Jeff Troeger: I hope global warming debate is a set-up to talk about solutions

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To Richard Lamm and Bill Owens:

The local Steamboat Springs and Craig newspapers are running ads for your upcoming "Global Warming - Fact or Fiction?" debate ("Fueling Thought" Energy Summit 2009 in Craig).

Normally, I'd enjoy seeing both of you debate, but the choice of topic leaves me pretty disappointed.

It's as if you two were "debating" whether the Earth is flat versus round, or whether the planet revolves around the sun or the other way around. The outcome (who the audience thinks was more witty or persuasive) really doesn't affect what's really going on.

A room full of fossil fuel executives in Craig might be one of the only places left where such a "debate" still could be held.

Your debate won't change the physical reality, but it will have several negative effects:

1. Global warming. "Global warming" is a friendly term that suggests longer summers and milder winters ("Hey, who wouldn't want to wear shorts a little longer?"). "Climate disruption" probably is more accurate.

2. Indeterminate cause. A "debate" ("Global Warming - Fact or Fiction?") suggests there's still uncertainty. Not in the scientific community (even the scientists for the infamous Global Climate Coalition told the oil, gas and coal industries that the evidence was undeniable). The only uncertainty left is the speed of change, what we're going to do about it, and whether there's still time to avoid the climate from spiraling out of control.

3. Partisan politics. I can't help but notice that one of you is a Republican and the other a Democrat. Having you debate global warming implies that it's just another political or ideological disagreement. It's much more serious than that.

4. Deniability and inaction. It's pretty hard going to work each morning if you acknowledge your industry is destabilizing the Earth's atmosphere and making your kid's future uncertain. Much easier if a debate by two ex-governors gives you reason to deny the scientific evidence and to keep going to work and cashing your paycheck.

I'm hoping the whole "Fact or Fiction" thing is really a big set-up and that both of you will agree from the beginning that there really isn't any doubt left on causation and debate the solutions instead.

Here's to hope ...

Jeff Troeger

Steamboat Springs

Comments

Fred Duckels 5 years, 7 months ago

Jeff It wasn't long ago that the ozone hole was the end of the world, research money poured in to avert disaster. Research today can fill out a blank check, to again save the world. How much research money will one recieve, if the results collaborate the desired effect. Most of the studies are done by academia, totally in the southpaw tank. Al Gore suddenly found religion after leaving office. Sounds like a leftwing political tool and a good one, got me there. I am concerned about the warming charges but wouldn't a thoughtful person consider conflicts of interest in formulating an opinion. We have four lobbyists for every representative in washington, looking to profit from this cash cow. How will we ever get a common sense solution? Greed and ideology trump the planet, and the only solution may be a visit from John Wayne. I can assure you that that no one has the high ground. I am as confident of this fact as, you seem to of be of your opinion.

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seeuski 5 years, 7 months ago

Can someone tell all of us what the future wheather patterns and global temperature ranges were supposed to be before we humans came along? How long were these wheather patterns supposed to stay the same and if they would change what would be the cause and effect of these changes? How could say, volcanic eruptions or meteor strikes or major earthquakes or lightning caused fires or sun spots etc.etc. effect the atmosphere? So if man seased to exist would the earth cool back to a prescribed level?

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housepoor 5 years, 7 months ago

Seeuski, Even if they are wrong about global warming what is the harm in changing our behavior to reduce pollution? We have cleaner air? If they are right the consequences of having done nothing seem much more dire.

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seeuski 5 years, 7 months ago

I am all for modifying some things and totally agree about cleaning the air, rivers etc. I would start by tightening regulations on deisel trucks or cars that have been spewing black exhaust into the air for ever. I hate getting behind those trucks around here, you can't breath. So lets force these drivers or companies to meet some sort of air quality standards. Next, I would set up a hotline for citizens to call and turn in litter bugs who throw their trash out the window along our roads. A nice $50 penalty might change that behaviour. But the cap and tax stuff coming down the road is going to be overwhelming to the American public as far as expense goes. And those that will benefit like Al Gore and other Businessmen with close ties to Obama's Administration are in it for the money. The companies that will be needed to handle the carbon offsets are of no benefit to the so called warming issue.

