If there were any global warming deniers in the room at today's Salem City Club meeting, I don't see how they could have listened to Rear Admiral (Retired) David Titley and not been persuaded that climate change is happening; it poses a huge threat to humanity; and we need to combat it.
Titley was crisp, organized, humorous, entertaining, and thoroughly believable. The guy's credentials are impressive.
David W. Titley is a professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University and the founding director of their Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk. He is also NOAA's chief operating officer. Before assuming these positions, he was formerly a rear admiral in, and the chief oceanographer of, the U.S. Navy, in which he served for 32 years. He also initiated the Navy's Task Force on Climate Change, and serves on the CNA Corporation's Military Advisory Board.
He talked quite a bit about how climate change threatens national security, the theme of his 2014 op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Climate change is an accelerating threat to national security. That’s the finding of a recent report by the CNA Corporation’s Military Advisory Board, a panel I serve on along with some of our country’s most senior retired military leaders.
Each of us is a hard-nosed leader with decades of experience evaluating national security risks. We have been keeping an eye on climate change for years, first reporting on it as a potential national security threat in 2007.
Since then, we have seen the scientific consensus continue to develop and solidify, while signatures of a warming world — from global temperature trends to severe weather events — strongly suggest that our climate is already changing. And we are increasingly worried about the lack of comprehensive action by the United States and the global community.
Sitting in the back of the room, scribbling away in a notebook as Titley spoke, I was left with these personal most-important takeaways from his talk -- which I'll express a bit more bluntly than Titley did.
(1) Global warming is just about as proven as gravity. The science supporting climate change is solid. We know that the Earth is warming, and why: greenhouse gases emitted by human activity. Anyone who doesn't accept this either hasn't educated themselves, or has a self-centered reason to deny the scientific reality of global warming.
(2) Local officials need to be pressured on global warming. Titley urged action on all fronts to combat climate change: global, national, state, local, individual. Seeing that at least one Salem city councilor was present (Warren Bednarz), I welcomed Tiley's call for citizens to keep asking local officials, "What are you doing to stabilize the climate?" (Check out my Salem Weekly column, "Do global warming deniers run City Hall?")
(3) Civilization is at risk if we don't act. Modern humans, Homo sapiens, have been around for about 100,000 years with essentially the same brain capabilities as we have today. So why did civilization take off around 8,000 years ago? Because, Titley said, we entered an era of climate stability that allowed humans to spend less time and energy on simply surviving. Now human actions are making the Earth's climate unstable -- not good, not at all.
(4) The climate always has changed, but over much longer time periods. Titley showed a graph of how temperature (or carbon dioxide level) has gone up and down over geological time scales, tens or hundreds of thousands of years. Zeroing in on the recent past, he showed how rapidly human-caused climate change is happening. Very unnatural; very dangerous.
(5) The oceans are sucking up most of the increased heat. I got to ask the last audience question of Titley: "Skeptics say global warming has ceased during the past ten years or so. But isn't it true that the oceans are taking up a disproportionate share of the warming, not the atmosphere?" Yes, that's true, I was told. Eight percent of the increased heat is going into the atmosphere; 92% into the oceans. That's why it is called global warming. Eventually that ocean heat will be emitted into the atmosphere.
(6) Rising oceans threaten military bases and ordinary people. Titley showed a slide of how ocean flooding in a Virginia neighborhood has become much more common the past few decades. The Navy (obviously) has its bases at sea level. Thus both military planners and insurance-reinsurance companies are much concerned about rising sea levels. As should we all be.
(7) Republicans are being idiotic about global warming. OK, Titley didn't say "idiotic." That's my word. But what else could you call the GOP-backed House bill that requires the military to ignore climate change?
The House passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization bill on Thursday that would bar the Department of Defense from using funds to assess climate change and its implications for national security.
Titley gave other examples of how military planners such as himself have to avoid using scientically correct terms like "global warming" in reports and funding requests that are read by Congressional Republicans. It's crazy that science committees in both the House and Senate are now run by legislators who are clueless about scientific realities.
(8) The battle against global warming can be won. On the positive side, Titley ended his talk on an optimistic note. He believes that the tide is turning in favor of the truth about what humans are doing to our one and only planet.
I agree. Truth has a way of winning out over lies and falsehoods. It just takes a while.
He alluded to the rapidity of social/cultural change when a tipping point is reached. Though Titley didn't give any examples, I thought "gay marriage." Who would have thought that this nation would have come so far, so fast, on the issue of equal rights for homosexuals?
Optimistic me sees the same thing happening with global warming.
Before too long head-in-the-sand'ers like today's GOP leadership will be laughed at if they persist with their "I'm not a scientist..." bullshit. Hey, you guys aren't gynecologists either, but you sure claim to be experts in what women should do with their bodies.
As Titley said today, gravity is real no matter if someone claims "Gravity is made up."
Likewise, global warmng is real. It is beginning to bite humanity in the butt. When the pain gets undeniable, even climate change deniers will be forced to acknowledge it.
Lastly... Titley said he met with the Salem Statesman Journal editorial board. I hope they took as many notes as I did. And then will decide to join other newspapers who refuse to publish letters to the editor from global warming deniers.
The Statesman Journal does this a lot -- publish anti-scientific rants that have zero credibility. Would the SJ print letters claiming the Earth is flat or gravity doesn't exist? I doubt it. So it shouldn't give global warming deniers a forum to express their craziness.