Cassandra has moved. Ugo Bardi publishes now on a new site called "The Seneca Effect."

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Senator and the Scientist: a Tribute to the Memory of Toufic El Asmar


This story really happened as described, although the thoughts of the protagonists are in large part an interpretation of mine. I wrote it in 2007 and I published it on the blog of the Italian section of the association for the study of peak oil (ASPO). It didn't directly mention Toufic El Asmar as the scientist protagonist of the story, who left us a few days ago. I bring it back to you today as a tribute to his memory and also as a testimony of a time when debates and meetings on climate change were organized and it was assumed that scientists had something to teach the public and politicians. Those times are now long gone. In the photo, Toufic at an ASPO conference held in Florence in 2007.

The senator is a white-haired man, still looking healthy and strong. Actually, he is a former senator, but it has not been many years since he sat in senate in Rome and he still cares a lot about his title. Normally, he goes to conferences when he is invited. He comes, gives his speech, and then disappears for some other commitment. This time, however, he came as a spectator; intrigued by this conference on climate change which happens to be held near his home. He sits in the front row; right in front of the speakers' table.

The scientist is in his forties. Of Middle Eastern origin, he also lived in Africa. It has seen storms, droughts, famines, and locust invasions. He saw the war and even fought it himself. But he is also a person who has studied a lot and knows his subject well. He sits at the speakers' table and talks while showing slides on the screen behind him.

As soon as the scientist begins to speak, the senator feels uncomfortable. This story of global warming, he has heard of it. He knows it's a made-up story, a conspiracy of frantic catastrophists, people who want to destroy the economy with this Kyoto Protocol nonsense. Perhaps the scientist's Middle Eastern appearance also bothers him. Couldn't he be one of those Islamic terrorists?

When the scientist talks about the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of ten thousand years ago, the senator cann't help himself. He makes a gesture of annoyance and blurts out loudly, “But what do you know about that? Were you there? "

There is a moment of silence in the room. The Senator and the scientist are facing each other, looking into each other's eyes a few meters away. For a moment, the scientist considers whether to respond in kind; but then he holds back. He doesn't want to offend a white-haired person. "I'm just presenting the data," he says, and continues his exposition calmly.

The slides restart on the screen. The temperature rises, the environmental disasters too. The last few summers have broken all records, one after the other. They are data on data that accumulates: global warming is not a theory, it is a fact. The damage he has done and is doing to us is also a fact and things are expected to get worse soon.

As he speaks, the scientist looks at the senator. He realizes that his words have an effect. The senator is impressed; he had never heard of these things before. He fidgets in his chair and even blushes. He also realizes that no one in the room appreciated his interruption. Everyone considered him rude.

After the conference, the scientist goes home. The fight shocked him a little and he was sorry to have embarrassed that white-haired man. He had never seen him before; they told him he is a senator. Is it possible that he really didn't know anything about climate change? A senator? No, he couldn't  possibly be that ignorant.

The senator goes home in silence. He mulls over what he heard. Those things that scientist showed made an impression on him; he also said they will get worse; hm? Of course, he didn't remember such a warm winter in his whole life; this also makes a little impression on him.

At home, the senator sits in an armchair and turns on the TV. With the news, he immediately feels heartened. This climate change business can't be that important if nobody talks about it on television. To hell with this nonsense about the climate: all lies, obviously.


  1. Not really about climate change but an article in the Spanish press today presents the plight of the impoverished middle class in Rome.
    One of the new poor says
    "it is a drama, we are poor but not so poor that we have acces to the state aid programs for the truly destitute".
    It is the same and worse in Spain, 1,5 million are eating from the Red Cross and Caritas.

    1. America too. I make plenty of money as long as I don't need a doctor, lawyer, car, or place to sleep.

  2. I didn't believe such poorly informed people existed until about 2 years ago I was having a discussion with a friend on climate change, very smart, doing a PhD in Law at the time and excelling. She was convinced that it is not a problem simply because if it was "someone" would be doing something about it an it would be in the News all the time. Based on that it can't be a problem and I was just a pessimist.

    I was reminded of philosopher A. Schopenhauer quote that a pessimist is just an optimist armed with all the facts.

  3. All problems will be solved with printing enough new money (QE). No need to do anything else. The authorities (which we see every day on TV) say so, and if they say so, it must be truth. If authorities print enough money, the food will appear from the thin air, and nobody will be hungry, so we all can continue to watch TV.

  4. It seems that I am not the only one who thinks that Italian soldiers are dying from US bombs with depleted uranium in Kosovo during mission:



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)