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About that global warming - Sorry kids

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Sorry kids.

Please forgive our mess.

We taught you to clean up your messes and not cry over spilled milk.  And now it looks like we made a mess that affects us all.

Global warming is starting to get very uncomfortable - and will get much worse.  It was years ago that your mom and I apologized on behalf of our generation.   “Eat your salmon,” we would say, “because when you kids grow up, it’ll probably be extinct.  Sorry about that.  Ha, ha, ha.”   It was a blend of joke and off-hand apology.


But now that I see the projections and learn more about looming climate changes, I feel deeply ashamed.   Most all climate models and scientific studies plot out their grim scenarios up to the year 2100The closer we get to that century-mark, the more radical the change we will experience.  Much of that is in your lifetime.  Sorry about that.   And increasing warming and destabilization will continue into the next century - well into the lifetimes of your children.  Sorry about that, too.

Honest, we want to march together into a better world.  Parents want to pass along happiness and an improved life for their children.  But the minimum requirement was that we protect you and keep you safe.   When it comes to atmosphere and oceans, it looks like we made it worse for everybody.  Until recently, we really didn’t know the extent of the damage caused by our greenhouse gas emissions.   Some people purposefully ignored the problem and even directly promoted denying it.  Too many just didn’t want to stop the carbon party.  Many still don’t want to stop.   No matter how hard the world tries to stop and fix it, a persistent degradation of atmosphere and ocean will continue for decades.  It may take hundreds of years - even thousands, to get things back to a reasonably healthy condition.  


Unlike any other time we have experienced, this world will increasingly become a difficult and painful place in which to live.  We are sorry, we beg your forgiveness.  We didn’t want global warming.  We could have done better.  It was over a hundred years ago - in 1908 that publications told us that CO2 is a greenhouse gas that causes warming.  Scientists continually studied the issue, and Science Advisory Councils to Presidents Johnson, Nixon and Carter reported that human-caused CO2 emissions cause atmospheric heating  Ever since, we have tolerated lies about the cause of the problem.  It was us.  We failed to act then, and we are failing to react now.


Our failure burdens us with a sense of shame and regret that I no longer want to carry.   I want to  accept responsibility, look at the issue clearly and move forward together while we can.    The world was ours to protect, we broke the sacred promise that every parent carries.  The least we can do now is to stop making things worse.   We can learn to mitigate the damage, teach how to adapt to change, and discover our new future.

Please accept our apologies.  Please forgive us.  

Richard Pauli
April 2010


CopyCommons. Please feel free to re-post this essay non-commercially -while retaining links and author’s name.

   The writer, Richard Pauli, is age 60, a step-parent to three adult children (now in their mid 20’s).   He is a former high-tech worker in the Seattle area - and is currently unemployed.  His primary blogs are - which discusses denial and devoted to personal messages and rants.

++++++++++++++Addenda: related links - added 4-2010+++++++++

What did you do, once you knew? a video poem from Drew Dellinger:

Planetize the Movement from Drew Dellinger on Vimeo.

Time to man-up an essay on action

And what did you do daddy? essay by Steve Easterbrook:

Geography is Destiny

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Modern human civilization has been defined by the geology/geography of our planet.

We lived through a consistently paced human history until the time of the industrial revolution - then our civilization really took off.   The biggest factor was cheap and easy-to-find oil that literally gushed from the ground.

This highly efficient form of energy nurtured the heavy industries of steel, railroads, energy and enabled huge, leap-frog changes, wars, conquest, skyscrapers, ships, automotive etc.


And humans managed to conquer the vast oceans too — but not until we could navigate over the forbidden horizons of water.  Navigation away from safe shorelines required accurate timekeeping to navigate using the sun and moon to calculate precise locations.  Whereas, land-based navigation requires only a view of any landmark - any map will suffice.  Without the geography of oceans covering most of our planet, where was our need to innovate?

The same applies to the pressure to invent the radio.  Land based transit and communications had been doing quite well with telegraph wires and telephones.  But the oceanic barriers were well-tamed by wireless communication.  Radios were first used as wireless telegraphs to communicate with shipping.

