Jeremy Thorner

Jeremy Thorner 

     The hardest lessons we have now all learned is that, aside from the unthinkable prospect of nuclear war, planetary warming is the most serious threat to our survival and that the political will to impose the restrictions and extract the sacrifices that need to be made to confront the problem effectively is just not there.  And so, in our powerlessness to cease all the activities that require the burning of fossil fuels and to convert immediately to clean renewable sources of energy, we must all weep for the future we are bequeathing to our children, grandchildren and the generations to follow.

      Well, over a century ago, after the Industrial Revolution, it was realized that an increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 would have consequences for our planetary temperature, when in 1896, the legendary Swedish physical chemist Svante Arrhenius published a study entitled "On the influence of carbonic acid [i.e. CO2] in the air upon the temperature of the ground."  Forty years ago, in 1981, NASA scientist James Hansen published a prescient paper in Science reminding us all, in no uncertain terms, about the dangers of the rise in human-generated CO2 levels in our atmosphere.  And, it's been a decade-and-a-half since our fellow Harvard alumnus Al Gore (Class of 1969) first released the original version of his movie ("An Inconvenient Truth") in 2006 again raising the alarm about the causes of climate change and its consequences.  And, still virtually NOTHING has been done, except lip service to the problem.

     The evidence is overwhelming and incontrovertible that greenhouse gases [CO2, SO2 (acid rain), NO, etc.] generated from the burning of fossil fuels, from raising animals as food [CH4], and from industrial products [e.g. fluorinated hydrocarbons] are the culprits in trapping the Sun's heat, causing global warming and thus the ensuing drastic changes in our climate.  The global warming our planet has suffered already is causing near catastrophic extreme weather events (floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, massive wild-fires), acidifying the oceans, melting the polar ice caps, the glaciers and the permafrost in the tundra, and, in the process, destroying ecosystems and causing precipitous declines in precious and irreplaceable biodiversity.

     If enlightened and privileged individuals like us don't take this challenge seriously and with the immediacy it deserves, who else will?  If we don't make the necessary sacrifices ourselves (e.g. give up that luxury retirement cruise around the world on a dirty diesel exhaust-spewing ocean liner), how can we ask any other segment of society to do so?  If we don't get up out of our chairs and demand that our local, State, Federal and international leadership take action to save Earth, then, as I said above, you can kiss it goodbye now.  As they say, there is no Plan(et) B.

Sincerely yours,

Distinguished Professor Emeritus Jeremy Thorner

Division of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology

University of California Berkeley