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Opinions and observations from environmental experts, activists, and luminaries
Very interesting piece. I like the idea of a Keeling Curve electronic display in Times Square. Any idea when George Shea's children's book is coming out? I'd like to buy a copy or two for my daughter as well as a global warming skeptic friend
Ellen -- I don't have a publication date yet for the Keeling book. But as soon as I do, I will let you know. I have your contact info. Thanks so much for writing. George Shea
Great article - would love to see more!
Thanks for writing, Anise. I'll keep you posted on any new columns, etc., also a publication date for the book. George Shea
Dr. Keeling followed his dream an made a vital discovery. What a great topic for a children's book. I look forward to it. I imagine adults might like to read it as well as much written about global warming is both confusing and complex. Mr. Shea makes it understandable. Thank you.
Thank you, Martha. I think a relatively short simple explanation of the basis of global warming is long overdue and badly needed. I'll keep you posted as to future articles and a publication date for the book. George Shea
Great article. I liked the simple, clear approach. As much as his history, I would have like to heard more about his take on the consequences of this warming trend. For example, in his view, when does the CO2 level become life threatening, or planet changing to the point it endangers species (like us).
Thanks for writing, Robert. You pose a difficult question. I'm sorry David Keeling is no longer able to answer it in person. My best response would be to say that the CO2 level already has become planet changing as we can readily see from the melting of the polar icecap, extree weather, more violent storms, heat waves, warming of the oceans, etc. The need we have is to keep the situation from spinning completely out of control, which would be catastrophic. How far from that are we? I'm not a client scientist. I'll just offer this. CO2 level is now 395. Jim Hansen says we can probably survive a rise to 450 or 475. At the rate we're going now, we will hit 450 by roughly 2029. And, of course almost all the CO2 in the atmosphere at that point will remain in the atmosphere for another 75-100 years And so, if we continue to pump new CO2 into the atmosphere beyond 2029 (hard to imagine we won't) -- it will be a very critical situation (which it already is). We need to start decreasing the generation of CO2 yesterday.
Thanks Mr. Shea. Fascinating, timely article. Looking forward to that billboard. Be nice if there would be a "Keeling Prize" kind of like the "Nobel" one. Keep up the good work.
Nice piece. I've heard of Keeling but knew nothing really about him or his curve. It's a good story, a nice simple explanation of global warming, presuming it's all or mostly about CO2. Thanks.
Interesting. When is your children's book re Keeling coming out?
Great little article on a big and important topic. And yes, that electronic billboard is a VERY good idea. Further, maybe Mr. Shea might think of doing for Charles David Keeling what he did a few years back for Chester Carlson of Xerox fame. Just a thought...
Great article! I am happy to learn something new every day. We should spread the word. The billboard in Times Square might make people wake up to what is happening to our universe as we speak!
Thank you for bringing to light the noble efforts of an unsung pioneer in the field of climate change. I'd like to see more articles of this kind!
This is a very interesting and informative article. I, too, think Charles Keeling would make a good subject for a children's book. It is always more interesting for children (and adults) to know about the person behind the scientific theory. Children can be inspired by his love of nature and his dedication. For us, adults, though, the question is: Should we continue to live are we do, or should we change our ways and leave the planet healthier and cleaner for future generations? So it is not only the Keeling curve which is important, but also the curve of our learning and understanding of what is happening to our home planet. Well done, Mr. Shea!
Wonderful piece. I do have a question, though, George: Today's lengthy NY Times article on climate change (which links to this post) says the current PPM is 390 while your post says 395. Do you know which number is correct? Aside from that question, those who haven't read it yet should check it out. It's both comprehensive and accessible -- perhaps the best primer on climate change that I've read. A powerful piece to send to any climate skeptic friends.
To the best of my reporter's knowledge, informed estimates range from around 385-395 ppm, depending upon when the measurements are taken (winter vs. summer). NASA currently pegs it at 391 ppm. Here's an excellent breakdown of concentrations data, from an Energy Department agency: Current Greenhouse Gas Concentrations.
