Friday’s Callow Strike for a ‘Perfect’ Climate


Young people around the world went on "strike" Friday as a statement of their concern about climate change. Perhaps that makes this a good time to consider climate change on a scale much larger than their short lifetimes.

Since our earth first obtained an atmosphere, the global climate has been changing. Someone has put the idea into the young minds of last week’s strikers that it is both possible and desirable to arrest earth’s ever-changing climate. I suspect, however, that it is as impossible to stop earth’s climate from changing as it would be to prevent the oceans from having tides.

Even if one accepts the suggestion that humans can end climate change and forever maintain earth’s climate at the most desirable state, it might be a good idea to examine what that ideal state might be. It would have spoiled Friday’s student strike if they had known that mankind has throughout history fared better when global temperatures were higher than they are today. They would be dismayed to learn that sea levels have been 700 feet higher than today’s level as well as 425 feet lower. In a display of arrogance, these strikers believe the climate of our earth should remain only as it was when they were born — that we grown-ups must now stop it from changing.

History is often beyond the ken of young minds. Fortunately, we have a great deal of scientific data about the history of earth’s changing climate and data about the numbers of lives lost each year from "cold weather" and "hot weather" aberrations. (USA Today says that at current climate conditions cold weather annually kills 20 times more people on earth than hot weather.)

While youth are urged to panic about the 5-inch rise of sea levels during my 65 years of life, they do not bother to learn that during a similar short 65-year period of time in the recent past (since the last glaciation) sea levels rose 10 feet.

Those of you a bit older than Friday’s strikers will remember when climate alarmists of the mid-20th century warned us of the coming Ice Age.

You may have even read the Harper’s Magazine article, "The Coming Ice Age," published in 1958 (still available on line).

From my perspective, there will be continued global warming for some time. There also will be more episodes where glaciers will cover the parts of North America that I love so much.

But, I will not be asking you to abandon your activities to insist that your legislators "do something." I have little faith, though, that our legislators actually accomplish what they intend with legislation. I have even less faith that they can (or should) create laws that will arrest earth’s constantly changing climate.

And please don’t inform our strikers about the sun’s limited hydrogen fuel. If they learn that it will someday burn out, we’ll never get them back into classes.

Dr. Ken Bisson grew up in the Finger Lakes region of New York state, earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Indiana University, Bloomington, and moved to Steuben County in 1980 after completing medical school at I.U. He raised four children in Angola and has 10 Hoosier grandchildren. Elected chairman of the Steuben County Lakes Advisory Board, he researches environmental issues and is known to care dearly about the quality of Steuben County’s 101 Lakes.

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