So, in essence we both want clean air I just don't want to clean out our pockets for some farce.

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Duke_bets 5 years, 7 months ago

seeuski - How about a $50 penalty for each spelling and grammatical error? With those laws enacted, you would be required to donate nearly $1,000 from this article.

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seeuski 5 years, 7 months ago

Dukey, I never learnt too spel goode, soary. Butt i weell keeep ann iye onn ur poosts.

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seeuski 5 years, 7 months ago

Oh, And this would be an op-ed not an article. Solely one persons opinion like, there is no more debate about global warming among the scientists.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 7 months ago

From looking at the leftist solutions I can only come to one conclusion, they want to destroy this capatailist engine and that means the rest of the country with it. This requires chess solutions, and they appear to only be mediocre checker players. They change their minds every day on the torture investigations, and our environmental has not been thought through any better. Knee jerk liberals? Sadly neither side has the planets best interests at heart.

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seeuski 5 years, 7 months ago

The climate is spinning out of control, the oceans are rising 20 feet. Where is Noah, where is Noah?

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knee_dropper 5 years, 7 months ago

Noah's plotting how to fleece the American public with Saddam; who happens to be the person that was really behind the scientists doing climate research, ACORN and the Obama administration. It's all a big conspiracy man . . .

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seeuski 5 years, 7 months ago

Come one come all, oh I mean come in pairs and jump in the ark before the oceans rise.

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JLM 5 years, 7 months ago

Global warming and the entire Al Gore rant is pure politics posing as a science. It is not even pseudo-science. At its core, it an intellectually irresponsible and dishonest attempt to take anecdotal static micro information and to extrapolate it into macro climate theories pertaining to an incredibly dynamic system which has as its only consistent parameter --- change!

A 1.5F temperature increase over a century during a time period in which both global warming and global cooling were obviously evident and the accuracy of measuring devices was not equal to the supposed change detected is neither measured nor settled science. It is no more than a snapshot in the life of the planet.

A lie repeated by a huge number of voices does not become the truth.

The great irony is that there exist a great number of important and prudent environment policies which should be considered, debated and adopted on their own merits absent this nonsensical focus on and fascination with a bogus politically motivated theory.

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 7 months ago

The ozone hole over Antarctica still exists. And the overall ozone layer is still decreasing. When the ozone hole was first observed there were concerns that when the ozone layer reached a certain depleted level then it rapidly collapsed leaving holes. Further research indicates that it took the extreme cold of Antarctica along with CFCs to make the hole.

If we had ignored science and not greatly reduced CFC usage then scientists would be telling us how the ozone layer was going to be more and more severely depleted and it would take longer and longer before it would start recovering even if strong action was immediately taken.

Now it is still declining because it takes years time for CFCs to leave the upper atmosphere, but the rate of decline is decreasing and it is projected that the ozone layer will start rebuilding in 2024.

Doesn't that bit of science that led to policy and action that made a difference make you feel better?

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JLM 5 years, 7 months ago

The entire saga of ozone --- bad at the earth level as smog and good in the stratosphere as a UV absorbent --- is exactly the type of scientifically sound, well researched, peer reviewed and apolitical environmental issues to which I referred in my comment above.

The Montreal Protocol and the ultimate phasing out of CFCs and other substances in a calm and professional manner is how such matters should be handled. The substitution of R12/Puron for CFCs/Freon used in air conditioning was done in an orderly manner which did not impart pain on the private sector nor our citizens.

In effect, it was phased in as air conditioning units (residential, commercial, auto and refrigeration) exhausted their useful life and the world supply of CFCs was absorbed. It was a model of administrative efficiency and restraint at the same time while providing a real enforcement discipline. Though at the time it did not feel like that.

