Shadowed Pathways

NWF   |   April 20, 2006

I have long been troubled by the mounting scientific evidence warning of enormous and unprecedented ecological threats presented by global warming.  Now we see the very beginnings of the predicted consequences—intense storms, hurricanes, coastal flooding, droughts with forest and grassland fires and a breathtaking loss of ice worldwide.

I am also frustrated and angry by the complete lack of progress on energy and conservation policy in Washington DC.  Instead of showing global leadership, our Nation has become a global scofflaw on climate change.   

Meanwhile, their strategy has been to distract national conservation organizations with repeated attempts to damage the legal framework for environmental protection.  We have been forced to spend time and energy preventing repeated attempts by the administration to roll back critical conservation policies that have stood our Nation well for three decades. 

This distraction has prevented Americans from recognizing the profound threats presented by the billions of tons of greenhouse gases emitted into our atmosphere each month.  Through the burning of oil, coal and other fossil fuels, we are liberating carbon, methane and other greenhouse gases that have been sequestered for millions of years. The latest EPA report shows that that U. S. emissions are up 1.7% proving that the President’s voluntary program is bankrupt and without merit.

As we change the makeup of our atmosphere, we are surely changing our climate in ways that will have profound impacts on the lives of our children’s children.  Using widely accepted predictive climate models, nineteen of the world’s leading ecological scientists studied six eco-regions covering 20 percent of the earth’s land area.  They published a peer-reviewed study in the January 2004 issue of the magazine Nature.  The landmark study concludes that unless we cut greenhouse gas emissions significantly, between 15 and 37 percent of the living resources of this planet will become extinct by 2050. That hits home for me as I have spent the last four decades trying to keep wildlife in our future.  A second study has confirmed these findings.

John A. Brashear the founding chair of what is now Carnegie Mellon University and one of America’s innovative scientists in the Victorian period once wrote,

"The science most worthwhile in this world is that which takes sunlight from behind the clouds and sprinkles it on the shadowed pathways of fellow travelers." 

I see my job confronting global warming as clearing away the clouds of confusion so the sunshine of sound science can enlighten the pathway to our common future. Looking ahead, I am optimistic that the American public will soon be able cut through all the cynical obfuscation and discover the truth about what lies ahead for all humanity.  For the sake of our grand children, please join with me in this effort.

Published: April 20, 2006