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    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Coming to a "red state" (near) U
October 15, 2009 - 4:04pm

Any real debate is over. Take a look at the following, and then let's talk about whose words these are.
Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases
in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising
global average sea level. Global mean surface temperatures have risen by 0.74°C (1.3ºF) over
the last 100 years. The rate of warming over the last 50 years is almost double that over the last
100 years. Global mean surface temperature was higher during the last few decades of the 20th
century than during any comparable period during the preceding four centuries.
Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very
likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations. Global observed
temperatures over the last century can be reproduced only when model simulations include both
natural and anthropogenic forcings, i.e., simulations that remove anthropogenic forcings are
unable to reproduce observed temperature changes. Thus, the warming cannot be explained by
natural variability alone.
Observational evidence from all continents and most oceans shows that many natural systems are
being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases. Observations
show that changes are occurring in the amount, intensity, frequency and type of precipitation.
There is strong evidence that global sea level gradually rose in the 20th century and is currently
rising at an increased rate. Widespread changes in extreme temperatures have been observed in
the last 50 years. Globally, cold days, cold nights, and frost have become less frequent, while
hot days, hot nights, and heat waves have become more frequent.
U.S. temperatures also warmed during the 20th and into the 21st century. U.S. temperatures are
now approximately 1.0ºF warmer than at the start of the 20th century, with an increased rate of
warming over the past 30 years. The past nine years have all been among the 25 warmest
years on record for the contiguous U.S., a streak which is unprecedented in the historical
record. Like the average global temperature increase, the observed temperature increase for
North America has been attributed to the global buildup of anthropogenic GHG concentrations
in the atmosphere.
Total annual precipitation has increased over the U.S. on average over the last century (about
6%), and there is evidence of an increase in heavy precipitation events. Nearly all of the Atlantic
Ocean shows sea level rise during the past decade with highest rate in areas that include the U.S.
east coast.
The global atmospheric CO2 concentration has increased about 35% from pre-industrial levels to
2005, and almost all of the increase is due to anthropogenic emissions. The global atmospheric
concentration of CH4 has increased by 148% since pre-industrial levels. Current atmospheric
concentrations of CO2 and CH4 far exceed the recorded natural range of the last 650,000 years.
The N2O concentration has increased 18%. The observed concentration increase in these non-
CO2 gases can also be attributed primarily to anthropogenic emissions. The industrial fluorinated
gases, HFCs, PFCs, and SF6, have relatively low atmospheric concentrations but are increasing
rapidly; these gases are entirely anthropogenic in origin.
Tell me, who is that writing?

No, it's not John the Revelator (even though the words have an apocalyptic ring to them). It's the Bush administration, in 2007. The Bush EPA, to be more precise, in an internal report available here. These are words that our tax dollars have paid for. It's knowledge that you and I own.

And what the Bush administration said is that there is no remaining scientific question, no further significant uncertainty. Thus, the rational elements of both of the parties that control this, the most powerful (and highest-emitting, per capita) nation on the face of the earth agree. There's no remaining fig leaf for denying climate change, and anyone who says otherwise is both a fool and a liar.

Now, I'm not one of those who equate climate change denial with shouting "FIRE!" in a crowded theater, but I do think it's time for the educational community in states whose elected representatives are acting in a manner profoundly destructive of the general welfare to point out that fact. After all, that same Republican-run EPA found that "elevated levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public welfare." More specifically, it anticipated that "severe heat waves are projected to intensify in magnitude, frequency and duration over the portions of the U.S. where these events already occur" (hmmm ... that would be the red states in the South). "Disturbances like wildfire and insect outbreaks are increasing and are likely to intensify in a warmer future with drier soils" (sounds a lot like Southern California to me). "Climate change is projected to constrain over-allocated water resources in the U.S." (which would be the Great Plains, the entire Mountain time zone, the Southwest).

Now most of the major universities in the states we're talking about are state-run. I don't expect them, as institutions, to declaim against elected representatives from the same political parties which run their state governments. But it's not unrealistic to expect respected administrators and tenured faculty members, acting as individuals but with some level of solidarity, to exercise their right as American citizens to speak plainly on their own time. In most of these places, alumni of State U occupy positions of influence in both the public and private sectors. Teachers those alums once studied under, and the leadership of the institution whose teams they wildly cheer for, can exert significant leverage.

There's no time like the present.

No time at all.


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