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NASA Scientist in NYT: ‘I have Stage 4 pancreatic cancer’ but ‘climate change’ is still my top concern – Skeptical Scientist Responds

Piers J. Sellers is the deputy director of Sciences and Exploration at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and acting director of its Earth Sciences Division. As an astronaut, he visited the International Space Station three times and walked in space six times. Sellers is also the ‘boss’ of NASA’s Gavin Schmidt.

Excerpts from Sellers from January 16, 2016 New York Times:

I’m a climate scientist who has just been told I have Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.This diagnosis puts me in an interesting position. I’ve spent much of my professional life thinking about the science of climate change, which is best viewed through a multidecadal lens. At some level I was sure that, even at my present age of 60, I would live to see the most critical part of the problem, and its possible solutions, play out in my lifetime. Now that my personal horizon has been steeply foreshortened, I was forced to decide how to spend my remaining time. Was continuing to think about climate change worth the bother?…

Last year may also be seen in hindsight as the year of the Death of Denial. Globally speaking, most policy makers now trust the scientific evidence and predictions, even as they grapple with ways to respond to the problem. And most Americans — 70 percent, according to a recent Monmouth University poll — believe that the climate is changing. So perhaps now we can move on to the really hard part of this whole business….

There is no convincing, demonstrated reason to believe that our evolving future will be worse than our present, assuming careful management of the challenges and risks….

While many have mocked this accord as being toothless and unenforceable, it is noteworthy that the policy makers settled on a number that is based on the best science available and is within the predictive capability of our computer models.It’s doubtful that we’ll hold the line at 2 degrees Celsius, but we need to give it our best shot. With scenarios that exceed that target, we are talking about enormous changes in global precipitation and temperature patterns, huge impacts on water and food security, and significant sea level rise. As the predicted temperature rises, model uncertainty grows, increasing the likelihood of unforeseen, disastrous events.All this as the world’s population is expected to crest at around 9.5 billion by 2050 from the current seven billion. Pope Francis and a think tank of retired military officers have drawn roughly the same conclusion from computer model predictions: The worst impacts will be felt by the world’s poorest, who are already under immense stress and have meager resources to help them adapt to the changes. They will see themselves as innocent victims of the developed world’s excesses. Looking back, the causes of the 1789 French Revolution are not a mystery to historians; looking forward, the pressure cooker for increased radicalism, of all flavors, and conflict could get hotter along with the global temperature….

And so, I’m going to work tomorrow.”

End excerpt of Sellers from NYT.



Former Harvard University Physicist Dr. Lubos Motl Responds to NASA’s Sellers: 

‘When religious beliefs trump one’s life – A heartbreaking opinion piece by a climate alarmist’ – “This opinion piece is perhaps the first essay by a climate alarmist that I have ever read and that I would label as “heartbreaking”. Adjectives like “cynical”, “self-serving”, and “hypocritical” come to us much more frequently.

Dr. Motl: “Wow. Just wow. This calmness and the continuing focus on irrelevant stupidities is something that I find hard to imagine. This man has to be a true believer in his religion.

Sellers’ text is so unbelievably detached from “what you would expect to be important.”

…In the New York Times opinion piece, his true belief in all these irrelevancies and fantasies – something he has wasted much of his professional career with – is manifesting itself in innocent ways. But such a fanatical belief must be very dangerous in other contexts, right? In Michael Crichton’s State of Fear, the climate ecoterrorists have organized “fake natural catastrophes” to increase the people’s fear of climate change. I can surely imagine that people of Sellers’ type and level of a belief could start to do such things.At any rate, I wish him to get as much pleasure from life as he can.

Would you speculate about the question whether some change of the largely ill-defined global mean temperature from an ill-defined base to an ill-defined moment will be 2.0 °C or 2.3 °C? This man does. The minimum error margin isn’t much lower than 1 °C, however, and even 40 °C of warming would be way safer than the disease he’s been diagnosed with. I think that most people would think how many months of life await them.

Sellers dedicated one long paragraph to “the year 2015 in the climate hysteria”. It’s been the “warmest year by far”. Well, not that the ranking is important but the satellites showed it as the 3rd warmest year, by far cooler than the warmest one, 1998. But maybe Sellers, an acting director at NASA, shares the belief with some other climate alarmists that satellites don’t exist or they can’t be useful to address such questions. At any rate, the year 2015 was not interesting in the climate science or the climate hysteria “cause”. It was just another year of excuses and misinterpretations. The year 2016 will also be just another year in which climate alarmism very slowly dies away, too – while certain people increasingly unrealistically work on escalating this hysteria instead.”