dear john

I just submitted this to atmo.sphere, where Texas’ state climatologist has a blog. I thought some of you may be interested. (And, yes, I could have spent a few minutes checking sentence structure/grammar. Oh well. You’ll catch the drift, I promise.)

My initial post wasn’t intended to sound as personal as it was. I regret that. But I have been holding onto these thoughts for some time now and would like very much to clarify the “lens” through which I view you.

You and I have never met. I missed the recent Water & Climate conference in Austin earlier this year when you were accused of speaking “more like an economist” than a scientist, according to a friend who did attend.

I understand you accept the basic tenants of the International Panel on Climate Change, which links human industry to our currently warming world. I read earlier that you even accept the basic science behind Al Gore’s movie.

Nielsen-Gammon

I do not consider you a villain, as I do all those who manufacture, manipulate, or intentionally misrepresent science to further political or economic agendas. As you are aware, this sort of intentional manipulation has been occurring with regularity under our present Administration in Washington.

Only last week it came out that the Office of the Vice President stripped language detailing the anticipated health consequences that global warming represents for this country. All Americans do anymore at such news is shrug when we hear such things.

It’s far worse than that in Texas. Here we have a Governor — your boss — that openly mocks the notion of global warming.

James Hansen, NASA’s director of the Goddard Institute, said recently that those oil executives who have worked so hard to muddy the scientific waters in an effort to sow public doubt about climate change should be put on trial for “crimes against humanity.”

When I consider the statement, my mind drifts to the likes of Perry. What punishment suits the politicians who knowingly shield such behaviors?

There is a risk in this debate. Great and immediate risk. It is perhaps best expressed in the non-action of the G8 this last week, when the world’s richest economies agreed to halve their greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. 2050?

Hansen and others released a scientific paper recently placing the upper limit for CO2 in the atmosphere at 350 parts per million. That same sentiment was echoed by a speaker at an American Geophysical Union gathering last December, who told writer Bill McKibben that anything over 350 parts per million would begin to “unravel” our planet’s life-supporting systems.

Well, here we sit at 385 ppm already. We’re growing by 2 ppm per year and we have no policy to address it.

Not only are obscure glaciers on the other side of the world disappearing, but those supporting the cities of the Rocky Mountain West are as well. As we face a North Pole that may be ice-free for the first time in human existence, we are looking dead on at potential tipping points in the climate’s systems that would make any recovery impossible.

That brings me to culpability. John, you are our state’s climatologist. And I understand from this week’s post how you view that political appointment. It sounds an awful lot like meter reading. Fortunately or unfortunately, that title also bestows upon you a prominence and power to actually help make a difference.

In the eight years since you were named state climatologist have you ever approached either Governor Bush or Governor Perry in an effort to educate them about global warming?

I’m sure you are aware that if Texas were a country, it would rank number eight for carbon emissions. Did you ever seek to convey to Bush or Perry the responsibility that Texas has to the rest of planet?

Have you ever tried to warn the state’s 24 million residents that we live in an extremely “climate vulnerable” region? Or of the suffering we can expect if things don’t change?

Our state needs to act with a swiftness to address the challenges that global warming has brought upon us. Good climate models that anticipate what global warming is bringing our way must be integrated into our water planning, our agricultural practices, and our urban and rural development standards.

We hear a lot about the minimum two-degree rise in global temperatures expected to take place this century. The IPCC says it could be as high as 11 degrees, and our nation’s failure to act is making the higher range more and more likely. Still, we don’t hear a lot about what that would look like under such conditions.

I’ve done a bit of research into this and what I have found is terrifying.

This is the lens I view you from, John. From this vantage point, I expect all those who truly know this stuff to sound the warning, to challenge our leaders, and do anything possible to facilitate the changes that must be made to ensure all of our families have the opportunity to survive the coming years.

If you aren’t willing to do this, Texans should demand someone who is.

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