Act 1: Oval Office. The president’s Chief of Staff enters with the Director of NASA.

President: So, what’s this “urgent matter” from NASA?

Chief of staff: I’ll let the director explain.

Director: Mr. President, I have important information from NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office and the NEA Observation Program.

P: Hold it right there. NASA has a “Planetary Defense Coordination Office?” You guys are playing too many video games over there. And what does NEA stand for, Nutty Extraterrestrial Anxiety? (laughs; chief of staff joins in)

D: Not exactly, sir. See https://www.nasa.gov/planetarydefense. We have been tracking asteroids and comets in our solar system for decades, most particularly the NEAs - Near Earth Asteroids. So far we have catalogued over 15,000 NEAs whose orbits come near enough for us to want to track them. We have confirmed an existential threat to the nation and the world.

P (snickering): Cue the creepy music! Don’t tell me - an asteroid headed straight for Earth, bringing floods, wildfires, droughts, famine, and anarchy. Loved that Bruce Willis movie.

D: Sir. It’s a half-mile across and will reach us in eleven years. We have been tracking it for several years, and we can plot its trajectory with great precision.

P: C’mon - can you guys actually know that?

D: Yes, sir, we have strong predictive capabilities thanks to our technology and science.

P: Are you positive? Surely there are asteroid deniers out there.

D: A great number of astronomers from around the world have reviewed the data, and with very few exceptions, they concur.

P: Aha! It’s still a debate!

D: With respect, Mr. President, 98 percent to 2 percent hardly feels like a debate. We are certain enough that the asteroid will hit Earth to be extremely concerned. We cannot predict the precise consequences of the impact, but it’s highly likely to be serious if not catastrophic.

P (to the Chief of Staff): What do you think?

C: No need for polling here, Mr. President. These NASA guys put men on the moon and robots on Mars! Once people hear that NASA says there’s an asteroid heading for Earth, 100 percent of their heads will explode. Asteroid fear is bipartisan! Everyone can picture this enormous rock … and kablooey!

P: I get it - scary! But it looks like we’re done for!

D: Actually, sir, NASA has a program to develop a way to deflect such asteroids.

P: You’re not serious!

D: I am very serious, sir, but you cut our budget. Properly funded, we can deploy it in time.

P (on the intercom): Get me the Budget Director, Mabel!

Act 2: Oval Office. The president’s Chief of Staff enters with the Director of NASA.

President: So, what’s this “urgent matter” from NASA?

Chief of staff: I’ll let the Director explain.

Director: Mr. President, I have important information from NASA’s Earth Science Division

P: Hold it right there. NASA has an “Earth Science Division?” You guys aren’t playing enough video games over there. Doesn’t the “S” in “NASA” stand for “Space?”

(laughs; chief of staff joins in)

D: It does, sir — but one of NASA’s missions is to study the Earth as an integrated system. See https://science.nasa.gov/earth-science NASA, along with science agencies around the world, has been monitoring measures like atmospheric CO2, sea levels, and global temperature for decades. The trends constitute an existential threat to the nation and the world.

P (snickering): Cue the creepy music! Don’t tell me — there’s an apocalypse coming, bringing floods, wildfires, droughts, famine, and anarchy. Love those Mad Max movies.

D: Uh, yes, sir, there is. There is overwhelming evidence that continued man-made global warming will cause calamitous damage to the planet. In fact, the effects are already underway.

P: C’mon — can you guys actually know that?

D: Yes, sir, we have strong predictive capabilities thanks to our technology and science.

P: Are you positive? Surely there are climate change deniers out there.

D: A great number of climate scientists from around the world have reviewed the data, and with very few exceptions, they concur.

P: Aha! It’s still a debate!

D: With respect, Mr. President, 98% to 2% hardly feels like a debate. We are certain enough to be extremely concerned about the trends, and if anything, the trends are accelerating. We cannot predict the precise time frames or consequences of climate change, but it’s highly likely to be serious if not catastrophic.

P (to the Chief of Staff): What do you think?

C: Polls show that the climate change thing is a “meh” issue out there - except for some of your big donors. Anyway, NASA isn’t perfect. Some people on the internet say the first moon landing was faked. There’s no ‘scare’ there…It’s not like we’re being hit by an asteroid or anything!

P: Hmm. Thanks for stopping by, Mr. Director.

D: But Mr. President, you have to listen! If we act now we can still…

P (on the intercom): Get me security, Mabel…

(Stage goes black, curtain falls)

Ron Blumenfeld is a Fairfield writer and retired pediatrician. His "As I See It" column appears periodically. He can be reached at: rblumen2@gmail.com.