The mystery of CFCs and their direct impact on the ozone layer remains --- the ozone hole was detected as early as 1930 while air conditioning was not widely used/invented until the early 1950s. This is another example of how people of good faith can reason together without understanding every single detail of a problem --- if political rhetoric and gamesmanship is not at the core of the challenge.

Without trying to be either provocative or antagonistic, it is also worth noting that the dire predictions which were advanced as part of the scientific debate at the time --- never, ever came close to being true and may contribute in part to the skepticism which greets similar dire pronouncements in the current climate debate.

Even the most skeptical critic could agree that smog had to go regardless of how extreme or wrong the pronouncements were.

There is an opportunity to duplicate that level of cooperation if the Al Gore's of the world would engage in a realistic debate. Al Gore is a politician and an opportunist not a scientist.

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JLM 5 years, 7 months ago

Ummm, well, that would be the Cuyahoga River which unless it is on a road trip or something has been in Cleveland, Ohio for some considerable time. Might be visiting friends in Pittsburgh for the weekend but it lives in Ohio. Cleveland, Ohio. Drains into Lake Erie, I believe, but I may be wrong on that point.

The "fire" to which you refer ocurred in 1969 and was about the 13th or 14th such fire going back to 1868. Not really a new or modern phenomenon. The biggest fire was actually in 1952. The 1969 fire was a big deal --- why? Cause it made the cover of Time magazine.

This river fire was responsible for what became the Clean Water Act and that was a good thing.

The issue w/ CO2 is a bit less settled than you suggest. First, remember that CO2 is essential for photosynthesis and the levels of CO2 fluctuate dramatically over the course of the year --- makes sense, no? All those green plants sucking up all that CO2 in the spring and summer as they are growing and blooming and photosynthesizing --- makes CO2 levels go down. Logical?

The numbers we are talking about here when comparing CO2 levels in ice of the past and air today are not huge differences --- in the 1830s (again measured by levels in ice thought to be that old) were in the range of 284 ppmv (parts per million by volume) v today's atmospheric readings of about 384 ppmv.

What is unknown is whether CO2 in ice is stable or whether it leaches out over time. Obvioulsy, the historic levels of CO2 were created in the winter time --- hence the ice and therefore reflect the lowest reading of the annual fluctations. There is considerable probability that such historic levels are in fact grossly understated because of this potential leaching or evaporation.

The most aggressive CO2 commentators are prepared to admit that mankind only contributes up to 5% of all the CO2 in the world. Annual/seasonal fluctations of CO2 alone range up to 3%.

If it's not coming from man, where does it come from? Hmmmm. Rotting forests. Makes sense, no?

Plants/trees take in CO2, photosynthesize, grow, die, decay --- release the CO2 back to nature.

Volcanoes and forest fires do their bit. Mother Nature's contribution (95% of the total) is the real driver of CO2 fluctations. Maybe it's time to lock that b!tch up?

Drum roll, cymbal ---- CO2 only makes up 0.04% of the atmosphere, so we are really talking angels on the head of a pin here.

It's a nice rant --- greenhouse gases sounds so frightening --- but we are talking about very small percentages (up to 5% from mankind) of a very, very small percentage (0.04% of the atmosphere) and the very basis for comparison itself (1830s ice) is suspect.

Nonetheless, there is a sound argument to be made to control pollution including CO2 but the world is not about to end because of CO2. Sorry, Al.

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trump_suit 5 years, 7 months ago

It is simply hard to understand how anyone can doubt that the ozone depeletion was a human caused problem. The laws and interventions that were put in place have slowed the CFC growth in the upper atmosphere and as a direct result, scientists are seeing real change in both the makeup of the upper atmosphere, and in the ozone depletion problem.

In the 70's this country saw major problems with polution in our waterways to the point that the river in Pittsburgh actually caught on fire. Laws were changed, public awareness was raised and we are slowly cleaning up our water. In Europe, the Rhine was completely void of life, and due to their changes, it has largely recovered.

