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Old 18-02-2003, 07:33 PM
Daniel B. Wheeler
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Default Global Warming "The debate on whether climate change is occurring has ended."

From The Oregonian, Feb. 17, 2003, p E1 (Metro)

Portland native advises nation on climate's changes
Warren Washington, who has followed his lifelong interest in how
things work, leads the National Science Board

By RICHARD L. HILL, The Oregonian
DENVER - Why are egg yolks yellow? That seemingly simple question
helped lead a curious Portland boy to a career that has made him one
of the nation's most influential scientists.
Warren M. Washington, chairman of the prestigious National Science
Board, smiles in amazement when he thinks about the question that a
Jefferson High chemistry teacher asked him a half-century ago.
Washington said his ensuing research triggered a lifelong interest
into finding out how things work.
Washington went on to a more complex subject to decipher: climate. He
helped pioneer the use of sophisticated computers in modeling the
climate to project how increasing greenhouse-gas emissions could
affect the planet in coming decades. Last year, he was elected
chairman of the National Science Board, which advises the president
and Congress about science policy.
The soft-spoken scientist held center stage Sunday at the annual
meeting of the American Asscoation for the Advancement of Science,
where he discussed how computer models are forecasting sharp
temperature increases in coming decades if heat-trapping emissions
continue to rise.
"In the middle of a rapidly changing climate, we need to think about
strategies to make the climate not as bad as it could be in the
future," Washington said. "We've seen a rapid change in the climate
during the last 25 years, with last year being the second-warmest year
on record. The debate on whether climate change is occurring has
ended. The question is how much will take place, and what are its
Despite uncertainties with climate models, which project a rise in
the global average temperature as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit by
2100, emission-cutting efforts sneed to be implemented, he said.
"Every molecule of carbon dioxide we put in the atmosphere will stay
there for 90 to 100 years," he said. "So I think there's incentive to
take steps to reduce those emissions."
Washington said there is a high level of confidence in the
projections of state-of-the-art computer models because they have been
successful in simulating the planet's climate since about 1870 to the
"We still have uncertainties in our models - clouds are the biggest
ones - but they give a good idea about what we might be facing in the
future," he said.
Washington directs the climate change research group at the National
Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., where he has worked
the past 40 years. In 1994 and 2000, President Clinton appointed him
to the 24-member Natinoal Science Board, which serves as the governing
board for the National Science Foundation.
A fellow board member, Jane Lubchenco, a distinguished professor of
zoology at Oregon State University, described Washington as
"thoughtful and insightful - someone who does not talk a lot, but when
he does, everyone listens."
Washington and other climate modelers who faced criticism for their
early projections about global warming "have been vindicated,"
Lubchenco said.
"Warren has consistently stuck to the facts and the evidence about
climate change." she said. He's never ventured in unsubstantiated
speculation, and that's why he's so respected."
Washington, 66, enjoys telling stories about growing up with his four
brothers in a middle-class African American family in Northeast
Portland. His parents were his main motivators in pursuing an
education. His college-educated father moved from Alabama to Portland
in 1928 in hopes of teaching, but took a job as a Pullman waiter when
he found the school district wasn't hiring African Americans as
teachers. His mother attended the University of Oregon.
Washington, who grew up reading biographies about Einstein and George
Washington Carver as a youth, became interested in physics his senior
year at Jefferson High School, where he graduated in 1954. As a
youngster, he earned money selling The Oregonian and working as a
dishwasher at Good Samaritan Hospital for 72 cents an hour.
He landed a job washing dishes at a Corvallis hospital, enabling him
to pursue an education at OSU, where he received a bachelor's degree
in physics in 1958, and a master's degree in meteorology in 1960. Four
years later, he received a doctorate in meteorology from Pennsylvania
State University.
Washington, who has garnered numerous awards and advised every
president from Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush, said he hasn't
considered retiring, "although my wife mentions it on occasion. My
life definitely hasn't slowed down recently."
Just as his curiosity about egg yolks led him to a distinguished
career, his inquisitiveness continues to drive his enthusiasm about
deciphering climate change.
"You have to think about the world you leave your children,"
Washington said. "Climate change is an intergenrational problem - it's
not just going to be dealt with in one presidential or congressional
term. We all have to look a lot further out - we all have a shared
responsibility to find ways to deal with it."

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Daniel B. Wheeler

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