This is the third article in the weekly series. Great read.
I decided to go into the office while the Inauguration was taking place. I will catch the speech on the internet this week. I’ve heard good things about President Obama’s speech and the wording he used (finally) on climate change. However, the most (in quantity) buzz was about the First Lady’s new hairstyle sporting bangs. I adore the First Couple. I think they have taken the spotlight in stride and I expect big things in the second term. It is just troubling to think a considerable amount of press is coming from a change in hairstyle by Mrs. Obama. I must admit, it did make The Daily Show and Colbert Report fun to watch. I dream of the day when substance will garner more ratings than discussing the change in appearance of a public official (or their spouse). My only hope the new twitter account and bangs are just the first step in promoting more grand ideas to make the country better. You have to love a good bait and switch.
I’m sorry. I can not personally stand for politics in science. The climate hearings a few years back are what gave the Koch brother/Big Oil-backed “scientists” their first national recognition which opened the flood gates for what we see today within the general public who believe there is still a debate among scientists about the effect of human activity on climate change. Giving this additional talk time to the politically-charged deniers more spotlight makes it even more difficult for sane people to keep up. Unfortunately, those who know and try to speak the truth can’t shout. If we do, the politically biased members of the debate just call us bleeding hearts and tree huggers. This is one reason climate scientists quickly backed down in 2008ish.
One of my top goals in life is to help the general public understand something very plain and simple. A vast, almost unanimous, number of scientists do not pursue science for riches or become a celebrity. Becoming a scientists takes years of very hard work and dedication that can not be understood unless you have been through it. There is flexibility in your schedule in grad school. You are able to pick which 80 hours a week you work. Even after receiving a Ph.D., scientists still must wait years (usually) before having a steady job, ie faculty position or equivalent. The postdoc is a long, arduous job with long long hours. There is no money or security incentive for a majority of scientists until well into their 40s. Does this seem like a glamorous path to riches and celebrity?
I digress. My point is; the reason scientists do what they do is because they have a passion, a curiosity which compels them to figure out how Nature works and finding answers for their/our questions. Period. Scientists are objective. We have to be. Going into an investigation with pre-conceived, subjective ideas will lead to ruin as no other members of the scientific community will consider your results valid. Therefore, no publications will occur making funding impossible. Objectivity is a must. I sound very made in this post and maybe I am. Misconceptions don’t sit well with me.
This is a call to the sane, logical members of society, scientists or not, to help. We need a national voice, a portal to convey the truth. I have a headache.
I want to start by saying I am part of the national labs system. I’m at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and work as a science writer for a small group that publishes for the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within DOE. That being said, I’m still a concerned citizen as well. I want my daughter to experience this planet as I have. This opinion article in the Washington Post by Naomi Oreskes, a professor of history and science studies at the University of California at San Diego, is brilliant and articulate. Straight at the heart of what the Executive Branch can do without going through the cluster f#ck that is Congress. However, as always, it comes down to money and reapportioning funding for the suggested changes in this article would essentially have to go through Congress. Here are the suggestions in the article:
●Alternative energy. The climate problem is fundamentally an energy problem. While strides have been made — by both industry and government — in developing alternative energy sources, renewables still provide only a sliver of the U.S. energy profile. The scale of renewable energy research and development needs to be radically increased.
●Carbon capture and storage. Shale gas development in the United States and Canada is generating jobs and revenue and could substantially decrease our reliance on petroleum. But shale gas is still gas — methane: a fossil fuel that when burned produces carbon dioxide. Large-scale development may exacerbate the climate problem if inexpensive gas undercuts the market for renewables. If, however, shale gas development could be coupled with carbon capture and storage, trapping the carbon dioxide produced, then this resource might be usable without worsening climate change.
●Energy storage. Wind and solar are real sources of energy, but only when the wind blows or the sun shines. Yet many wind and solar projects produce excess capacity that could be used later or elsewhere if it could be stored. Ideas for renewable-energy storage need to be developed and expanded.
●Social obstacles to energy efficiency. Numerous studies show that Americans could cut energy use by 30 percent or more through efficiency measures and save money at the same time. Yet most of us don’t. This is a bit of a mystery for economists; social science research in the laboratory system should be mobilized to figure out why we don’t save energy and money even when we could.
●Climate engineering. Deliberate alteration of the climate to compensate for inadvertent modification is a technically and ethically troubling concept, but it may be one of the only available means to slow climate warming and buy time while other solutions are implemented. Physical scientists should expand their work in this area, and social scientists and humanists should be enlisted to address the ethical dimensions and governance issues.
Curiosity-driven science has not yet provided the solutions to global warming, and universities are not well situated to address a single, overarching problem. Moreover, the president does not have authority over our nation’s universities. But he does have authority over our national laboratory system. The labs have been mobilized before; the time has come to mobilize them again.
The last part (in bold) is a great remark and one I completely agree with. These suggestions should be sent to the White House, perhaps through the petitions website. Are you with me?