Post #8: We Were Warned


How ironic that during the same week that scientists confirmed the Big Bang theory of the origins of the universe, other scientists confirmed that we are close to destroying our planet.  As though we needed further testimony, two groups of climatologists—one, an international group of 18, the other a group of a thirteen Americans—have told of the high risks we face if we continue to put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at current rates.

In fact, both reports state that 97 percent of the world’s climatologists concur as to the human causes of climate change and the need to change course immediately. One of the groups specifies that the growth rate of fossil fuel emissions in 2000-2012, 3 percent a year, already crosses the danger line (2 percent) that both scientists and international government leaders have previously agreed was the maximum to keep the planet from a terribly destructive course.

At the end of this post I append two brief quotations from the reports and the links to them.  I urge you to take a look; they are frightening and urgent.

How many more expert findings do we need before taking decisive remedial action to reverse course?  What more explicit warning will shake the US and other governments into doing the right and necessary things?  In my very first post I suggested that climate change is the number one national security problem.  Yes, nuclear weapons are right up there, as one friend reminded me.  But at this moment, I’m inclined to stick with my initial assertion, because the consequences of climate change are a clear and present danger to all of us.

The danger signs are right before our eyes: changing weather patterns, drought and floods, water deficits, loss of species, rising sea levels, melting glaciers—all with the potential for conflict within and between nations, for major shifts in food production, for large population movements, for different energy choices, for disease control, for employment, and for global poverty, just to name a few.

The issue is survival, and the starting point must be here in the US, which accounts—on a cumulative basis—for over 25 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. Rome supposedly burned while Nero fiddled.  Will Earth burn while governments continue to war over territory, spar over health care and human rights, and endlessly debate responsibility for global warming?

We are now in our fifth decade of international negotiations over environmental sustainability and investigation of the causes of climate change.  It’s time to walk the talk.  We have run out of excuses of inaction.  The science is incontrovertible, and the moral obligation to future generations is unambiguous. We should be in emergency mode.  Let it not be said, we were warned.


Here are the two reports:

(1)  From the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS),

“There is a possibility that temperatures will be much higher and impacts will be much worse than expected. Moreover, as global temperature rises, the risk increases that one or more important parts of the Earth’s climate system will experience changes that may be abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible, causing large damages and high costs.”


(2)  From the Plosone group of 18 international scientists headed by James Hanson (James_Hanson_et_al_Dec._2013-EXTREME_DANGER.pdf, or

“Rapid emissions reduction is required to restore Earth’s energy balance and avoid ocean heat uptake that would practically guarantee irreversible effects.  Continuation of high fossil fuel emissions . . . would be an act of extraordinary witting intergenerational injustice.”



  1. Thanks, Mel. I enjoy reading your posts and the flawless writing makes the process so much easier that some… Best wishes, -Craig

    1. Mel,
      Yes, climate change is here now, is the biggest emergency of many we have coming at us, and societal comprehension of the dangers is appalling. It seems like, in any great emergency, before starting to argue about how to point fingers of blame, it is essential to stop… and say ‘how are we going to act, from this very second onward, toward saving ourselves with the best possible outcome?’ Climate change is real, that is the primary emergency. The next step should not be to say that it is human caused, even if we personally hold that belief. Many shocks are going to start hitting us severily, and rapidly. As each slap in the face hits the public, they will begin accumulating the understanding. They will be jolted loose from many of their current beliefs, begin questioning, and much more amenable to incorporating new knowledge into their belief systems. The slaps have to come first, for much of the public to begin helping more effectively and pervasively across society. The choir needs to quickly percieve, anticipate, each coming slap as it approaches and concentrate on maximizing our ability to educate maximally at just that zen moment. The team has to grow further into teamwork with each slap…. or we will not be in time for our great grandchildren.

      1. Very well take, sadly, “slaps in the face” to awaken people to the reality of climate change. And then there must be serious mass pressure on governments, which after all are the key cause and ultimate solution to the problem, to react legislatively. While some might say that that requires democratic governance, I disagree: In China, for instance, environmental protests are mounting along with the problems, and they are having some results. Let’s hope, however, that the scope of the problems don’t continue to outpace the responses.

  2. Dr. Gurtov and close to 100 others.

    Good Morning to Everyone.

    We have been following Mel’s blog with much Interest. I view this blog as a great focal point of Deadwood’s Human Interest News.

    It is comforting to me to know that so many are interested, and might I say concerned, about all the issues that surround all of us.

    I appreciate being able to add to Mel’s references; his report with two references, AAAS and The Hanson 18 are an important message to all of us in our community. Perhaps we could have a meeting sometime and draft a concerned response to our Senators and Congressman.

    I have the James Hansen book “Storms of my Grandchildren” and the 12.5 hour DVD of same. If any one would like share in these references
    call or drop by. I am again reading the text and am not quite finished searching out the meanings that come with the message. I have to stop and rethink much of the information. The book is my Grey’s Anatomy of Climate Change.

    On CSPAN is a resource linking to the Senate all-nighter where maybe 23 of our U.S. Senators discussed Global Warming and Climate Change. After listening to quite a bit of this I wanted to Call Dr. Hansen and ask what can we do to help … Dr. Hansen has asked us all for help. I am not sure what to do next? I know that I did listen to Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe talk for over 40 minutes, repeating his clarion call of Hoax. A search in the resources immediately brings up that message over and over again. There are many Deniers.

    What surprises me is how that group fails to recognize the Denier lack of scientific credibility. Amazing.

    A nice reference to help add to the daily debate: Just one of many.