These problems and concerns do not happen overnight, and the solutions will not be felt for decades but it is clear the human intervention can both cause and solve large scale environmental problems. I can agree with JLM that politics is involved at every level and there are people who stand to make big money depending on the action or inaction that is taken. This does not in and of itself change the basic equation.

Most scientists agree that the current level of CO2 in the atmosphere has never been higher. This has been proven by ice cores in the arctic regions. Scientists also agree that when the CO2 levels were this high in history, our planet was warmer.

The real questions here are:

Is humankind capable of destroying the world we live in?

Should we change our ways?

Is it even possible to change our ways?

It is simply idiotic to beleive that our actions on this planet will have no effect. As we have become a spacefaring species, the evidence is clear. Our water is dirty, our air is hazy and we are making it worse with our actions. If we don't begin the process of change now, then who will? I do not forsee a solution in any of our lifetimes, but it is time to start the process.

Sticking your head in the sand and refusing to believe that there is really a problem is not the path to a solution. The tobacco companies downplayed, ignored and white washed the health problems for decades until it was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that smoking tobacco is in fact bad for your health. Sound familiar?

The Oil and Coal companies are spouting the same nonsense now about CO2 emissions while the evidence is building. The smoking gun is there if you open your eyes and ears to the evidence. While the technology does not yet exist to completely change our world, it is time to start the process based on what we already know.

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playa46 5 years, 7 months ago

It's true, a lot of you lefties have been listening to science when it comes to global warming. However, science goes both ways.

The Earth is very old, climate change has happened so many times. Is this natural? Somewhat, our magnetic field is changing direction, soon compasses will point south. And this has happened around a climate change. Another Ice Age could happen.

At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that we have been speeding up the time in which climate change occurs. Through rock in volcanoes, we can see climate change occurring over the many million years, and we see the process speeding up.

It's not the end of the world. Simply a change. Will we adapt? It is too soon to find out. Shut up and smile people...

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 7 months ago

The effect of CFCs and the ozone layer appears to be pretty clear. The CFCs get mixed into the atmosphere and so some gets into the stratosphere where UV radiation breaks up the CFC and the free chlorine atoms act as a catalyst that breaks up ozone into normal 02 oxygen. Eventually the free chlorine disperses down from the stratosphere where it gets caught in the humidity of the lower atmosphere where it will stay. What makes CFCs special is that they are stable in the presence of moisture so the chlorine in the CFCs has a means of escaping the water/humidity of the lower atmosphere and can end up in the stratosphere.

The ozone hole in Antarctica happens because winter clouds reach -80C which is cold enough for the chlorine to freeze into the ice in the clouds. And when it warms up in the spring there is a whole lot of chlorine that wipes out half of the bottom layer of the ozone layer. The ozone hole is not a complete hole, This has been verified by sampling the clouds and atmosphere and detecting chlorine and ozone levels.

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 7 months ago

As for global warming, there are some people on both sides of the political spectrum that use any bit of science to advance the arguments that they are predisposed to make. As a mathematics major that took a bunch of physics, it is so ridiculous how people quote the Heisenberg uncertainty principle and the Godel completeness theorem as if they are proof of a general limitation on knowledge, research and science. Excuse me, but those apply to very specific topics. It does not mean that hippie beads work, but that Godel and Heisenberg proved that science cannot show why they work.

The big big issue for global warming is that the industrialized countries use a lot of energy and the two big developing countries, China and India, are rapidly increasing their usage and especially China is building coal plants like, literally, there is no tomorrow. China now produces more CO2 that the USA, but since they have so many more people, we in the USA still use more per person than anywhere else.

So we probably should not be building new coal plants. Especially, when wind farms in west Texas and northern plains can produce energy at just a couple cents a kwh more than coal. And probably cheaper than what clean coal will cost. And while solar panels on residential is very expensive, large solar plants in Arizona and Nevada should be cost effective.

