continued financial support of fossil fuel industries – resemble those expected of sociopaths?

This leads me to next suggest that these institutions do not accept the science behind global warming.  However, I do not believe in that possibility either. Certainly, the highly respected scientific research power house that is Harvard University would not go against the clear scientific consensus of thought on this most important of environmental issues and, I am sure, neither would the science departments of St. Olaf College. 

So, let’s try again: why would these institutions of higher education be behaving like sociopaths?  There is at least one other explanation that might be both believable and credible – even though, if true, neither St. Olaf College or Harvard University would be inclined to admit it at the present time. This reason is best described by the leading proponent of it, a retired professor of climate science at Arizona University name Guy McPherson.  The essence of his view is that it is presently much too late to arrest our drift towards the onset of catastrophic positive feedback effects which will quickly lead to the near extinction of the human species.  And, he forcefully predicts that this will occur very soon –  within the present decade.  While McPherson’s projections might sound like science fiction to most, they are not.  They are based on readily available science along with the application of the uncertainties typically assigned to scientific assessments of the future.  In my view, the most important of these uncertainties concerns the rates at which the positive feedbacks McPherson refers to kick in.  They might or might not be much slower than he envisions.   

You can make your own assessment of Dr. McPherson’s credibility and thoughts by observing an interview of him at

Be sure to listen to both part i and part ii of this video.  If you have difficulty in finding part ii you can find it at:

Now, if you did, indeed, do as I requested above, your view of the climate change problem might be somewhat different from what it had been prior to listening to Guy McPherson’s explanation of it.  You might, for example, now be more seriously considering the possibility that it is indeed much too late to do much about the relentless advance of global warming.  And, If the folks at St. Olaf College and Harvard University tend to share the view of Dr. McPherson, that might at least partially explain their behavior. This would then make them not sociopaths, but prudent administrators of their institutions financial resources – which they might need in the all-too-soon coming decades – during which “enjoying the party while it lasts”, McPherson tells us, will be the only game left for human to play out during the remainder of this geological epoch.

So, to St. Olaf College (my alma mater) and Harvard University:  my apologies to both of you for my previous criticisms of what seemed to me to be sociopathic behavior if, in fact, your behavior was based on the scientific views of Guy McPherson. If your actions are thereby explained, please do continue to invest your financial resources in fossil fuels industries, if your wish, and please do continue and even expand your high-carbon footprint activities, such as your studies abroad programs.  And, I will now admit that is might turn out to be a good thing for St. Olaf students to witness first-hand the degradation of all parts of our planet along with other citizens of the world and especially those whose portions of our planet will be affected before ours.

In closing, I will add:  if I have identified here the reason behind the inactions of St. Olaf College and Harvard University concerning the fight against climate change, it also explains why neither of those institutions of higher learning would care to admit to their motivations.  Both of those institutions prefer to boast about how they are preparing their students for the future and they prefer to suggest that that future includes the long as well as short terms.  By an admission of belief in McPherson’s view, any claims they retained to for the long-term welfare of human beings would merely constitute deceptive pandering. Thus, we have not heard from either of these institutions of higher learning any credible/logical explanations for their behaviors, so far.  If a scientifically credible one still exists, other than that suggested here, perhaps the folks at my alma mater, St. Olaf College, could share it with us. I would be please to provide exposure to it on this web site.  Unless things have change recently in our democratic republic, the truth, even if unpleasant, is to be preferred over fantasy. 

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | August 25, 2018

Folks at St. Olaf College need to read this

I have often wondered what it might take for the President and Regents of St. Olaf College to envision the absolutely disastrous path the world continues to follow by its “business as usual” attitudes concerning our use of fossil fuels.  In view of the continued financial investments of St. Olaf College in fossil fuel industries and the exceedingly high carbon foot-prints of many of their most highly touted international travel programs, one is forced to conclude that St. Olaf College just “doesn’t get it” – that is, the latest scientific implications of climate change. Given that St. Olaf College claims to be a leader in the field of undergraduate education, its selective ignorance on this most important of all scientific issues is most unfortunate as it is also downright anti-intellectual and cowardly. Yes, it does take some courage to go against the grain of the B as U forces, many of whom I suspect are generous donors to St. Olaf College.

