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By Paul Bendix

Climate of Change

Uploaded: Feb 3, 2014

I admit to being obsessed, even haunted, by climate change. A banal saying from my youth – everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it – has acquired newly ironic depth.

What is there to do? Heed the warnings about fossil fuels and related greenhouse gases, of course. Unless it's too late. In which case, what am I worrying about?

Generally, this is one of those problems that seems so vast, so beyond human comprehension, let alone intervention, that it easily falls into the background. Oh, well. We did our best, and now desertification is turning California into a long, coastal Palm Springs. Too bad.

In my first full-time job, I was a science writer for Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. Having absolutely no technical or scientific abilities, my role was observer, outsider. I came to respect the scientists enormously. To advance in theoretical physics, I learned, requires fluency in five or six languages. Somehow, many physicists had energy left over to dabble in rock climbing or playing the violin. All I could do in their presence was listen and learn.

It was a struggle to read the journals, Science and Nature. I understood a little of scientific publications, but mostly got the general hang of the discipline. Research is a matter of endless disputation, a lifelong Socratic dialogue. The trick, for a layperson, is to see where the argument is trending. Unfortunately, with our climate, it's been trending the wrong way for decades.

Which is why on a Sunday morning when I call Caroline, one of my British cousins, to have a chat...I carefully steer the conversation away from climate change. She's an MD, my cousin, and should know how to read scientific reportage. Still, she is a skeptic on the topic of global warming. Nevermind that the disastrous impact is currently on full display in the UK. This includes nearby Gloucester, where unprecedented hurricanes have collided with tides in the Severn estuary...flooding villages, overflowing sewage plants. Anthropogenic climate change? It's happening around the world. My cousin isn't buying it. Problem is, I'm not selling it. No one is. It's just there.