Ken -- Thank you so much for writing. I was awfully gratified by your saying this was the best primer on climate change you've read. I've been writing for children for many years (always wanted to start a publishing company called CBBP -- Children's Books for Big People because 95% of Americans would rather not take the time to wade through a serious 300 page book about on the subject of global warming. Most still prefer to believe that there may be something to it but it's really not all that serious. ...I was originally motivated by the Tom Friedman column in the NY Times last Feb -- in so many words, "Couldn't a group of accomplished accreditted scientists sit down & come up with a hundred page summary of everything we need to know about climate change in a clear concise way that any sixth grader could understand?" Something like that. (Well the IPCC has done the job but, of course, not in sixth grader language). But that's what I'm trying to do. In the meantime, the Climate Central group (Do you know Michael Lemonick?) has done a book called WHAT WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE. It's being published by Pantheon -- I don't think it's available yet. In the meantime, I'm trying to do the same thing for children and their teachers and parents in about 72 pages or 15,000 words. It's been interesting. I've had a number of conversations with various members of the Keeling family -- I was at the SEJ conference in Missoula in October & discovered that many of its attendees had never heard of David Keeling or The Keeling Curve. Most of my well educated friends had never heard of Keeling -- I hope the current NY Times article on Keeling will make a difference. Something has to make a difference and soon. Sooner or later, I think it's going to take a thousand determined environmentalists (singing "We Shall Overcome?") standing on various railroad tracks blocking various coal trains to really have an impact. (Civil Rights didn't really take off until African-Americans started boycotting and demonstrating in the mid-1950's). Something else that would make a difference wd be an annual nation conference of all the major and minor environmental groups, Greenpeace, NRDC, Sierra, etc. Most organizations don't even have national conferences of their own members. So the various members don't much interact with one another. And demonstrations in Atlanta or LA or wherever tend to draw the same usual small number of suspects. The animal rights people have been holding a national conference every summer in D.C. or LA for years. It has made a difference. Even 5-6 years ago, factory farming was a well kept dirty secret. Thanks to the conferences & PETA, not anymore. I'll shut up now. If you'd like to reprint my article, please feel free to do it. Scott Dodd, the online editor, says I'm free to reprint it all over. In the meantime I wonder if you could offer me a useful suggestion (?) I'm looking around for an agent (and/or publisher) for the children's book I'm writing which is a biography of Keeling that, along the way, explains climate change in a simple interesting understandable way. (I've written published 25 children's books; you'd think it wd be easy). I've approached at least a dozen agents and so far it's been slow going. But if you have any useful suggestions, I'd be grateful for any you might make. Where did I come up with 395? I'll try to track the source -- I'm embarassed (I must be one of those alarmists). Drew Keeling & the NY Times & Drew's brother, Ralph Keeling says the correct number is 390. So that's it. Somehow, depending on the season & the time of day, it may be 395. But 390 is the actual official correct Keeling/Mauna Loa/Scripps/NY Times/Sheavian number. Thanks again, Ken. Happy Holidays. George Shea (818-980-6769)
This is a gripping article and should be read by EVERYBODY! It is a very, very important piece. I was astonished at the amount of information - and also about how little I knew. I can't wait for the children's book to come out and I intend to buy for all the kids I know!
Concise and lucid explanation of this very important work. Thank you George! More, please!
George -- please let me know when your book is available. About the GHG counter in New York . . . it is good to draw attention to the accumulation of 24 greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This is even more than the 6 that are monitored by the UNFCCC. Here's the thing: CO2 is far and away the most important greenhouse gas that comes from human sources. It's the one that drives humanity's leading environmental crises: global warming, climate change and ocean acidification. CO2 lies at the heart of these problems. The timely fall of atmospheric CO2 is key to dealing with these problems. This is the gas that most needs tackling. The Keeling Curve and information about CO2 information deserves a stand-alone profile ahead of any greenhouse gas. The Kyoto basket and the larger Deutsche Bank basket of greenhouse gases should continue to be monitored, discussed and on display. Let's just make sure everyone on the planet gets a chance to see and know about atmospheric CO2 and, of course, the famous Keeling Curve. Michael McGee ( PS: If a picture is worth a thousand words, the Keeling Curve is worth at least a million.
Michael -- Thank you for writing and I must apologize for not having gotten back to you sooner. I've bed in bed with some sort of flu for almost a week. About the book...I've been told that no major publisher would be interested. Or at least, no agent wants to take the time to find out. It's strictly for the educational market... small independent presses...I've had some interest from Mountain Press in Montana... It also seems right for Fulcrum...maybe Walker/Bloomsbury. It's a very bizarre time as I'm sure you agree. It seems less than one percent of the population has any clear idea of how dire the situation really is. It really is a well kept secret here in the U.S. I don't suppose it's much different in Canada. Education really is the key. That's why the simplicity and efficacy of Keeling's story had such appeal for me. But there's so little time. I'd like to write to the heads of major environmental organizations & encourage them to get together, pool their resources and memberships & hold an annual all inclusive convention, including all the groups, major and minor in Washington. I've seen the animal rights people get their message across this way. Until they started having an annual all inclusive annual convention in alternate years in Washington and Los Angeles, the movement consisted of various mostly little isolated groups with different agendas that never talked to one another, exchanged ideas. etc. It has made a big difference. I think we need to do something on the same model. Another good model: I think we also need to copy the actions of the civil rights movement in the U.S. Between the Birmingham Bus Boycott in Dec., 1955 and the passage of sweeping civil rights legislation by the U.S. Congress in 1965, there was a passage of less than ten years. A lot of demonstrations and a lot of civil disobedience and it worked. African-Americans in the U.S. had no confidence the government would take any action on it's own. I have no confidence in our government's moving quickly on this if at all and we're told we don't even have ten years. Anyway, that's what I'm doing, seeing if I can light a fire under someone at the NRDC or Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, etc. Thanks for writing, Michael. I've visited your website a number of times -- it's a valuable resource. I also spent a few days in Victoria a while back. It's an awfully nice city. . George Shea
George -- Thanks for making contact. It would be great to talk again. M.