So, when I came upon the attached article at

I thought it might get through to the folks at St. Olaf who claim to be directing an up-to-date institution of higher education and, in addition, one that claims to have a high regard for the moral aspects of mankind’s presence on this planet.  Enough said.  If this article does not awaken the President and Regents of St. Olaf College to the need for real and forceful action in this area, perhaps nothing I can say will.  As the article makes clear, mere lip service, a windmill, and a bunch of solar panels will no longer cut it.  Changes in basic life styles are required now so that our grandchildren will have a chance of mere sustenance later.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | July 21, 2018

Arresting our skid towards political and planetary degradation

On our first 4th of July, Benjamin Franklin is said to have been asked by a citizen of Philadelphia, “Mr. Franklin, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy? – to which he responded “it will be a republic, if you can keep it”.

First, we should remind ourselves that the definition of a republic is “a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives”.  And if the Americans of that era did not understand what Franklin meant by his “if you can keep it” remark, anyone who has lived during the last century should.  By not sufficiently heeding Franklin’s warning, it is now clear that we have lost a lot of our respect for and confidence in our republic and, indeed, are in danger of not “keeping it”.

This lack of confidence in our republic today is regularly displayed by the frequent observation that our political system is not doing a good job of managing our country – followed by a litany of reasons for this. Most prominent among those reasons is the extreme level of polarization within our two-party system and the gridlock that has resulted.  If our differences are not sufficiently plentiful for some, they make up new ones.  An example of this is now being displayed on our football fields where one of America’s most revered pastimes used to be played out in relative harmony, void of political influences.  As our imagined as well as real problems grow, our democratic system becomes easier to undermine by those who prefer to change it to some sort of autocracy in which a powerful subset of citizens call the shots. In this way the democratic Weimar Republic of Germany was brought down in 1933 by that era’s greatest autocrat. If we lose confidence in our democratic system, our American republic could also be replaced by some version of Nazism. Therefore, we should all know by now what Franklin meant by his admonition, “if we can keep it”. 

To understand our present government, it is essential to note how and why it changed in recent decades. Contrary to the suggestions of some, major changes did not just instantly occur with the election of Donald Trump – whose lack of respect for and knowledge of our country’s history is, indeed, unique among previous American presidents. Trump had a great deal of help from at least two other recent Republican Presidents, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Each of these men did much to undermine time-honored American principles of representative democracy and thereby paved the way for presidential candidate Trump.

Richard Nixon began his trip to infamy in 1968 by undermining the efforts of our sitting president, Lyndon Johnson, to end the war in Vietnam. Nixon’s success in this treasonous act, contributed to his victory in the presidential election later that year and also led to the deaths of some 20,000 American soldiers with 100,000 wounded and about one million additional Indochinese casualties in the four years of warfare that followed.  By this and other actions, Nixon taught his party that winning at all costs, even if resorting to treason, was acceptable.  Fortunately, he was eventually brought down by some of his other illegal activities in what became known as the Watergate Affair. Assuming the “Nixon era” is ever accurately portrayed in the history textbooks of our public schools, the confidence of future US citizens in our government will be appropriately diminished.

Just a few years later, Ronald Reagan also stooped to that low level of foreign affairs interference in order to get to the White House. While the then sitting President, Jimmy Carter, was doing his best to get 50 American hostages released from Iran, Reagan’s election team (which included the future president, George H. W. Bush) secretly urged the Iranians to hold onto those hostages until Reagan was in the White House. Then, Reagan did, indeed, win that election thereby reaffirming Nixon’s lesson of winning by any means, including treason.

As president, Ronald Reagan then continued to interact with foreign governments in ways that were distinctly illegal.  In what became known as the Iran-Contra Affair, he orchestrated a complex agreement in which arms were illegally sold to Iran with the proceeds going to the right-wing dictatorship of Nicaragua. When exposed, Reagan admitted his role in this affair. Thus, his treasonous acts have now also been added to the public record and should appear soon in the history texts of our public schools. All of this, of course, has done great damage to the credibility of our American democracy.     

