Santer

Benjamin Santer

The best-known climate scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has moved to Colorado.

The scientist is Ben Santer, who like most LLNL employees has been working from home since the COVID-19 pandemic began more than six months ago.

Until recently, that meant telecommuting from San Ramon. Now, he will dial in from Ft. Collins, more than 1,000 miles to the east, where he has joined his wife and other family members.

In an email, he said he has a contract to work part time at LLNL through September 2021. He also expects to interact with the academic community at Colorado State University, which has a highly regarded climate research program.

For the past few months, Santer has been among the millions of Bay Area residents living with the effects of Northern California wildfires thought to have been exacerbated by a warming climate.

Ironically, he has now moved to another part of the West that is being ravaged by historically destructive wildfires.

An avid outdoorsman and mountain climber, he wrote last week about choking smoke from the Cameron Peak fire, which has consumed hundreds of thousands of acres west of Ft. Collins, including large parts of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Santer is known internationally for developing methods of identifying the fingerprints of human influence on climate change and distinguishing them from natural phenomena, like cyclical changes in solar output and shifts in ocean temperature.

Earlier this month, the American Geophysical Union named him winner of the prestigious Bert Bolin Award for “groundbreaking research” on the climate.

In addition to his pioneering scientific work, he has gone out of his way to communicate with the public on the causes and dangers of climate change.

He has spoken to general audiences throughout the U.S., including at Livermore’s Bankhead Theater and elsewhere in the Tri-Valley. He has authored a number of popular articles in “Scientific American.”

He has often expressed frustration and concern about the Trump administration’s rejection of the climate science developed by its own research programs; it has abandoned international agreements like the Paris Accords and undercuts the programs themselves.

He has also criticized the administration’s unwillingness to follow the counsel of medical science in responding to a COVID-19 pandemic that is killing Americans by the tens of thousands.

“Ignorance and wishing thinking are not effective response strategies in the face of a global pandemic or global climate change,” he said in a July interview as virus fatalities accumulated. “We need to restore science-based policy in government (and) … ensure that science is valued in public discourse and in all levels of our educational system.”

Earlier this month, as he left the Bay Area for Colorado, he expressed strong support for LLNL and its climate research program. He told Livermore scientific colleagues that interactions with them have been “the most enjoyable part of my 28 years at LLNL.”

He added that Laboratory “remains a terrific workplace” whose “greatest capital” is not its “supercomputers or giant lasers,” but the “dedicated and exceptionally talented scientists who work there.”