Posted by: ericgrimsrud | November 18, 2020

The environmental scene without Trump

Fortunately, I can now use the above title for an article concerning our immediate future.  If Trump had been given another term, our environment would certainly have been badly damaged even more than it already is.  So, with President Trump soon to be escorted (or literally dragged) out of the White House, what improvements in our environment can we expect to see as a new democratic administration comes on board?

First, with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is already clear that the new Democratic administration will put a much higher priority on combating this pandemic by providing far greater financial and moral support to both the heath-care professionals and the victims of this plague. With potential vaccines now coming on board, the possibility looms that we might see a turn-around and even an eradication of this disease within the next year.  Only time will tell when and what happens in this battle, but we are at least now making the efforts that a scientifically advanced country such as ours should have been making since the very first appearance of this dangerous virus.

Next, with respect to the relentless warming of our planet by our continuous addition of greenhouse gases (CO2, in particular) to our atmosphere, any changes expected to accompany the new Democratic administration are much more difficult to predict. This is primarily because the fossil fuel lobby is so incredibly well-entrenched in both the USA and abroad, that their war chest and resulting death grips on all corners and niches of the world make this battle very difficult to win. Did you notice, for example, that in the recent presidential election that Joe Biden’s side did not clearly say that one of their ultimate goals would be to eliminate the use of all fossil fuels and emissions of CO2 by some specific time in the future. They simply said that they were concerned about global warming and would endeavor to find solutions to it – without including relevant details.

So yes, in the next few years we have reason to hope that many important aspects of our lives will be improved by the replacement of the Donald and his cowardly set of Republican facilitators.  These aspects will certainly include civil rights, health care, our economy and virus protection, but probably not so much improvement in the fight against climate change, a problem that is far more difficult to address. Hopefully, by the next election cycle, we will finally be in a position to do much more to face the central cause of climate change; that is, the amount of greenhouse gases we continue to accumulate in our atmosphere.

So, what more could Biden do now to significantly help out in the fight against climate change?  Turns out, there is a litmus test for examining the depths of one’s claims to be fighting climate change and neither the Republicans (of course) nor the Democrats have passed this test so far.  That litmus test is to favor a strong fee for the production and use of fossil fuels. The rationale for a Carbon Fee of this sort is that it would provide a charge for use of our atmosphere as a garbage dump for the disposal of the carbon dioxide. We should start that program immediately with the intention of continuously raising those fees in the future so that the alternate renewable forms of energy production become competitive with fossil fuel use as soon as possible. Our attempts to save our planet from overheating cannot happen until that change is made. To continue to use our atmosphere as a free of charge dumping ground for CO2 is sure to prove to be suicidal for most forms of life presently on this planet. Mass extinctions of this sort have occurred before on Earth due to abrupt changes in atmospheric CO2 and, in case you haven’t heard, our atmosphere already contains almost 50% more CO2 than the natural level it had prior to the Industrial Revolution.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | October 16, 2020

The advice of Ma Nature versus that of the Internet

Because of my life-long involvement in science, I have learned a bit about the numerous “Laws of Nature” that have been continuously tested against the physical observations mankind has made.  The Laws that have survived that scrutiny have come to be known as “The Laws of Mother Nature” and, they provide the best means possible of predicting what will happen in the future in response to any changes we make to our planet.  

In my discussions concerning the specific problem of climate change, I have done my best to follow the Laws of Mother Nature – as is typically done by other professional scientists. This approach is often not used, however, by the group that I will call “skeptics” here.  In order to come up with the answers they prefer, this group tends to regard comments and conclusions found in the unrefereed public domain (newspapers as well as the internet) to be of equal importance to those that appear in the refereed scientific literature that were derived in accordance with the Laws of Mother Nature.