Another lesson Reagan imparted to his party was the suggestion that “government does not solve problems – it is the problem!” (this, while he was simultaneously increasing the size of government during his own eight years in office!).  This cynical and hypocritical view of government has also done great deal of damage to our representative democracy. By declaring that our government does not solve problems, what system was Reagan suggesting we replace it with? – perhaps some sort of autocracy led by himself and a group of business leaders? Have we forgotten what happened to Italy, also, when such system was adopted by Benito Mussolini in the 1920s?  We don’t know exactly what Reagan had in mind. We only know for sure that he significantly reduced our confidence in our representative republic thereby opening the door to other less democratic options.   

And so now we presently have another President, Donald Trump, who seems to have also gotten to the White House via the direct assistance provided by another autocratic foreign power (the details of this are presently emerging).  Both Nixon and Reagan might have been proud of Donald – whose motto is also winning at all costs and whose method is also to show no respect for public sector government (most of the officials Trump has selected during his presidency have been ill-suited to their tasks and have quickly been thrown under the bus by their boss, thereby leaving the boss as the only man left standing).  As the antidemocratic deeds of this American anomaly continue to play out, we should not be taken in by the “Great America” he promises. The autocrats of history have a well-documented tendency of taking their devotees down with them when their phony dreams begin to unravel.

Having lived his life at the very centers of English, French and American power, Benjamin Franklin became both a wise and worldly man. It is telling, therefore, that he knew not only what the best form of government was for the USA but also emphasized the type of vigilance that would be required to keep it. In the past, the greatest threats to our representative republic have come from within our political system.  While our founding fathers did not know Nixon, Reagan, and Trump, of course, they knew their ilk – that is, demagogues who seek support by appealing to the desires and prejudices of ordinary people rather than by rationandal argument. Like it or not that is what we presently have and future elections provide our only means of “righting” our ship.  Yes, in order to “right” in this case we need the help of all, including those on the Right who value our representative republic. 

So, finally, how does all of this relate to the climate change problem?  Two of the latter-day Republicans discussed above have become symbolic and literal leaders of antienvironmental movements. Among the first things Reagan did upon reaching the White House was to remove the symbolic solar panels President Carter had installed on the roof of that building and then encouraged Americans to go back to driving large, gas-guzzling vehicles. He was clearly in the pocket of our fossil fuel industries. Our present Republican President Trump is even worse – that is, a hard-core denier of the science behind man-caused global warming.

While I used to be a political independent, I have now totally given up on the Republican Party. They have shown themselves to have far too few conscientious grownups in their midst even while they have controlled all three branches of our federal government.  Therefore, along with the intellectual leader of their party, George Will, I hope that all seats in the 2018 and 2020 elections go to Democrats. The Republicans have all too clearly shown that the problems of today are too much for them to address in any helpful manner and that their only real concern is to keep our nation’s wealth where it presently is – even if that means letting both our republic and planet go down the tubes.  


Posted by: ericgrimsrud | July 1, 2018

St. Olaf College needs to meet Ella Lagé

As the readers of this website know, I have often used my alma mater, St. Olaf College of Northfield, Minnesota, as an example of an institution that should know better than to be invested in the production and use of fossil fuels. Certainly, St. Olaf College is aware of the science behind global warming and (I assume) is aware of our moral responsibility to preserve human friendly conditions on this plant for future generations. Nevertheless, it is also a fact that  a portion of the considerable financial endowments of St. Olaf are still invested in companies that seek to find, remove, and/or use increasing amounts of fossil fuels. While I have chided St. Olaf’s President and Board of Regents for these investments and have encouraged them to divest their assets from all of them for the sake of future generations, they have so far refused to do so. The only reason I have heard from them for this is that any divestments by them would be too small as to make a difference.

Therefore, when I came across the U-tube video to be referred to below, it immediately occurred to me that the leadership of St. Olaf College needs to meet Ella Lagé.  As a private citizen of Berlin, Germany, she found a way to make a great difference in fossil fuel investments and did this with meager financial resources.  Enough said.  Please listen carefully to Ella’s presentation and help her (and me) convince our colleges, universities, and other institutions to divest their resources from fossil fuel production and use.   

See this video at

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | June 10, 2018

Up-to-date summary by Kevin Anderson

Over the six years that this web site has been running, I have occasionally included comments and major addresses by Kevin Anderson, a British atmospheric scientist and international leader in the field of climate change. This post points to one of his latest addresses given in Manchester, England, in March of 2018.