    Thank You Mel.

    Leslie Benscoter
    541 964 3666
    Deadwood, Oregon

  3. Re: education of government

    Almost all EPA, NOAA, USGS, USFWS, NASA etc. agency folk came out of college sincerely eager to pointedly investigate environmental degradative causation (e.g.climate change) with a determination to better the science and the outcomes for environmental health and wellbeing of our planet. The political arms of each agency, out of necessity, must bow to the funding gods and godesses of the legislatures. The legislatures are fundamentally biased strongly toward short term minimal gains at the expense of longer term gains for the environment and world health. Environmental monitoring effectiveness and assessment are key to the scientific method, and to long term fiscal responsibility, however, the essential nature of monitoring with scientific integrity is stymied by the legislative politic that does not recognize this essentiality for dealing with climate change. Monitoring is essential for our desperate effort to understand and deal with climate change. Legislatures are charged with finding funding for that which is essential. To the degree that they do not get their work done, our prioritization processes and essential work becomes scientifically, ecologically, and fiscally irresponsible, and won’t be in time.
    Unfortunately, pointedly investigative environmental monitoring is now seen as being not only not essential, but as inherently politically subversive. If monitoring discovers any additional problems to have to find more funding to fix, most legislators react by trying to restrict environmental quality responsible agencies from any additional monitoring and research that is needed for integrity of environmental assessment. Agencies fear that moneys they are currently getting for the other good work they are able to do might get punitively cut back to bias agency investigatory intent. Not doing the essential monitoring misinforms funding prioritization and keeps essential information off of the table all together. Of course, we don’t have all of the funding we need to deal with all of what we find important needs for, but we must insist on being able to place all of our environmental concerns directly onto the priorizitation table for intellectual integrity in prioritization for funding and action as it comes available. Monitoring SAVES us money. If we don’t find our mistakes we are destined to continue making them and paying for them longer into the future. Prioritization must have better integrity. Agencies are so fearful, that they will not acknowledge the essential nature of monitoring that their field practitioners and researchers see as essential, opportunity to become more fiscally responsible is lost, those post college zeals are blunted, and the intent of the climate change assessment process for long term fiscal responsibility is lost.
    We desperately need to try to deal with implications of climate change. The regulatory agencies that head up the effort are themselves regulated by the legislators. We need to concentrate on getting legislators to see the false economy of ignoring climate change, and the fiscal responsibility of environmental assessment to SAVE us money. We have to communicate in language they are capable of understanding, rather than overwhelming them with research terminology that is alienating many of them. We need to tailor style of communication to each legislator. And we have to do it well, and fast, in this climate emergency. IMHO

  4. Readers: This is an excellent message from someone who has been deeply involved for quite a long time in my home area of Oregon with monitoring of salmon and water quality issues. As Ray suggests, monitoring should be understood by regulatory agencies as a cost savings, not to mention a responsibility of any agency entrusted with the public’s trust. Thanks, Ray.

  5. As regards Post 8 on climate change, you and your readers may be interested in several Book of the Month selections on my website, all extensively reviewed:
    – Jan 2014: National Research Council, Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises
    – May 2013: Alison Smith, The Climate Bonus: Co-Benefits of Climate Policy (a fresh and positive economic approach to making the case for climate policy)
    – April 2013: Al Gore, The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change (on climate, environmental degradation, and much more)
    – March 2013: Daniel Moran (ed), Climate Change and National Security (in 19 regions and nations; meticulous and chilling; the best book around to reinforce Mel Gurtov’s view that climate change is—or soon will be—the #1 national security problem for many key nations).
    – Jan 2013, Wijkman and Rockstrom, Bankrupting Nature report to Club of Rome (on the new “planetary boundaries” concept that goes beyond climate change; also see Oct 2013 BOM, Is Susainability Still Possible?, for a briefer treatment by Carl Folke).
    – Oct 2012, Conkling et al, The Fate of Greenland (also see 2: 10 Newsletter). I saw a TV program just this morning on melting Greenland ice far beyond expectations, but have yet to see any update in print. Ditto for release of methane from thawing tundra and other sources, which, I think, may surpass CO2 as the greenhouse gas of greatest concern in a decade or so.
    – Oct 2011, National Research Council, America’s Climate Choices (good overview of a wicked problem, with a distinctive call for “iterative risk management”).
    The problem, I fear, is general fatigue with the complex and long-term climate change issue, and more immediate short-term issues
    pushing it out of the headlines. Moral appeals seem to have no impact. Economic appeals have yet to be made in a convincing way.
    Too many folks think that technology will save the day. The gas and oil frackers assert, problematically, that they are helping to address the problem. Most economists understate the problem, and refuse to consider current costs and potential benefits of climate action. (For the rare textbook that does address issues of sustainable development, see Neva Goodwin et al., Macroeconomics in Context; M.E. Sharpe, 2nd edition, Jan 2014.)
    Mel asks “How many more expert findings do we need?” But the findings keep changing and need updating, consolidation, and wider publicity than at present. Mel concludes that the consequences of climate change are “a clear and present danger for all of us.” Unfortunately, in my view, the varied and scattered consequences are
    not yet clear and present to most of us.
    Michael Marien; Director,

  6. A comment from a friend who has a place in the mountains behind San Jose, Costa Rica sums things up nicely.

    >On the climate change subject, our village here has gone on water rationing (we’re in a cloud-forest region!) and the river at the next largest village has run dry for the first time in recorded history. The trout farm just above us has just lost 4000 fish.<

    Here's some more to cheer everyone up.

    And, if you missed it…

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