Views and debates on climate change policy
Home | Panelists | Staff Blog | RSS

Donald F. Boesch
President, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Donald F. Boesch

Donald F. Boesch, an oceanographer, is president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and Vice Chancellor for Environmental Sustainability for the University System of Maryland. ALL POSTS

A mosaic?

Q: After a week in which the Obama Administration announced several major decisions -- opening new areas to offshore drilling, spelling out the details of tougher fuel-efficiency standards, and clamping down on "mountaintop" coal mining -- do you think the White House is on the right track on environmental matters?

I would hope that what we are seeing in the Obama Administration's recent announcements are the tiles in a mosaic that will be revealed, by stepping back, as a coherent picture upon completion. The nation desperately needs a comprehensive plan to address both the energy gap and climate crisis we are facing.

As I commented last week, greater fuel efficiency is a critical tile needed to get off foreign oil. Clamping down on the practice of filling valleys with rubble from mountain-top mining, thus seriously and permanently degrading water quality, is an important step in redressing the hidden costs of our dependence on the most carbon-intense of fossil fuels. Whether it is environmental destruction or mine safety, recent events make it clear that coal is not such a cheap fuel once we account for the full costs of extraction and use. Although to many opening areas to offshore drilling seems to be a step away from environmental protection and fossil fuel dependence, the Administration's proposal comes with a commitment to base decisions on science and to protect the environment. This may be part of the mosaic, for example to reduce foreign oil dependency and expand the supply of natural gas, a cleaner fuel for transition to a carbon-neutral future, but it's difficult to say absent the full picture.

Still, there is much of the mosaic for which the tiles are missing: commitment to caps on greenhouse gas emissions, a price on carbon, incentivizing and fast-tracking renewable energy, and an expanding and robust R&D effort, to name a few. Notably, significant enhancement of R&D is included in the President's budget proposal now before Congress.

The science supporting the requirements for dramatic reductions of greenhouse gas emissions needed over the next forty years in order to manage the dangers of climate change is robust. While a Washington Post article this week correctly indicated that climate models are not perfect, they do provide more than enough confidence to support actions now. Contrast this to the information and analysis that guides major economic decisions. Dana Milbank quotes past Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan as saying "I was right 70 percent of the time, but I was wrong 30 percent of the time. If we get it right 70 percent of the time, that is exceptionally good." At least with regard to the risk of exaggerating the extent of climate change that we will experience unless emissions are reduced, climate change projections are far, far more reliable than that.

By Donald F. Boesch  |  April 8, 2010; 3:41 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Economic consequences | Next: Proliferation or not?


Please report offensive comments below.

Just how much Federal grant money do you get to conduct your "research"?

Posted by: meinsenkaye007 | April 11, 2010 6:43 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Obozo is a joke. He parrots the Albore talking points on Gorebal Whining, but is so brainwashed!!! He doesn't know jack!!!

Sea level. Hmm. Interesting question. If one uses the past as a guide, one can expect the sea level sooner or later to rise 20 feet. It's happened in the past. It'll happen again. However, the reason won't be Gorebal Whining. It will be natural variation.

I also expect that sooner or later that sea levels will fall 300+ feet below current levels. It's happened before. It'll happen again.

What the truth is is that these losers loathe capitalism and democracy and want to replace it with a left wing elitist oligarchy that can tell everyone what to do because they "know better." Over my dead body!!!


Posted by: A1965bigdog | April 11, 2010 12:38 AM
Report Offensive Comment

I don't know whether posting a question here is worth the time because I don't believe that I have ever seen an author respond to a comment, but anyway:

Could you give a few real world examples of where climate change projections were reliable?

I have seen many projections about melting polar ice, hurricanes, kids who won't have snow to play in, rising sea level, etc. None of these have come to pass. To the best of my knowledge there are not really any examples of climate models projecting anything of substance that has actually happened as originally projected.

For example in your field, sea level has risen about a total of 3-4 inches during the thirty or so years that satellite measurements have been available. Is that a sea level rise that confirmed a published projection? If the satellite period is treated as a linear number series, we would expect 3-4 inches in the next thirty years; is there an actual projection of where sea level will be in 10, 20, or 30 years?

Posted by: AGWsceptic99 | April 9, 2010 5:41 PM
Report Offensive Comment

Post a Comment

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company