The U-tube video to be referred to here includes introductory comments by the mayor of Manchester and then the address of Kevin Anderson, starting at about 20 minutes into the program. 

Please listen carefully to Dr. Anderson’s comments.  He differs from most scientists in that he does not try to “soft peddle” the realities associated with our rising CO2 levels.  For a variety of reasons, many do not like to hear what Dr. Anderson has to say. One of these reasons is that many do not want it to be known that they were provided the “unvarnished truth” about climate change while we still had a chance to do something about it.  This large group includes a multitude of public officials, industrial and academic leaders, as well as members of the general public. None of us want the historic record to show how utterly foolish we have been.      

So, its your choice.  Listen to or ignore one of the most accurate assessments of our present state and the future at:

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | March 20, 2018

The most depressing aspect of global warming today

One might suspect that the most depressing aspect of global warming would be the distinctly dire predictions of what our planet will become in just a few decades if our business-as-usual lifestyles continue – as there is good reason to expect they will into the foreseeable future. The specific problems associated with that predicted future include, sea level rises causing the loss of much of the world’s most productive and populated coastal regions, an increase in the frequency of catastrophic weather events, an increase in drought conditions throughout much of the Earth, and the massive dislocations of the world’s existing populations as they try to move from ravaged to less ravaged regions. While these changes will certainly become the major causes of human depression when they hit with full force at some later date, they do not yet constitute what I believe is the major cause of climate related depression.

So, what then is the major climate-change-related cause of depression today. In my opinion (and this certainly does apply to me), the major cause of this form of depression today is simply how obtuse a controlling portion of the world’s population is to the advice it receives from its scientific communities. To these folks, it seems that the field of science is just one of several human disciplines that will determine what happens in the future to our planet. More specifically, too many of us seem to think that future physical conditions on our planet will be determined by the thoughts and conclusions drawn from many intellectual areas in addition to those of the sciences. These other areas might include economics, religion, politics, history, sociology, phycology, business, law, and all of the humanities including literature, the fine arts and sports. Clearly, human beings care a great deal about all of these disciplines and generally view the world through the lenses they provide.  On this website, I have provided amble evidence of this preference even within our colleges and universities via several posts directed at my own alma mater, St. Olaf College of Northfield MN. (see “why I give St. Olaf College such a bad time”, posted in December, 2017).

Unfortunately, it is also true that Mother Nature pays little attention to the ideas and wisdom emerging from these other areas. They exists primarily for the purpose of understanding human behavior.  Only the fields of science have shown a strong correlation between their thought processes and what actually happens within the physical universe. This should not be surprising. By definition, “science” is the one discipline of mankind whose only purpose is to understand, explain, and predict what Mother Nature has done in the past and will do in the future in response to any changes that occur in our physical world.

Modern science tells us that we have far better prospects for solving the global warming problem NOW than we will have later when the problem will become literally insolvable.  If we stay on our present course of continued CO2 emissions, the legacy we will be leaving our grandchildren is the worst one of all – one in which there is no hope left for solving this problem – because too many tipping points will have been crossed. That, indeed, is the thoroughly depressing prospect towards which we are now headed – all because human beings have not assigned primary importance to the messages coming from science.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | February 13, 2018

Assumptions of the intentionally ignorant

Advanced human civilizations have been here for about 6,000 years. That’s a long time, right? And over that period, mankind has faced down some very “tough times”, and is likely to continue to do so, right? And, we now know so much about science and technology that we can fix just about anything that comes up, right? So, perhaps we should not be fooled into believing long-term doomsday forecasts concerning global warming when things are not yet so bad. It can be distinctly unpleasant to accept the messages coming from science and is much easier to go with the flow of the business-as-usual community, right? So maybe we should not yet pay so much attention to the climate scientists. If the powerful and time-honored industrial forces of the USA tell us that continued use of fossil fuels is absolutely necessary in order to maintain the lifestyles that people have come to expect, maybe we should just continue to put our future in their hands, right? And this, after all, is what many or most of us are already doing and there is a great deal of comfort in numbers, right?

