Title: Knox Taylor Professor of Geosciences, Emeritus
Area(s): Climate Science
Annual Review of Marine Science
From Stamps to Parabolas
S. George Philander
Annu. Rev.Mar. Sci. 2023. 15:15.1–15.14
I am a child of Sputnik, the satellite launched by the Soviet Union in 1957. That event created opportunities for me to escape the horrors of apartheid by emigrating from South Africa to the United States. There, fortuitously, I was given excellent opportunities to explore how an interplay between the waves and currents influences climate variability, from interannual El Niño events to millennial ice ages. During my career, I also witnessed intriguing facets of the interactions between the profoundly different worlds of science and of human affairs. Up to 1957, El Niño was welcomed as a blessing, but by 1982 it had become a curse—not because it changed, but because our human activities are making us vulnerable to natural climate variability. We have learned to cope admirably with the occasional failures of the Indian monsoons; the resultant famines are not as calamitous as they once were. What guidance does that limited success provide for a response to global warming, a climate change we humans are inducing? This article briefly summarizes how my career as a geoscientist brought me to the conclusion that a strategy to promote responsible stewardship of planet Earth should be based on love rather than fear. We can only love what we know, so warnings of imminent gloom and doom should be complemented with efforts to make everyone aware of the wonders of our amazing planet—the only one in the universe known to be habitable.
Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Marine Science, Volume 15 is January 2023.