A great difference in these two approaches when applied to our climate change problem is that the one derived from the Laws of Mother Nature clearly leads to the conclusion that we must eliminate all conversions of geological carbon (such as fossil fuels) to biological carbon (such as carbon dioxide).  This will admittedly be no easy task because of the great dependence on fossil fuels man has acquired over the last 200 years.  Today, Americans still uses fossil fuels for the generation of at least 70% of their energy and the worldwide accumulations of carbon emissions over the last 200 years have caused the total carbon contents of our biosphere to increase by almost 50% above the prior natural levels.

At the same time and for no valid reasons, the skeptics claim that we can continue to burn fossil fuels without doing significant harm to our biosphere.  Furthermore, they claim that the amount of heating thereby caused will be very small and harmless. According to the Laws of Mother Nature, however, a continuation of these carbon conversions will have catastrophic consequence for the present and future inhabitants of Earth because of the excessive greenhouse gas warming it will cause.  Again, the Laws of Mother Nature indicate that the effects of that additional warming will be catastrophic if the problem is not forcefully and immediately addressed.    

Now, consider which of the two views described above would you hope is correct? The answer to that question is obvious, is it not?  Of course, we would prefer that the view of the skeptics is correct – it demands very little action from us and, in addition, we have already converted so much geological carbon to the biosphere that, if the Laws of Mother Nature are correct, we might not even be able to survive the CO2 and other greenhouse gas levels that we have already added to our atmosphere. Therefore, a view of the future based on the Laws of Mother Nature is indeed extremely sobering especially if one is concerned with the future of our grandchildren as well as that of all future generations.  It takes a mentally strong person, indeed, to accept the predictions of Mother Nature and it is easy to understand why so many people choose to bury their heads in the sand and embrace one of the friendlier but mistaken predictions of the scientifically challenged sceptics that hold forth on the public domain. 

One hears a lot these days about the decreasing level of respect our citizens have for the sciences, in general.  Perhaps much of this is due to the difficult path ahead such as I have described here if we chose to address the climate change problem in the only manner that has a chance of success – that is, by following the dictates of Mother Nature.  The only remaining question – is the human species up to this task?

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | September 17, 2020

Will the public’s view be too close to that of President Trump?

Why does a person like Donald Trump get any support from the citizens of the USA? By most of our time-honored standards for human behavior, President Trump has come up decidedly short. He has repeatedly shown himself to be little more than a superficial salesman whose only interest is “making a deal” that is beneficial to himself without a detectable level of concern for the citizens of our country whose interests he promised to serve. Nor has he shown any respect for our time-honored relationships with the other democracies of the world. The people whose interests he has served tend to be those of the criminal element in the USA and the autocratic leaders of other countries, such as the Russian dictator, Vladimir Putin. The primary goal of Trump and those rouge nations is to weaken the democracies. In addition, President Trump appears to believe that his prospects for retaining the highest office of our country will be facilitated by inflicting as much damage as he can to our core democratic values. Thus, he considers any branch of our government that retains a high regard for the rule of law to constitute a threat to his personal control.   

In an attempt to get more Americans on his side, President Trump has held a mirror up to our faces and tried to show that “we are the same as him”, no better or worse. For example, he has tried to demonstrate that we are every bit as much polluters of the environment as he is.  That is, he has encouraged us to increase our use of fossil fuels – without getting much pushback from the typical American who does, indeed, have a high carbon footprint.  By challenging us in this manner he is attempting to show that the character of our President should not be given the highest priority by the voters because the average American is just as unlikely to be dedicated to actually addressing many of these environmental issues as he is. This nefarious point of view is illustrated in the following example.  

President Trump has apparently been somewhat better supported by the rural portions of the USA than by the urban portions. Therefore, I have made some effort to learn why that is by monitoring reports from the rural sectors.  In doing so, I found that a primary reason for some favorable rural views of Trump is related his unsubstantiated promise that the prices of the farmer’s produce, such as wheat, will be higher under his presidency. Compared to that issue, that of character, to many, seems to be of little importance.  This potential reason for supporting Trump is disturbing in that the highest regard is not reserved for the preservation of our democratic principles. This simple example helps one understand why the supreme panderer of our times, Donald Trump, is able to get so many votes in our American political system even though he has no respect for it or the group he is conning and only wants to manipulate our system for his personal advantage.