Unfortunately, an appropriate term for the above simplistic line of thinking is “technical hubris” and this unjustified confidence in the face of real science is moving our planet towards the edge of the human-friendly stable state we have enjoyed over the last 6,000 years.  But who cares?  “Something” will come up, right?

One of the most disappointing aspects of all of this is that even our institutions of higher education suffer from this malady of unwarranted hubris, as demonstrated by the lifestyles they promote and their substantial financial investments in the fossil fuel industries. This includes our wealthiest universities, such as Harvard, and our smaller liberal arts colleges, such as my alma mater, St. Olaf College of Northfield, MN. These educational institutions have mature science departments that might be expected to know a lot about the science of climate change. Nevertheless, the Presidents and Boards of Regents of those institutions almost uniformly go with the flow of our out-of-control, fossil-fuel-driven businesses-as-usual. Most of our colleges and universities are essentially wedded to those controlling financial interests and, as I have personally found, some are now actually afraid to talk openly about some of the most important aspects of the problem. In the process, our colleges and universities have become businesses themselves more than centers of intellectual thought – especially on this most important issue of our era.

The unwarranted and potentially fatal assumptions described above can provide both individuals and institutions with a convenient means of avoiding responsibility for the mess we are making on our planet. If one were to acknowledge the prevailing messages of science, one would then be accepting responsibility for doing something about it, right? And, depending on one’s present lifestyle, that might constitute a tough row to hoe. What? Cut back on my flying habits! Or, divest my assets from our lucrative fossil fuel industries! Surely, you’re joking Dr. Grimsrud! It’s much easier and far more pleasant to go along with the soothing message of the Business as Usual community – and this relieves one of the responsibility of actually doing something about it.  So, better to simply “enjoy the party” while it lasts, right? Intentional ignorance definitely has its advantages.

As suggested in my previous post, perhaps use of the Judicial Branch is the only way we can get a majority, including the intentionally ignorant, to do what needs to be done. Most of us are not criminals and will tend to obey the court-supported laws of our country.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | January 30, 2018

Youngsters in court, our best hope?

In one of my previous posts of Nov. 11, 2017, I provided a “heads up” concerning the most recent efforts of Dr. James Hansen to get urgently needed action against the man-caused warming of our planet. Since about 1980, Dr. Hansen has done his very best to get that action from our government and the private sector. Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that has been provided by climate scientists on this problem, pathetically little action has been taken, to date, almost 40 years after Dr. Hansen’s initial efforts. Because both the Executive and Legislative Branches of the USA have failed to do what needs to be done, Dr. Hansen and a group of youngsters are trying to get that needed action though our Judicial Branch. This is a novel approach that might, at last, bear fruit. For an update on how they are doing, see

The video shown concerns a recent court proceeding in San Francisco where President Trump’s lawyer was attempting prevent further consideration of the plaintiff’s case. A great deal of other information concerning this program (called “Our Children’s Trust”) is also provided at the website referred to above. This includes a summary of all previous legal actions undertaken, to date.

I can easily understand Dr. Hansen’s change of tactics – moving on to the Judicial branch and giving up on the Executive and Legislative. Both of the latter branches of our government are solidly in the grips of the Business-as-Usual, fossil-fuel-driven forces of the USA. In addition, it has been one of the greatest disappointments of my life to see that even our centers of intellectual excellence – that is, our colleges and universities – are also firmly in those BaU grips and typically hide behind a few solar panels and windmills on their campuses whenever asked to provide more substantial action and leadership on this issue. Hopefully, the adults that serve in our Judicial branches are less beholding to the fossil fuel industries and will have the courage to behave like responsible grownups when confronted by Dr. Hansen’s small band of kids.

In addition, there is always the possibility that the example set by these kids will shame the leaders of our government and institutions of higher education into finally becoming fully invested in the solutions to, rather than the causes of, global warming.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | January 23, 2018

2017, the year our climate began to spin out of control

There are now daily reports of changes taking place on Earth that are directly linked to the fact that our planet is rapidly getting warmer. In searching the internet for the best summaries of these, I came across a recent article in MIT’s publication, Technology Review, entitled “The year climate change began to spin out of control” by its Editor, James Temple. Without additional comment, I encourage you to read this article at

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