Our planet geography has determined, directed, and demanded technical innovation.  The transoceanic underwater cable is still used today - but it is very expensive to lay thousand of miles of cable.  That cost and risk pushed for the launch of communication satellites that more than replaced undersea cable functionality.

The very geography of our planet has directed civilization.


“What if” is a great exercise in understanding history.  Imagine our civilization without any oil - we would have seen a very limited, slower industrial revolution - more evolutionary.  And of course, plentiful liquid fuel is key to our wide dependence on aviation.

Or imagine a history in a world without such vast oceans.  If our seas were small (like the Mediterranean or smaller), then land-based transit might still dominate - no need for as many ships.  We would have no need for navigation, no need for accurate timepieces, no pressing need for radio.  Geology is destiny.

I look forward to reading Geodestinies by Dr Walter Youngquist - called “the classic text on global resources and their depletion”.

A new edition for this 12 year old book is due out soon… good thing, as this is out-of-print (1997), with used copies going for around $80 and up…

The future of less will arrive for citizens of industrial and developing countries by small increments of change, but which, in retrospect will combine to be seen as a century of profound changes to a degree of rapidity and consequence as never before.  We now live moment by moment, only moderately aware of these incremental changes.  It is unlikely, although not impossible, that there will be catastrophic changes in lifestyles and economies.  But slowly and inevitably the related problems of resource depletion and population growth will become increasingly apparent.  We have the opportunity in various ways to modify the impact of these events, but so far there is little evidence this is being done. The industrial world and its political framework seems committed to the road of increased consumption and more people to consume, for that is what keeps the game going - for the moment, but is unsustainable very far into the future.

Walter Youngquist, November 2009 from


Amazon book reviewers had nothing but great comments.

Worth checking this blog since it attracts some very wise comments.

Al Gore presents Our Choice

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Now we begin to know just how serious is our problem with global warming.   

Al Gore is getting out a ruthlessly realistic message: civilization needs to choose - although he does not own this message.   Gore is just a vehicle for connecting with millions of viewers.  On the Late Show with David Letterman he was promoting his book - Our Choice.  He speaks directly about the extent of the problem to a serious and respectful Letterman; later too with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

Gore on David Letterman
alternate link

And Jon Stewart also had Gore on his show

This is a sea change, a paradigm shift.   The issue is now mainstreamed.   And in the coming months, in Copenhagen and in unfolding climate events - the issue will saturate the public.

Climate Progress calls it a must read book.

We are getting the sense that governments are unable to solve our really big problems - and the very biggest, climate destabilization cannot be solved, it can only be mitigated and adapted to.   We can no longer squander carbon for transitory comfort because it robs from the future.   Facing a painful future of our own making, we now must reshape our social/psychological lives.   The destabilzation of climate extends to civilization itself.

The debate on the realities of both climate change and Peak Oil has moved from ‘are they real?’ to questions concerning timing, magnitude and impact.  At the same time, expanding research in ‘temporal discounting’ in economics (called ‘impulsivity’ in psychology), is shedding light on how steeply we value the present over the future, a trait with ancient origins.  Knowing this tendency, how can we expect factual updates on peak oil and climate change to behaviorally compete with Starbucks, sex, slot machines, and ski trips? Science is rapidly increasing our knowledge about the planet.  To affect change however, we might have to become equally knowledgeable about ourselves. Living for the Moment while Devaluing the Future   From the 2007

We should act without fear and move forward.   And we want to avoid the irrational narcotic effect of hope because it allows us to ignore and delay.   Too much hope fosters inaction and inattention.  We hope for yet uninvented technology, hope for unrealized political and superhuman industrial solutions and most of all we hope for a leap in human evolution that might enable it all.   Last year, William Prust delivered a simpatico idea in his popular message “Our Time” at the site   Gore is just saying it is Our Choice to make.   William Prust is just saying right now is the time.   Meanwhile, Gore is trying to lighten up just a bit when appearing on The Colbert Report:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Formidable Opponent - Global Warming With Al Gore
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorU.S. Speedskating

Our Children and Their Future

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The first thing to do with the future is prepare our children for it.

