It’s been almost two centuries since Svante Arrhenius discovered the greenhouse effect, and more than fifty years since Arctic ice melt caused by increased atmospheric CO2 was predicted in a 1953 edition of Popular Mechanics.
Over time, climatologists have been steadily developing analytical and predictive tools of ever-greater precision and sophistication, as evidenced by their unsettling tendency to be right more and more often. It’s also worth noting that more and more often, when climate scientists are wrong, it’s because they’ve underestimated the speed and severity of the effects of planetary climate change.
Furthermore, it’s not just the scientists who’ve been telling us so, but the oil companies themselves:
“EACH DAY HUMBLE SUPPLIES ENOUGH ENERGY TO MELT 7 MILLION TONS OF GLACIER!
This giant glacier has remained unmelted for centuries. Yet, the petroleum energy Humble supplies- if converted into heat- could melt it at the rate of 80 tons each second! To meet the nation’s growing needs for energy, Humble has applied science to nature’s resources to become America’s Leading Energy Company. Working wonders with oil through research, Humble provides energy in many forms- to help heat our homes, power our transportation, and to furnish industry with a great variety of versatile chemicals. Stop at a Humble station for new Enco Extra gasoline, and see why the “Happy Motoring” sign is the World’s First Choice!”
True enough. The fundamental processes behind climate change are old news. It was fascinating listening to Dr. Running talk about how the recent the nuances of understanding global climate have been constantly blooming, especially in the last 30 years or so.
When he joined NASA in the late 70’s global satellites were simply spying on the Russian crop yields. Apparently, it was Reagan (surprise, surprise!) who came into office and essentially said, “If I want to know the Russian crop yields, I’ll ask the Department of Agriculture. YOU guys work on some exciting visionary stuff!! Here’s some $, get to it!”
So they did. They put the same satellites to work looking at global climate systems. These satellites were humble, simple technology; no more complex than your digital camera (but looking at a larger band of the light spectrum). Humble enough and yet, the patterns slowly started to emerge bringing the NASA team and the whole scientific community greater and greater clarity on how atmospheric carbon effects the climate.
If only the average person understood just how many shoulders someone like Bill McKibben, Dr. Running, or Jim Hansen stands on when they convey their scientific view of the global climate. If only the average person could be awed by the unbroken light of human insight being passed steadily through the years through the scientific method; by millions of hours of sustained, concerted inquiry; by toils of the many who made the myriad instruments of observation; by the humility of those who continue to stare into the unknown for the benefit of us all and wonder.
If anyone can help the average person come to appreciate these things, it will be the artists, teachers, and musicians of this world.
oh, and one quick science fact check in regard to the Humble energy ad: CO2, released from all of the stuff we are burning and then trapping the enormous heat energy coming from the Sun, is the bigger issue for the climate right now—not so much the heat generated from all that burning, right?