Hopefully, by November, all Americans will come to see Donald Trump as the wrecking ball he is, and not the builder he claims to be, and will deny him further access to our democracy.  In short, please do not bet the farm on this guy.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | August 25, 2020

Environmental issues: which party “gets it”?

We have always been confronted with issues concerning our physical environment, but today two stand out above all others: the pandemic caused by the covid-19 virus (CV) and our changing planetary conditions caused by global warming (GW).  These two issues will have profound and long-lasting effects on all aspects of our future and, if not solved, will render all aspects of life on this planet exceedingly problematic within a few decades.

In addressing both of these issues, we have recently seen two very different approaches favored by our two political parties.  The Democrats have tended to favor approaches that take into consideration the predictions of modern science – even though they don’t always follow those guidelines to their full extent. For example, the Democrats believe that we must drastically reduce our future emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) while also recognizing the financial difficulties associated with doing that (fossil fuels are both cheap and abundant).  The Republicans, on the other hand, deal with this problem by simply ignoring them and denying the validity of our predominant scientific literature.  That is, they tend to believe that the additional CO2 and CH4 we are adding to our atmosphere does not have a significant effect on the Earth’s temperature, as is claimed by the preponderance of modern scientific literature and research scientists.

Similarly, concerning the issue of the CV, the Democrats have tried to follow the advice of our scientific community while the Republicans and their leading spokesperson, President Trump, have again tended to downplay the predictions of modern science and embrace a view that considers only the immediate short term effects of any actions on our economy.

In assessing which of these distinctly different approaches to our environmental problems is the better one, we now can already clearly see which one has been superior in addressing the CV problem.  By ignoring the advice of our scientific experts, the policies implemented by the Republicans of the USA have been disastrous – we now have not only a full-fledged virus pandemic on our hands, but also one of the very worst financial depressions in modern history. At the same time, by following the advice of the scientific community, many other countries have done much better and have avoided the pandemic we now face.

In answering the question posed in the title of this piece, need I say more? Only the Democratic party takes our fields of science seriously and, therefore, is the only one within our 2-party system that has a chance of addressing our environmental issues effectively. In view of the fact that both of the issues highlighted here are currently the most important on the table, it is clear that we really have only one choice – nothing less than the future of mankind on this planet requires that Democrats be brought into positions of leadership in November.

 

 

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | June 5, 2020

Very Tough Times

It’s difficult to know what to say during these dark times – which involve not only the unchecked advance of global warming, but also now the more immediate concerns presented by the global spread of the Covid-19 virus. And in the meantime, we have also witnessed the undermining of our traditional democratic institutions of governance in the USA – including all of our federal agencies dedicated to the preservation of our natural environment and public health. In addition, we have seen an alarming increase in the use of our military for political purposes, and a deterioration of our relationships with the other democracies of the world. And perhaps worst of all is the fact that all of these setbacks have been facilitated by our very own president and his Senate-controlling enablers of the GOP who seek to divide rather than unite Americans.

The simultaneous occurrence of all of the above problems demands that we think broadly about the solutions required for the preservation of our republic and the Earth, itself – and it is unlikely that such thinking can occur with the mix of politicians presently in our executive and legislative branches of government. For these reasons, I agree with the conservative commentator, George Will, that both President Trump and his enablers in the Senate must be removed from office as soon as possible (see Will’s column bearing this title in the Washington Post of June 2, 2020).  Using his term, our “Crybaby in Chief” and his GOP caretakers simply must go if we expect to successfully address the myriad problems before us.  

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | April 22, 2020

Democratic Visions video for Earth Day

The following video was made 3 years ago by Jeff Strate of Democratic Visions, Eden Prairie, MN.  Jeff is a St. Olaf College classmate of Kathy and me (class of 1966).  The video contains some serious science along with a good dose of humor (of the dark variety).  Learn and enjoy!

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | April 14, 2020

Informative film on Global Warming

This is a heads up notice of the upcoming BBC film “Climate Change – The Facts” by David Attenborough.

