Bruce Anderson ’90 Sheds New Light on the Causes and Effects of Global Warming

Bruce Anderson ’90, a climatologist at Boston University, explored a comprehensive angle on global warming in his presentation “The Global Gamble,” which focused the global, social and economic implications of climate change last Friday. Anderson indicated that the issue of climate conservation has moved beyond the realm of science. “We don’t need more scientists, not for this issue. We need people to develop ways to maintain our livelihood without doing irreparable damage,” he said. “We need engineers, historians, journalists, writers and artists. We need people who can chronicle the conditions of the world and the conditions of the people who live in them, people who can make that world come alive,” he continued. Anderson compared current and historical data to explain scientists’ methods for evaluating global warming and predicting the magnitude of the environment’s decline over the next century. Anderson compared neglecting the environment to gambling. He cited the Chinese proverb, “If you must play, decide upon three things at the start: the rules of the game, the stakes, and the quitting time.” “We don’t know the stakes of this game. We don’t know the rules of the game. We shouldn’t be gambling our grandchildren’s world,” said Anderson. “The time to quit is now. Everything we know about [the environment] is telling us to get out and run. The only reason we continue to sit at the table is gambler’s conceit.” Anderson said the primary consequences of increasing carbon dioxide emissions include sea level rise, flooding, drought and extreme heat waves. He noted a two-week long heat wave in Europe that killed over 50,000 people in 2003. Throughout the presentation, Anderson discussed “human-induced global warming” and urged the audience to “get up and walk away while were still ahead” or cut annual carbon dioxide emissions by at least 66 percent. Anderson said that 280 carbon dioxide molecules existed for every million molecules in the atmosphere before the Industrial Revolution. However, this number now rests at an astounding 390 parts per million as a result of current increases in human pollution. Anderson said, “The next question is, ‘What’s going to happen to the global climate over the next 100 years?’ And that’s where there’s more uncertainty. It’s what we do over the next 100 years that will dictate where we end up.” Anderson stressed the necessity of action in the near future, since levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere take approximately 200 years to dissipate. He said, “The longer we wait in deciding how to act, the longer the impact of our actions will be felt. Even if we choose not to decide, we make a choice. The question is, ‘when will we choose to decide?’” Patricia Russell, Instructor in Science and Sustainability Coordinator, said, “[Anderson] gave the best presentation I’ve ever heard that removed science from the dilemma about environmental conservation.” “The issue is really cultural, political, and economic,” she continued. “No part of the dilemma is scientific. As a scientist, he did a really good job explaining that.” Anna Milkowski, Instructor in Science, said, “Dr. Anderson made a very strong case that the central debate about climate change right now is about the political choices that we need to make.” Milkowski continued, “That debate does not at this point hinge upon the fundamental sciences…There are a lot of ways in which we understand these impacts and how that impacts our culture, the economy, and public health.” Rolando Bonachea ’13 said, “He was very knowledgeable about global warming, but I felt that the best part was that he was able to address the critics of anthropogenic warming of the climate by pointing out their flaws.” Anderson spent his post-graduate year at Andover playing soccer. Anderson said, “I came here and took all the physics and math courses which effectively set me up to be a climate scientist. I knew I was going into physics so I focused on those courses.” Milkowski said that Anderson’s presentation was well timed for the upcoming Green Cup Challenge.