Story 16. Testimony
By the mid and late 1980s, most climatologists were convinced that global warming was real, and that increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere played a role. It was that growing realization that had Carbo the carbon molecule worried. “How can I get my carbon friends released if humans know about us?” he asked his minions Roasty and Toasty, though he didn’t expect them to answer. If Carbo didn’t have a solution, then his less intelligent companions certainly didn’t. Even so, he continued thinking out loud. “Despite our best efforts,” he told them, “some humans are just too smart to be manipulated; and now, one of them will have his day in court.”
It was true. Carbo had helped Heatia produce the lengthy and devastating heat wave of 1980, and was even now currently working with the creature on another project—a widespread drought throughout the country. That drought is what helped inspire NASA scientist Dr. Joseph Hastings to prepare testimony before a U.S. Congressional committee. When the day came for his appearance before the Senate panel, Carbo, Toasty and Roasty made sure they were there.
Carbo was concerned because he knew that Hastings, though not a formidable-looking human, had science on his side. As the middle-aged and slightly balding Midwesterner rose to speak, Carbo gave Toasty the signal. “Now!” he nodded.
While Roasty watched in typical slow-witted wonder, Carbo and his main minion flitted back and forth among the Senators on the panel, putting into motion their previously devised plan, probing the Senators’ minds and making them grow drowsy and increasingly apathetic toward Dr. Hastings’s testimony.
“What a comfy chair you have,” Carbo whispered to one of them, “perfect for napping.”
“You were up late last night,” Toasty whispered to another Senator. “It won’t hurt to doze just a little.”
Finally, as most of the representatives were nodding off, one of them, Senator Doubt, interrupted the scientist.
“Aren’t you being a bit hasty about all this, doctor?” he challenged. “Why, you yourself have said that we won’t be in trouble for at least another thirty years and maybe longer. We may even have hundreds of years to fix this!”
Carbo smiled. That’s what he liked to hear. He and Toasty picked up on the message and began to spread it to the others on the committee. “We don’t have to worry about this today,” the two molecules convinced the senators. “Maybe we’ll have the time and money later, but certainly not now. This is a conversation for the future.”
As Carbo watched Dr. Hastings ramble on to his disinterested audience, the leader of the carbon molecules was pretty satisfied with himself. Just like centuries before when the emperor Nero had fiddled while Rome burned, Carbo and Toasty’s soft whispers to the lethargic senators were like a violin’s sweet lullaby, lulling them toward a false sense of security, even while his carbon friends multiplied exponentially in the atmosphere.
Meanwhile, the creature known as Heatia had come out of hiding, and was taking advantage of the increasing number of carbon dioxide molecules, using them to help bake much of the country in blistering heat and devastating drought. Crops were failing, rivers were drying up and hundreds of humans were dying.
Thermo and Dr. Key watched all this from television monitors in the laboratory back in Mauna Loa. In shock and dismay, the doctor finally said, “Thermo, it’s time to take action. You did it in 1980; you can do it again now.”
Thermo appreciated the growing confidence his maker had in him, but this was going to require a different solution from last time. As he thought about it, an idea popped into his metal head. “Why don’t I attract the Clan of the Storms to help break the drought?” he proposed. “This time we’ll attack Heatia from the north instead of from the south.”
“I don’t know,” Dr. Key responded doubtfully. “Heatia’s high air pressure has forced the jet stream far to the north, trapping Twista and her Clan in Canada.” He thought for a moment and then conceded, “If you could stir up the Clan enough, you might force their storms to break free, move south, and rain on Heatia’s little heat parade. It’s certainly worth a try.”
So with Dr. Key’s blessing, Thermo flew toward central Saskatchewan, where the Clan of the Storms was huddled and hunkered down with their leader Twista, unable to move past the powerful jet stream that kept them imprisoned.
Spying them, Thermo radioed to Dr. Key, who was watching every move through Thermo’s camera eyes. “Dr. Key, I’m in place. Here I go.”
“Stay a safe distance away,” Dr. Key warned, “but make sure they see you.”
Then Thermo turned on his most derisive voice and shouted to the Clan, “Ha! Isn’t it too bad that you Storms have to live in a cage! Don’t you wish you could fly southward like me?” Then he stuck out his long red thermometer tongue at them and challenged, “Look how easily I can fly over the Great Lakes! Don’t you wish you could too?”
Twista watched Thermo from her far northern perch with mounting anger. The other Storms in the Clan began to grow dark with rage. Finally Twista ordered, “Somebody get that little pip-squeak!”
As their tempers flared, the Storms began to jostle back and forth, trying to free themselves from their high-pressure prison. Twista was right in the middle of them all, pushing and slamming again and again at the walls of the jet-stream jail cell. Soon, the cage began to buckle and weaken, until finally a tiny opening appeared. The hole was nearly imperceptible at first, but as more Storms pushed against the breach, it opened wider, until all of them finally spilled through it like a raging river, free to make chase.
Thermo stayed well ahead of the Storms. As he egged them on southward, the Storms moved over the Great Lakes and into the American heartland, their rain cooling and moistening the dry and thirsty land all the way. Twista, weakened from her ordeal, was not able to generate enough energy to produce her usual tornado.
“We can be grateful for that,” Dr. Key observed, “and no doubt the clouds and raindrops are a welcome sight. Heatia has had control of the area far too long.”
As Thermo flew southward, he spotted Heatia making a retreat. But something else caught his eye. It was a clear sphere with two other spheres connected to it. He had never seen such a creature before, but its insidious face told him that this must be the evil carbon molecule he had heard so much about.
“Carbo!” Thermo cried. The creature stopped in its tracks and turned toward him.
Recognizing the little thermometer for what he was, Carbo jeered, “Aha, you must be Dr. Key’s little plaything. At last we meet! As you have already surmised, I am Carbo, the leader of the carbon dioxide molecules. Heatia and Phoon have told me all about you, and as you might expect, we are not pleased with your childish antics.”
Before Carbo could continue his lecture, Twista’s dark Storms moving out of Canada edged closer to them.
“We need to go please,” Heatia warned Carbo nervously. “I cannot occupy the same atmosphere with the Clan of the Storms.”
Carbo was frustrated by this development, but couldn’t argue with the heat monster. “We’ll meet again, Thermo,” Carbo promised. “And when we do, I won’t be so inclined to back down. You’d best be on your guard, little one!”
As Thermo watched Carbo and Heatia make their retreat, he realized that he had found the very root of one of the biggest problems that plagued the humans. Dr. Key, watching from the lab in Mauna Loa, knew it too.
“We have a tough road ahead of us, Thermo,” the doctor said.
In the real world, Dr. James Hansen, aka Dr. Joseph Hastings, has been a hero in the world of climate. Despite misgivings from many congressional leaders, his testimony in 1988 put the threat of global warming on the front page of public recognition. Dr. Hansen was instrumental in convincing this author of the real threat from carbon pollution. Check out his first book published in 2009, Storms of My Grandchildren. It paints a dim picture of the future of humanity, should carbon emissions go unchecked. Dr. Hansen was spurred to testify before Congress partly by the 1988-1989 drought, one of the worst to ever occur across the United States. The drought was broken only in late August of 1989, when the jet stream moved southward, allowing storms to produce widespread rain over the parched area.
The Climate Guy
The text and artwork are copyright by Guy Walton. I would like to get this book published. Please drop me a note if you are willing to help.
To see the rest of the World of Thermo stories click: http://www.guyonclimate.com/category/worldofthermo/