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Professor Donald Boesch's Talk: What I Heard

The opinions expressed in this blog entry are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Climate Stewards of Greater Annapolis.

On February 18, 2016, Professor Donald Boesch, President of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, spoke at a public meeting cosponsored by the Climate Stewards of Greater Annapolis (CSGA) and the Maryland Climate Coalition (MCC) on the topic of the interface between climate change science and public policy. This essay records what I, a single individual, heard. Others may well have heard, almost certainly did hear, different messages.

The first point, which was evident from how Dr. Boesch was introduced, is that he is among the leading Global Warming (GW) scientists in Maryland and among the “best connected,” as witness his membership on the Maryland Commission on Climate Change (MCCC), which was established by the Maryland General Assembly in 2007. The second point is that he is well informed about the threat of GW, both to Maryland and worldwide.

Dr. Boesch spoke optimistically about GW, and that is the problem:

· He reassured us that the agreement recently signed at COP21 in Paris, by over 170 governments, was a triumph of international negotiation, finally assuring some international action on GW. Under questioning, he acknowledged that the agreement was inadequate to solve the GW problem but said that it “could be improved in the future.” · He briefly reviewed the MCC's legislative proposals – including expanding “Clean Power” to 25 percent in 2020, and to 40 percent in 2030, through the Maryland Renewable Portfolio Standard – and he indicated satisfaction with this progress. Think about this for a minute. Are we really better off having an international agreement to take actions that are immediately recognized by Dr. Boesch, and similar scientific experts, to be inadequate to solve the problem, or, would it have been better to have had no agreement because some of the nations at COP21 wanted actions to be taken that had some chance of solving the problem of GW? While Professor Boesch expressed satisfaction with the outcome of COP21, I heard him report another climate disaster that is more likely to occur because nations deferred immediate action to solve the problem.

Similarly, Dr. Boesch expressed satisfaction with the MCC target of 40 percent Clean Energy (Power) in 2030, but what I heard was his expression of satisfaction that in 2030, up to 60 percent of our electric power will continue to be fossil based. If we take Maryland as representative of likely world fossil fuel use, I heard him reporting a recipe for societal collapse.

Were Dr. Boesch a bought and paid for denialist, enjoying the sponsorship of Big Energy, I would not be worried by what he said; but given that he is an independent and respected environmental expert with the ear of senior state policy makers, for him to have expressed the views that he did literally terrifies me. I learned much more at this CSGA talk than I wanted to learn.

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