Posted by: ericgrimsrud | June 8, 2015

An “American” view of the climate change issue

In my recent post entitled “The disconnect between modern climate science and St. Olaf College, for example”, as a spokesperson for that modern view, I used the British Scientist, Dr. Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research.  If there is another scientist in the world who is even more qualified for explaining that modern view, that person would certainly be our own Dr. James Hansen, the recently retired head of the NASA- Goddard Laboratory for Space Science Research in New York City.  Since I have previously described his background and accomplishments on this blog (see August 2013 post bearing his name), I will immediately move on here to report his latest views on this subject.  They can be seen at

You will note in this article that Dr. Hansen will be receiving one of Great Britain’s greatest honors for scientific accomplishment tomorrow – even though he is an American.  Therefore, also keep your eye out for his additional comments in that presentation.

The central point you will note in Dr. Hansen’s view, like that of Dr. Anderson, concerns the urgency of the AGW problem.  That is, because we have waited too long for action, we must now bring down CO2 emissions dramatically right now in the present decade and the only way we can do that is by vastly increasing the efficiency of energy use by the most wealthy among us.  That is the only means we have for making needed changes quickly.  While all of the others are important, they take too much time for the needed immediate effect.  Because it is the accumulation of CO2 over time that matters and because we are now in an era of exceptionally high CO2 emissions, it is what we do now that matters the most for the long term – more even than what we will be doing during the next decades.

Get it?  If not, please stop and reread the above paragraph more slowly and carefully.  Its point is what I mean when I refer to the “most modern view” of the climate change problem.  Those that think we are on an acceptable course now and that we can make most of the required adjustments later just don’t get it.  We are now well past the point in which that approach might have worked.

I will now raise another specific issue concerning the need for immediate changes and again will pick on my alma mater, St. Olaf College, as an example of apparently “not getting it” yet.  I suppose I could pick on Carleton College this time instead, but I still feel so badly about beating up on them during my tenure as a St.O. basketball and baseball player back in the ’60s that I don’t want to cause any additional misery on that campus quite yet – maybe later!  (Seriously, however, I would be most interested to learn Carleton’s stance on the issues I am raising here).

So what is that second issue? Two posts ago, you might recall that I suggested that St. Olaf College could be more sensitive than it appears to be concerning the means and frequency of global travel by high-carbon-footprint methods.  In this post I will mention another way that environmentally conscientious organizations could do a lot to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels.  That method would be to divest themselves from the fossil fuel industries.  Therefore, I asked St. Olaf’s president if St. Olaf College had divested itself from those industries and, if not, whether it intended to do so any time soon.  His response to both of these questions was “no”.  Therefore, I will suggest that by this measure, also, St. Olaf College might not be sufficiently connected to the latest scientific views of climate change.

While I can imagine why St. Olaf College has taken its stance on the two issues of institution-related travel and the investments of its endowment,  I will not speculate here as to what those reasons are and will wait instead to be informed of them by President Anderson of St. Olaf during a meeting he has graciously agreed to have with me later this summer. During that visit I also look forward to learning about all the great things I am sure St.Olaf College is doing for the education of what will become our next generation of leaders in an increasingly complex world. The main point of my message here is to show that the leaders of our present generation are not doing enough to ensure that those future leaders will have even a fighting chance.

If you don’t already know how to follow the “score” in this “game” against global warming, just keep an eye on what’s known as the “Keeling Curve”. Its the only score that matters.  The rest is just PR.


  1. You are right on Eric. I also have long believed that we absolutely need both major political parties to get serious on the greatest threat to Mother Earth since inception. I did hear one note of encouragement and that was from Lindsay Graham, Republican Senator from South .Carolina who has just announced his run for the Presidency. He said we as a country and world must get serious about Climate Change. This is great news as it will be impossible for one party to take on by itself the effort to mitigate Climate Change.

    [REsponse from EPG: Yes, Arlo, I also noted with interest Lindsay Graham’s statement on climate change. I believe this new attitude of a Republican is necessary if they hope to be competitive in the Presidential election. I have enough faith in the American public to think that a scientifically illiterate person could not be elected President. Thus, I think many or most of the Rep candidates are wasting their time. What works in the Rep primaries will fail in the national election, I think. At the same time, talking the talk is not the same as walking the walk and we don’t know yet if Graham is capable of the latter. That would require taking on the fossil fuel lobby. Don’t think Graham could do that and am not even sure if the Dem candidate will. Must keep up the pressure concerning the rapid advance of AGW during this upcoming election year.

    While I have you here, Arlo. Can you tell us something about the production of biofuels in Montana? ]

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