It’s going to be shown nationally on public TV with the “premier” being broadcast on most PBS affiliates on 4/22 at 7pm central time, 5 pm pacific time.  After that date, it can be seen at https://www.pbs.org/video/climate-change-the-facts-ua6lmf/

It is a very impactful film, and I’m hoping that you can also spread the word of its broadcast time far and wide and get lots of people watching it.

After watching this film, you will realize that our future well being is all based on adhering to the science involved – both the scary parts about the damage we have already done and are still doing to our planet and the uplifting parts concerning the solutions we know exist and are attempting to put in place. Hopefully, our present battle with the corona pandemic is teaching us that we absolutely must adhere to the dictates of science in our environmental problems and not so much the “wish-lists” of our preferences.  Mother Nature does things one way – Her way – and we must figure out how to survive in Her world.

 

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | April 9, 2020

Will pandering again trump straight-talk in 2020

Over the last half century, we have witnessed the triumph of pandering over straight-talk in many of our presidential elections. One of the clearest examples of this was provided in 1979 when the presidential incumbent, Jimmy Carter, was running against Ronald Reagan. During the Middle Eastern oil embargo of that era, the USA was struggling to meet its energy demands when President Carter gave his famous “malaise speech” in which he provided an unusually frank and somber assessment of the problem.

While that speech squarely addressed the energy crisis of that time, it went beyond by addressing some faults he perceived in the character of the American public. It showcased Carter, the former Baptist preacher, as the nation’s “minister-in-chief”, beginning with some self-flagellation as he recounted criticism of his leadership, and then addressed what he believed to be a growing loss of confidence by the public in its nation’s leaders and institutions.

I thought both then and now that Carter’s message was appropriate for that point in time and the speech did immediately generate some positive reactions. Its longer-term effect, however, worked against President Carter. Soon, Ronald Reagan, with his sunny disposition and meaningless references to our “Shining City on a Hill”, was successful at portraying Carter as the nation’s “scolder-in-chief” who was too willing to blame Americans for the nation’s ills.

Although polling suggested that many Americans’ views on energy conservation were closer to Carter’s than to Reagan’s, that did not prevent Reagan from winning that election (with the help of Reagan’s traitorous interactions with Iran concerning the US hostages being held in Tehran).

So, off we went again down the merry road of fossil fuel consumption. Upon arriving at the White House, Reagan removed Carter’s symbolic solar panels from its roof and encouraged Americans to buy more gas-guzzling vehicles, which we did. The rest is history – a couple of lost decades during which our efficiency of energy use could have been greatly improved.

Mindful of the purported lesson of Carter’s “malaise” speech, no successful national candidate has ever again made the mistake of speaking so candidly, and in such critical tones, to the American people. Instead, candidates on the hustle are much more likely to take a page from the Reagan playbook by emphasizing the indomitable American spirit, can-do work ethic, etc., while ignoring the tough bits related to reality.

While there are many other examples of successful pandering, the most blatant of these, I suspect, has been provided by our current President, Donald Trump. His use of it – mixed in with generous doses of ignorance, deception, falsehoods, and “alternate facts” apparently appeals to his so-called “base”. Trump has become the ultimate creation of our gullible, pander-loving, Reagan-trained citizenry and there is no one to blame but ourselves for being duped again by a master glad-hander who can help us believe that there is “no problem” when, in fact, we are now on the verge of a virus catastrophe that must be addressed along with the much greater problem of global warming.

