And global warming continues to make the news. First comes a story about a comment made by NASA administrator Michael Griffin in an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep. Inskeep asked Griffin whether he was concerned about global warming.
“I have no doubt that a trend of global warming exists,” Griffin told Inskeep. “I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with.”
“To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth’s climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn’t change,” Griffin said. “I guess I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that’s a rather arrogant position for people to take.”
Griffin’s comments immediately drew stunned reaction from James Hansen, NASA’s top climate scientist at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.
“It’s an incredibly arrogant and ignorant statement,” Hansen told ABC News. “It indicates a complete ignorance of understanding the implications of climate change.”
Can you hear Hanson’s cry of “Heretic!” at Griffin? I sure can! And what exactly are the “implications of climate change” that Hanson is frothing over? Humans have experienced hotter overall temperatures than the ones we are currently experiencing, most recently during the Medieval Warm Period of the 10th – 14th centuries. But Hansen’s response is disingenuous — his comment about the implication of climate change has nothing to do with Griffin’s question. Who are we to say that this climate is the best climate and that we should do something to arrest the climate to our arbitrary standard? Hanson continues to deliberately misunderstand Griffin’s query.
Hansen believes Griffin’s comments fly in the face of well-established scientific knowledge that hundreds of NASA scientists have contributed to.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Hansen. “I thought he had been misquoted. It’s so unbelievable.”
It’s not unbelievable. It’s just that Hansen isn’t listening to what Griffin is actually saying. Griffin isn’t denying that there is a warming trend. What he doubts is that we must be all a-twitter over “fixing” our climate. Climate temperatures rise and fall over time, just as the water level of the sea rises and falls over time with the tide. Griffin is saying that it is arrogant for scientists to claim that our current climate is the “right” climate and to try to fix temperatures at this level. Imagine a scientist standing at the seashore, declaring the “right” sea level and trying to stop the changing of the tide. Is it not arrogant to stand on the shore and demand that the tides obey your very whim?
Sadly, it appears that President Bush is climbing on the “we must fix it” bandwagon.
President Bush on Thursday urged 15 major nations to agree on a global emissions goal for greenhouse gases and to reach a consensus by next year.
With the United States accused of dragging its feet on combatting climate change, Bush called for a meeting this fall of 15 countries identified as major emitters of greenhouse gases. This list would include the United States, China, India and major European countries.
But Germany has a better plan, and it only calls for a reduction in emissions (read that as production of goods and services) to 50% of what it was in 1990. It is like making only 50% of the money you earned 17 years ago. Does that sound like a good plan?
Germany, which holds the European Union and Group of Eight presidencies, is proposing a so-called “two-degree” target, whereby global temperatures would be allowed to increase no more than 2 degrees Celsius – the equivalent of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit – before being brought back down. Practically, experts have said that means a global reduction in emissions of 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
It was hot yesterday, and there is no air conditioner at my place. But I took care of the matter because I gave strict instructions to my thermometer not to rise more than 3.6 degrees that day before it started to cool off. For some reason, it ignored me. I’m not sure why.
But good luck on that, Germany. Tell us how it works out.