Considerations Informing Climate-Change Policy – Part I

A lie will travel around the world while the truth is pulling on its boots…Mark Twain

Twentieth Century Predecessors to Global Climate Change

In 1970 Congress removed all environmental activities of various agencies of the Executive Branch to a single new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  This was accompanied by increased funding to rid the U.S. of air pollution and smog everywhere in America.  The EPA solution was to mandate automobiles to be equipped with catalytic converters, and that industrial plants and power generating stations install filters and scrubbers in their smoke stacks.  These efforts were rewarded with much cleaner air.

Dr. James Hansen, an atmospheric scientist with NASA published a paper explaining a concern about atmospheric CO2 (a greenhouse gas) potentially creating dangerous atmospheric effects.

“Anthropogenic carbon dioxide warming should emerge from the noise level of natural climate variability by the end of the century….Potential effects on climate in the 21stcentury include the creation of drought-prone regions…erosion of the West Antarctic ice sheet with consequent worldwide rise in sea level, and opening of the fabled Northwest Passage”.

Since Hansen’s 1981 publication, his hypothesis of atmospheric CO2 as a cause of global warming has been reduced to the following.  CO2 collects in the atmosphere and absorbs sunlight and solar radiation.  Normally, this radiation would escape into space, but these greenhouse gases (there are others, but most importantly CO2) which can linger for years to centuries, trap the heat and cause the planet to get hotter (“the greenhouse effect”).  Because of their longevity, and the fact that industrial production, worldwide, is increasing year-by-year, these accumulations might become overwhelming.  Some say, it will lead to global catastrophe.

In 1988, Hansen was asked to testify about greenhouse gases and global climate change to the United States Senate.  The New York Times then wrote:  “Dr. James E. Hansen of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration told a Congressional committee that it was 99 percent certain that the warming trend was not a natural variation but was caused by a buildup of carbon dioxide and other artificial (Sic) gases in the atmosphere.  Hansen added, “It is time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here.”

After Hansen’s testimony a consensus developed that the EPA, together with new atmospheric science concerning anthropogenic climate warming could successfully regulate commerce and industry as the EPA had reduced airborne pollution.  Atmospheric scientists and environmentalists seeking to rein-in the oil industry joined to plan using politics to benefit both interests. Hansen’s purpose to the planners was to give scientific credibility.  Another scientist soon to emerge would be extremely effective creating global climate-warming marketing.  His name would only become legendary after he had spectacularly accomplished this feat. In 1998 Michael Mann was a newly minted PhD and member of the World Meteorological Organization He was soon to become the Editor of the Journal of Climate Science.  In addition he already had working relationships with other climate scholars worldwide.  Within the following year he and other mathematicians would create a means of combining naturally variable climate change with anthropogenic climate warming in a compelling visualization.                                                                                             January 18, 2020