We have formed a general picture of global warming changes ahead.  A toddler today, living to the year 2100 could fully experience the horrific scenarios predicted.


The science says the range of possibilities are somewhere between harsh incovenience and outright human extinction.    Any other descriptions of future prospects - are poorly described, based on religion, or politics, or pure fantasy.  We have to stick with the scientifically plausible.

We must stop ignoring, denying or apologizing to our children and start preparing them for their unique future.

Parents think wonderful thoughts for their child’s future — but by protecting their family, parents may unintentionally impart a bias against seeing a grim future.   The family structure itself acts to separate the family child from all other children world wide.

Some people will go without, in an effort to change the world voluntarily.   But almost no people will let their children go without, so the world changes only involuntarily.

This is perhaps the trap in intelligence: it requires long parenting, which requires strong bonding.   So it all ends up being run for, as is by, children.     R. Bready Oct 2009

The picture and place of our world in 2100 is totally without human precedent - climate models and  scenarios all project astounding changes ahead while our education is stuck in another era.  This is now the Anthropcene - a period where humans are making a significant global impact on climate, ecosystem and geology

Projections usually describe a future in terms of degrees of temperature warming (global average).   So far 2 degrees is the unavoidable minimum projection - and six degrees is catastrophic and cannot be ruled out.   We move inexorably into that zone between discomfort and demise - and we are not ready, and we are not making our children ready.

Move beyond anxiety.

Apologizing is a nice start  “Sorry that your world will not be as nice as we want for you.  We don’t seem to know the solution.  You will need to learn the answers.  But you can and will make your own life solutions.”  We need to speak clearly.  We need to give them all the tools they need. 

College is not working - future studies as a new curriculum.

The liberal arts education may no longer be the best idea.  My friend Gail, tells me that her daughter is dropping out of college.  She says, “it will save us $100K, but I am not sure if it is the best for her future.”   It may be time to re-evaluate the purpose of education. Emeritus Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, Edward Sarachik, says we should completely redefine college curricula as “future studies.”   A great idea; all courses would be derived from future studies: history, math, bio-sciences, law, medicine, architecture, to engineering and psychology - everything we need to prepare students for their changing world.

My neighbor, John Roberts says he knows what kind of education is needed for young kids.   “I would head to the woods; fishing, farming, camping, nature, water, sky, everything is an education - introducing them to the world around them”.  He wants to impart an understanding of change, adaptation, living off the land.  

Of course, every child needs a basic education to interact in a technical world.   But noticeably missing is the training and practice in how humans are most weak:  thinking and deciding skills needed in future planning, evidence evaluation, risk analysis and smart social interactions.  Our tragic flaw is that we are an emotionally gullible species that is too easily swayed by advertising and opinion-makers.


The year 2100 is not the end

Most science predictions seem to have a boundary of 2100, but we know warming will continue way past that date.  We are ill-suited to face our  future and need serious lessons in adaptation, mitigation, civility, sustainability.  Pity is that parents, schools, universities are so slow to come out of climate denialism…children today need serious preparation.  Otherwise, what kind of world are we preparing them for?  

Everyone should view the famous comic routine by the late George Carlin, in which he castigates those anxious “Save the Planet” campaigns.  In his deeply philosophical rant Carlin reminds us that the earth is fine, it is humans that are in trouble.   Despite all the charts and graphs that seem to end at the year 2100 — the earth will continue well beyond the year 2100.   But our children may not.

We are creatures of cycles.  Our species has deeply ingrained the 24 hour day/night cycle, and less so the monthly, seasonal and yearly cycles - but we directly feel few cycles beyond that.  Even births and deaths must be marked by unique celebrations rather than moments in accepted cycles of a longer time scale.   The further we gaze into the future, the more difficult it is for us to comprehend.   But we should expect there will be a world, and that humans have a chance to dwell on it.  It is time to prepare our children for the future we are giving them.

========  some links  ========================
The Anthopocene
George Carlin
Thinking and Deciding by Jonathan Baron,PersonalandHealthEducationSPHE/Social,PersonalandHealthEducationSPHETeacherGuidelines/SchoolplanningforSPHE/Creatingapositiveschoolclimateandatmosphere/

Climate models…
EPA offers school curricula on climate change

Why We Are Doomed - The only hope is...

