Writer's own expert speaks out about climate change

September 26, 2017

On Sept. 19, Geary Foertsch issued another defense of his column praising President Trump's decision to leave the Paris climate agreement.

Here's a rundown. People who disagree with Foertsch about climate change are zealots, "never admit to error," and don't care about taxpayer money. He ended with a passive-aggressive attack questioning the honesty of his opponents: "It makes me wonder if my critics are totally upfront with us about global warming," Foertsch wrote.

Wow. Sounds like he's got nothing.

Foertsch also made a curious argument. Foertsch has listed various arguments in his favor that appear to be plucked from the gazillion things available on the internet. Neither I nor other critics have addressed all of Foertsch's items. From this, Foertsch has concluded that we are sidestepping or ignoring these arguments. Therefore, he wins.

Sorry, Mr. Foertsch, but there can be many reasons for not addressing each and every factoid dredged up online. They include time, space and/or deciding some things aren't worth a response. But I will indulge you this time and address the first item that you accused us of ignoring.

Here it is: Foertsch wrote, "No response to Al Gore advisor Jim Hansen's statement about believing in renewables rapidly phasing us off fossil fuels is like 'believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.'" This is the second time Foertsch has cited Hansen as an expert, so I think it's safe to assume Foertsch considers him an excellent source. And Hansen has good credentials.

He's a climate scientist, retired from NASA. But I was puzzled about why Foertsch would use Hansen as a source, especially after I looked up his 17-minute speech on Ted Talk, a radio and online series featuring various experts.

Here are some quotes from that talk, which is titled, "Why I Must Speak Up About Climate Change."

• Back in the '80s, Hansen testified before Congress. At that time, he predicted "heatwaves and droughts on one hand, directly from the warming, but also - because a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor with its latent energy - rainfall will come in more extreme events. There will be stronger storms and greater flooding."

Hansen said that more than 35 years ago. In light of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, I'd say he was on to something.

Here's another quote.

• "By 15 years later, evidence of global warming was much stronger. Most of the things mentioned in our 1981 paper were facts ... But energy policies continued to focus on finding more fossil fuels."

And why didn't Foertsch tell us about this next quote?

• "What sea level rise can we look forward to? The last time CO2 was 390 ppm, today's value, sea level was higher by at least 15 meters, 50 feet. Where you are sitting now would be under water. Most estimates are that, this century, we will get at least one meter. I think it will be more if we keep burning fossil fuels."

I can't help wondering if Foertsch is being "totally upfront with us about global warming."

The point is, Hansen obliterates Foertsch's position on climate change. He states clearly and emphatically that climate change is real, that it's man-made and that we can do something to limit the damage to our environment. There are questions, of course, about the best path to follow, and that's why you'll find Hansen quoted by some conservatives. He's spoken in favor of a carbon tax and of nuclear power. But he's been adamant about the reality of climate change and the need for action.

Despite what Foertsch might think, I agree with Hansen: Weaning ourselves off fossil fuels presents a big challenge. Easy? No. Doable? Yes. America has accomplished many things that were hard. In 1962, President Kennedy spoke to that America.

"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard," Kennedy said, "because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too." Imagine what we could accomplish today if a president offered that kind of leadership.

Building the Panama Canal was hard. So was bringing electricity to rural America. Providing clean drinking water to virtually everyone in the country has been compared to the moon landing as a technological marvel.

Along the way, we defeated the German, Japanese and Soviet empires. More recently, we've made huge strides in wind power in states such as Iowa and North Dakota. I look out my window and see solar panels on neighbors' houses.

We are capable of great things, of solving great problems. But, first, we must recognize those problems. That's why I'm rebutting a letter that in many ways isn't worth the time.

"Climate-change deniers" - a phrase used by Hansen himself - don't have to be right or logical or even coherent to win the argument. All they have to do is shout loud enough to convince people that the issue is too controversial to touch. It's not.

Among scientists, there's widespread agreement about climate change and its causes. Polls show the same agreement among the general public.

But if you have doubts about climate change, please check out Jim Hansen's Ted Talk. After all, Hansen has the Official Foertsch Seal of Approval.

Don Flood is a former newspaper editor living in Lewes. He can be reached at


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