Well, it finally happened. The story about the Russian astrologer suing NASA over the “Deep Impact” mission hit mainstream media (NPR) this morning on “Morning Edition”. Yikes! And I thought this pointless mess would be relegated forever to the pages of Google News!
In science, when one trend tracks another in perfect synchronization – that is, the absolute value and the change in slope of two distributions track point for point – we treat that as a potential correlation and investigate the relationship. This is what climatologists have been doing for decades now, along with geologists, chemists, biologists, geophysicists, and many other research. Their interest have been focused on the seeming 100% correlation between human carbon dioxide output and the change in global average temperature over the period of time since the industrial revolution.
The evidence for the relationship is overwhelming. Ice core samples from the Antarctic, frozen photographs of the Earth’s climate over hundreds of thousands of years, tell the tale: in the past, changes in global CO2 have effected change in climate, and the change induced by humanities use of fossil fuels is inspiring the change right now. Maps of the ocean’s temperature, satellite observations of the atmosphere and the absorbed/radiated energy from the earth, all point to global climate change. The cause? Again, that pesky one-to-one tracking of temperature and CO2 output…
So why, if the scientific community has reached an evidentiary consensus, does the world’s largest economic power (with most of the world’s current greenhouse gas output) “refuse to partake in measures with its global partners to curtail these emissions?”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4647383.stm. Why is the President, our executor and the nation’s mouthpiece at the coming G8 Summit, saying things like “human activity was ‘to some extent’ to blame”? Who is he speaking for, if not for the U.S. scientific community (which ought to have the final say in whether there is a relationship and how strong the case is for this relationship)? Who is writing his dialog, if not the pen of reason?
To his credit, President Bush appears willing to compromise. However, the line of compromise is drawn where the restraint on CO2 emissions hits the wallet, or challenges current industrial methods. While he appears willing to accept “new technology” to effect a slowdown in global climate change – whatever “new technology” means – why can’t the President accept that to beat this addiction we have to CO2 emissions we have to make sacrifices, AND introduce new technology, AND replace our current dominant fuel sources? Scientists have been saying for several years that there is no magic climate change bullet, no one breakthrough that will fix the problem like a bandaid. Only with a combination of many approaches, some harmful to current business practices, can we solve this problem we created.
And we’d better start setting an example soon. The U.S. won’t be the biggest emitter in 10 years, thanks to rapid industrialization in nations like China. If we don’t set an example, how can we expect them to follow us?
Here is an example image of what NASA has been showing on NASA TV. Here you can see the impact. The pictures will all be downloaded from the remaining vessel and cleaned up over the next few days, according to the interview that have been on tonight.
This one is hot off their main website, “http://www.nasa.gov/deepimpact”:http://www.nasa.gov/deepimpact:
Tonight, the Deep Impact NASA mission appears to have made history: the first probe, sent by our species, into the surface of a comet. This mission will shed new light on the early solar system as we break into this frozen snapshot. The first pictures are amazing – a white cloud of dust and particulates was kicked up by the impactor, and the NASA engineering and science teams went NUTS!
Congrats!!!! We all look forward not just to the images but also the science behind them!