Given that one of the greatest American panderers of all times is likely to be the Republican candidate in the presidential election of 2020, we should be very concerned about our future. Sorry about that, but that is what the historic American model suggests – pandering usually beats straight talk. In that case, God help our democracy because our only hope of saving our environment then will be to adopt a different model of governance, such as that of communist China, where their leaders don’t have to accommodate a scientifically inept public in their decisions.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | March 26, 2020

We need more brains, not egos, in the White House

In order to effectively meet the environmental challenges we are faced with today, we simply must get President Trump completely out of his high office as soon as possible and let some grown-ups and first-class scientists back into positions of leadership. This step, if taken immediately, would provide an appropriate beginning to our upcoming presidential election this fall in which Republicans could then also have time to choose another candidate who is not a complete scientific and public health novice. During the critically important months of January and February, 2020, President Trump assured Americans that the coronavirus was merely a common flu that would pass soon without requiring special actions on our part. While health alarms are now blinking red, our president still hesitates in taking the now even more drastic actions that are belatedly required. Such actions can be effectively addressed only by the overall direction and coordination of our federal government.

Every day we drift closer to the precipices of both the corona pandemic and the irreversible tipping points of global warming, while our president focuses only on damage control related to his now shredded personal reputation.

While Donald Trump has managed to fool a lot of Americans, he has met his match with Mother Nature. And, She is, indeed, one tough Mother when challenged by those who don’t know how She does things (that field is called science, of course). She always wins and does things one way – Her way.

During WWII, several efforts were made by the citizens of Germany to remove Adolf Hitler from his high office after it became clear in 1943 that the war would be eventually won by the Russians and their allies and, furthermore, that Germany’s persistence in that war was then being driven primarily by Hitler’s irrational ego. Since all of those removal attempts failed, Hitler’s Germany continued its downward spiral until it was literally reduced to ashes. Let’s hope that we can manage to successfully remove our self-proclaimed “genius” much more quickly by legal means before a large fraction of our population finds itself in body bags.

make Am intelligent

 

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | March 15, 2020

The virus and our intergenerational responsibilities

As the coronavirus spreads throughout the world, I suspect that the elderly among us (say those over 60; I am 76) are feeling a bit more threatened than the younger segments of society who we have learned are less vulnerable to its worst effects. While I am not suggesting that this is a beneficial aspect of the epidemic, it does carry with it an appropriate and useful message for us elderly.  That message is, how do we like being subjected to a human-facilitated phenomenon that specifically targets our older portion of the population? Our collective response to that question, I suspect, is that we do not like it at all, thank you very much, and, furthermore, are totally in favor all international efforts that can be made to solve this problem – no matter how much the required solutions make life inconvenient for the rest of the human population. For example, while the infection rates of children by this virus are very low, we are substantially disrupting the educations of those children so that their viruses are not passed on to the total population and especially we elderly.

When their time came, I understand that the elderly of some Eskimo communities used to be put out on the ice for whatever fate waited them there – preferably a return to the food chain via their consumption by a passing scavenger. The prevailing belief was that this provided a net benefit to the viability of their community.  In our culture we tend to do the opposite – prolonging the lives of our elderly as much as possible.  At my age, I happen to like that attitude, of course.

There is, however, something that bothers me a great deal about the collective attitudes of our elderly generations.  That is, our elderly have not shown sufficient understanding and commitment to the future of those children I mentioned above and to all non-elderly human beings. What I am talking about now, of course, is the “virus” of global warming. For the last 30 years, we have had the capability and knowledge required for the prevention of this menace but lacked the will and determination to bring that action to fruition. As a result of my generation’s preference for a cheap, but poisonous source of energy, we have created a carbon-overdosed world that will prove to be far more difficult to cure than that created by biological viruses. While we can learn how to kill viruses, we can’t do that to CO2 molecules. Hopefully, we elderly will learn from the upcoming battle against the corona epidemic what it will feel like for today’s non-elderly to be facing a climate change calamity that is tuned to the destruction of their generation.

My generation was fortunate to live during a “Goldilocks” period of the USA in which almost everything was “just right”.  The Great Depression and WWII were over by the 40’s and carpets of opportunity were then laid out for us in all directions.  We are now also being well taken care of during our senior years by myriad benefits including an extensive government-subsidized medical program. In return, we now owe it to all people younger than us, to do much better than we have on the preservation of our planet’s assets for our descendant’s use in the coming decades. This will have to be both an international and intergenerational effort that will require considerable sacrifice and support by all of us.

 

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