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News is grim, and negative rants abound, the science suggest there is only one way for humans to survive:

Manifesto for Human Survival   Our species must first decide that we want to survive, preserve civilization, and we are willing to halt all GHGs [greenhouse gasses] and even sequester existing GHGs.
The only solution lies with the embracing of brutally strong global government, Government as an enforcer - a hive mind, Orwellian, totalitarian, and global.   Governmental power is derived from the universal commitment to human survival for both today and the future,
The anarchist, neo-con, wishing-to-destroy-government will not work to promote survival (unless all humans spontaneously decide to reduce GHGs).  Only a well-organized government, whether a democracy, or a benign dictatorship, or totalitarian regime can bring about the ruthless adherence to physical rules required to radically reduce GHGases in the atmosphere.  

This must be a 50 to 500 year process to begin and more like thousands of years to prove.  So this will need to be rigidly sustainable and answerable to atmospheric levels.  Social structure and social decisions must fit with environmental reality.  (Does anyone think that everyone on the planet will all agree voluntarily to these changes - without strong enforcement?)

Immediate, total power.  Ruthless to all matters of atmospheric engineering
Assign tasks, delegate specific responsibility.. including enforcement that extends globally.

First - all corporate charters amended to adhere to progressive strictures of no carbon output.  All consumer products & services will have  CO2 and GHG and energy expenditure figures.

 If no compliance, then no sale, if no co-operation, then no permission to exist.
       Carbon tax will extend to all this

Advertising must include these numbers.
Advertising cannot promote superfluous carbon or CO2 exhaust
- A packaging council to regulate & dictate packaging to be minimal, non-toxic, recyclable.

All energy use with warnings of environmental damage.

Energy efficiency enabled, enforced and enhanced  (e5) 
     Inefficient power consumption super taxed

Water, Electric and heating for minimal use = no tax, beyond minimal survival — heavily, heavily, heavily taxed.
Assign enforcement by neighborhoods watch people
Carbon tax,  Swift and immediate.  For all carbon consumption… building a car, fuel, bottled water, etc.
    Carbon tax rebate, relief for objects that are carbon sinking or efficiency producing

For gas cars.. 10 gal/month no tax.. each gallon above that is $5/gaL TAX…above 10 gal/ month super tax

         Mileage tax = good mileage=low tax, bad mileage= supertaxed

Immediate and ruthless efficiency to energy usage
           halt all carbon stupid product mfg now.  ie No incandescent bulbs ever again,
          Develop or subsidize LCDs
        Insulation, heating, water, building codes all gold standard

            Exisitng housing insulation ..

Sponsored Resource sharing.  or heavy taxes on not sharing resources.
rideshare, shipping, commerce.

All Airline flights over land are immediately prohibited
        Only flights over water allowed  - large bodies, full planes,

All land transit by train subsidized $ govt supported by taxes.
Railroads subsidized and run as a national public utility 

All coal plants shut down immediately, pending solutions.
All energy companies nationalized public utilities,

Immediate research projects:
Research into clean coal.
Research into superconductivity

Research into Fusion power
Solar, Wind, tidal, geo thermal,

Communications will be run as national public utilities, non co-operation means nationalization
Population: ZPG and less 
       One child/family immediately.   birth control widely available and fully provided

       Single child family
       Women bearing more than one child taxed heavily, 
       Bearing 3 children means enforced sterilization, men in a multi-child relationship snipped.

All Conflict resolution must be carbon free.  No combustibles, no engines. Wars and violence will be carbon free.   This is to be rigidly enforced.  If violent then bows and arrows and spears

Severity of these restrictions increases as CO2 fails to decline

Too severe?  Then return to first premise - to  Live or to Die?

Richard Pauli
Sept 2008

author’s note:  I started to write footnotes and set links, then I figured it would just invite arguments over sources and data.  All this is based on easily discoverable science, mostly from the IPCC reports.  The political science conjecture, is just that - conjecture.  But it should be beyond policy, it should be global law