where the writers are
Global warming and the delete button
James E. Hansen

A week or two ago I wrote a piece, somewhat wise guy and satirical, on global warming. The idea of Greenland thawing out for the first time in the memory of climatologists scared me. After all, what does anything else matter – getting your work published or produced, great reviews, winning the lottery, etc. – if the planet goes to hell? Who’s going to read your work other than, remotely possibly, the remnants of humanity cowering in caves avoiding cannibals.

Then, after a day or two I deleted the blog. Not sure why. Maybe it was my tone, maybe I didn’t like it. Maybe it was the thought nobody really seems to give a damn other than the farmer who is watching his field of corn wither or the thirsty animal approaching a dried up water hole. As for politicians, the deteriorating climate is a soccer ball they like kicking back and forth.

Anyway, I deleted. Then this afternoon I came across a front page story in the Washington Post by James E. Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He begins:

``When I testified before the Senate in the hot summer of 1988 , I warned of the kind of future that climate change would bring to us and our planet. I painted a grim picture of the consequences of steadily increasing temperatures, driven by mankind’s use of fossil fuels.

``But I have a confession to make: I was too optimistic.

``My projections about increasing global temperature have been proved true. But I failed to fully explore how quickly that average rise would drive an increase in extreme weather.

``In a new analysis of the past six decades of global temperatures, which will be published Monday, my colleagues and I have revealed a stunning increase in the frequency of extremely hot summers, with deeply troubling ramifications for not only our future but also for our present.

``This is not a climate model or a prediction but actual observations of weather events and temperatures that have happened. Our analysis shows that it is no longer enough to say that global warming will increase the likelihood of extreme weather and to repeat the caveat that no individual weather event can be directly linked to climate change. To the contrary, our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change.

``The deadly European heat wave of 2003, the fiery Russian heat wave of 2010 and catastrophic droughts in Texas and Oklahoma last year can each be attributed to climate change. And once the data are gathered in a few weeks’ time, it’s likely that the same will be true for the extremely hot summer the United States is suffering through right now.’’

He goes on, and it gets darker. I attach the link to the full story below, along with some 2,500 comments (as of today, August 8, more than 4,800 comments), some intelligent, some, of course, sheer idiocy, and some of those would think I’m an idiot for taking Hansen’s warnings seriously (also, today, August 8, NOAA reports July 2012 was the hottest July in 118 years of record keeping). So be it. The report Monday should shed more light.

And this time I’m not hitting the delete button.  I don’t want to see planet Earth deleted.



14 Comment count
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Wow, how prescient.

Steve: So strange that you and I crossed paths on my blog, and now I read this. Because I write for Examiner.com and am publishing a piece on microclimates and global warming. I totally get this blog you published now, and would like to have seen the one you originally wrote. And you are correct in sharing the perspectives of this scientist, whose opinion is not fear-mongering as so many people might insist, but reality. A nicely done piece. I'm going to follow your work. 



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Chris, I'd like to see your article

on microclimates and global warming when it comes out. Very important subject. I will check out Examiner.com.



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Is humanity smart enough?

Thanks for this. Yes, the warnings have been there for decades. But there is something about our economic system that makes it just continue on its merry way even while we all watch the earth go to hell. It makes me think that humans, while intelligent, aren't very wise. They can be very adaptable, but mostly only to solve problems that are occurring RIGHT NOW! If it's in the future, it can wait -- until it can't wait any longer.  By then, it is probably too late.

Like you, as a writer, I also wonder whether what I'm doing is going to be relevant as we increasingly have to deal with famine and other more immediate problems of survival which the more economically "advanced" countries haven't had to deal with on a mass scale for a century or more. It will take some real thinking and leadership to re-design the economic system so that we don't need to use energy of the types or in the amount we do now -- and I don't see the smartest people in our society working on that at all.



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Not only do I wonder if what WE write might be irrelevant,

Chris, I worry that all the great writing that has gone before, and other achievements of mankind, might disappear if the earth goes bad, as it did in George Stewart's classic novel ``Earth Abides.''  I know that sounds alarmist, but it's not like it's impossible.

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I remember the Summer of 88

I remember the Summer of 88 Steve because I was seven months pregnant and landed in Baltimore Md. There were warnings on the radio for pregnant women not to venture outdoors. I will never forget the heat. It was living inside a radiator. Strange about this heating up though. Ireland is wet and mostly cold these past Summers. Little or no sun. Wet. Damp. Dreary. I see a vast change in this temp. compared to when I was a child. Winter can be extremely cold. Dangerously so. I think something is going on alright but we are not being informed. I miss my childhood Summer though. Days of warmth, open windows in the house, bare feet and ice cubes. All set to memory now. Sadly. m

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In Monterey County, which you know, Mary,

we see a lot of dust devils in South County and it is just very dry. And this is Steinbeck's famous Long Valley or Valley of the World. On the Monterey Peninsula, which is known for foggy, overcast summers, we've had more sunny days than gloomy until the last few weeks, when the fog and overcast has returned. Steinbeck wrote once that drought was a rarity in this part of the county because we always receive moisture from the fog, and that's true, you can set out an empty bucket at night and it might have an inch of water in the morning. California, of course, is much better off than what is going on in the Midwest and on the Great Plains.

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Is that the Valley you can

Is that the Valley you can see from San Juan Bautista? It was stunning but maybe I was dreaming. Also, I have to mention how your love of Steinbeck is forever a treat to read. Please write more on the topic. You have a guaranteed audience Steve. m

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That is a beautiful valley you can see from San Juan Bautista,

near the entrance to the mission, but the Salinas Valley to the south is much larger, Mary, and the country of East of Eden. I wonder what Steinbeck would say to global warming. Ed Ricketts, the great marine biologist, cultivated interest in the environment in Steinbeck. I like writing about Steinbeck. Recently finished a piece for the Steinbeck Review on the artist Judith Deim and her time in Monterey in the 1930s and `40s with Steinbeck, Ricketts and other writers, artists and poets. Wokring on a play on him, his last days, but that is much more difficult. Hope to finish in a few months. 

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Fantastic country-I have been

Fantastic country-I have been to Salinas and the Steinbeck Museum. The countryside reminded me of Of Mice and Men, all those creeks and wonderful shade trees...........Good happy writing days to you. m



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Christopher, a very well written and enlightening article.

You, Chris Beal and Mary are all way more knowledgeable than I am on the subject, for which I am most grateful and hopeful.

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hottest 12 months record

Hi Steve, interesting article in the Irish Times Newspaper the other day about the whole topic of climate change.

I am sure you know this but Reuters reported; that July was the hottest month in the continental US on record even beating the devastation of the Dust Bowl of 1936. The American government also reported that Jan-July was the warmest period since modern record-keeping being in 1895, and the warmest 12-month period, eclipsing the last record set just a month ago, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. This is the fourth time in as many months that US temps. broke the 'hottest 12 months' record. best, m

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I saw some of those figures, too,

Mary, and added some of them to the blog. Something very strange is going on. We have a friend here who works for NOAA and he's worried about the oceans as well as the climate, and obviously they are connected. 

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Something going on...

Oceans, climate, fires, droughts, us.  We are all connected.