Remembering Bill Nierenberg
September 12, 2000
We regret to announce the death of William Nierenberg on September 10, 2000. Director Emeritus of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, Dr. Nierenberg served as the first chairman of both the National Advisory Committee on the Oceans and Atmosphere and the NASA Advisory Council. He was an advisor to presidents and was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. We are grateful and privileged for his many contributions as a member of the Marshall Institute?s Board of Directors.
Born on what was then part of the Lower East Side of New York and a graduate of City College and of Columbia University, Dr. Nierenberg spent much of his adult life teaching and directing research in California. He once said his roots were half New York, half California, and half France, where he studied and later taught physics at the University of Paris. He himself admitted that the percentages didn?t add up. But if anyone?s life could total 150 percent, it was Bill Nierenberg?s.
In the near future we will present an appreciation of his life by Dr. Frederick Seitz, Chairman of the Marshall Institute?s Board of Directors. For now, we remember Dr. Nierenberg with a few excerpts from his writings.
"Starting from the beginning of the recent acceleration in interest in the global warming question, dating back twenty years or so, initial predictions of a twenty-five foot rise in sea level in forty years have steadily decreased to the current estimate of a one-foot rise in 150 years. Despite this dramatic change in forecast the expressed concern among the worriers remained constant. . . . No matter how small the effect becomes, their concern remains at the same level of intensity.?
-- William A. Nierenberg, From ?The League of Constant Concern? GCMI Newsletter, Winter 2000
?The seemingly chronic inability of great scientists to foresee the impact of their discoveries is a malady which adversely afflicts our reasoning in policy planning in dealing with problems as potentially serious as climate change. What is missing in most attacks on these problems is the element of time ? time to learn more ? time to allow the development of favorable technology ? and time to permit the introduction of countervailing technology.?
-- William A. Nierenberg, From ?Science and Engineering and Who Cares? delivered at the New York Academy of Sciences, February 27, 1997
?Climate change is a fascinating and enjoyable topic when it is drawn away from policy and political considerations. The history of vineyards in Great Britain, the disappearance of Indian complexes in the USA southwest, the abandonment of farming in the deserts of Peru and many other examples have induced great intellectual curiosity, research and entertainment. . . . [T]he earth had a highly variable climate until about ten thousand years ago. This change coincides closely with man?s development of an agricultural basis for existence. Until that time there is no archaeological evidence of any agricultural activity. Human life was that of hunting and gathering. We could surmise that only when the year-to-year climate remained reasonably stable in a given area that it became possible to experiment, to select, and to draw reasonable return from the efforts.?
-- William A. Nierenberg, writing in Energy Policy, Vol. 23, No. 4/5