And a carbon tax of $8 a ton of coal which would be about $.03 a gallon of gas and 2 tenths of a cent per kwh generated by coal. That would not be the end of the US economy. But it would put a cost onto generating CO2 and could finance improving the power grid so that solar and wind plants in the remote areas that have the most wind and sun are not stuck unable to sell their power. The catch-22 of renewable energy is the same wind and sun that makes some place a great place to put a plant also makes it a lousy place to live. Thus, there is a lack of infrastructure which makes it harder and more expensive to build the first plants in these prime locations.

And once we get our act together then we could impose a carbon tariff on imports made in China and we could start rebuilding our industrial base because we are more energy efficient and use more renewables.

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JLM 5 years, 7 months ago

Again, the simple truth of the matter is that solar and wind are 4-10 x as expensive as fossil fueled electrical generation. Austin Texas is putting in the largest solar collection field in the US and it is still in the same price range as it relates to costs to operate with all the attendant risks of being a pioneer and the sun not shining on some days. There are no economies of scale which make these alternative energy sources affordable. Simple truth.

The Chinese are building new clean coal plants at the rate of one per month and are decommissioning old plants at the same rate.

The grid is a strawman. The grid needs to be reworked regardless of what energy source is proposed.

The low hanging fruit is nuclear and the fake stumbling block is Yucca Mn which is ready to be operated. The real stumbling block is politics and Sen Harry Reid of Nevada.

It's time for a bit of Occam's Razor.

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JLM 5 years, 7 months ago

There are almost 3 billion Chinamen and about 300 million Americans. [BTW, there are about 110 million Mexicans and about 33 million Canadians, if you are looking at N America as a whole.] Right now our economy is bigger than theirs and our economic muscle is stronger. It may not always be so.

China is an economic explosion waiting to happen. There is a miracle happening as the Chinese drink from the waterhose of economic potential. Interestingly enough as we flirt with socialism they are in bed w/ capitalism. As we become a debtor nanny state, the Chinese become a hotbed of entreprenurial zeal.

Trade barriers and tariffs are questionable tactics when dealing w/ such a huge potential market or a huge trade adversary.

We will continue to have a huge advantage as it relates to technology, the actual deployment of technology and wealth --- but it will not last forever and the Chinese will not hit every ball over the fence. They still have to get rid of their aging rulers but they will surely do that.

While we currently take advantage of criminally low labor costs with "job shifting" to China (as we did w/ Mexico), the day will come when our market access will earn market access in China. GM sells more cars in China than in the US --- you will recall that an important element of the Obama Motors plan is to have American cars made by Chinamen and then re-imported into the US.

So, no, tariffs and tickling the dragon's tale on trade is not the way to go. You can only compete with and trade with capitalists on the basis of capitalism which is why our current predicament is so dangerous.

If we ruin our capitalist entrepreneurial class while the Chinese are building their's --- learn Mandarin.

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freerider 5 years, 7 months ago

This debate is completly moot...the human race is going to destroy the earth... just like a huge cancerous tumor ....there's no stopping it....nobody can control the out -of-control population growth...capitolism demands growth for survival

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Scott Wedel 5 years, 7 months ago

You are being duped by seeuski because the link is not about greenhouse gases, but smog decreasing (presumably due to epa regulations on car emissions and other sources of pollution in urban areas and the economic downturn).

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seeuski 5 years, 7 months ago

Ouch! A favorable report on declining polution is met with such harshness. What is up with that? Put your order in now for the new UAW Gov't Motors Obamamobile.

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JLM 5 years, 7 months ago

While I am normally inclined to embrace the sense of despair that humanity will ultimately sow the seeds of its own destruction, there is ample evidence to the opposite if only we will look for it and embrace it. The politics of the situation is probably more important than the actual environmental concerns.

Case in point is the clean up of the Hudson River and the striped bass fishery above NYC --- which after over 30 years of wrangling just began four days ago!

In the time period after WWII, GE used the Hudson River as a sewer dumping tons of PCBs into the water. PCBs were banned in 1977 because of their widespread acknowledged danger --- they are bad for your health and are resident in your fat forever. Eat fish w/ PCBs in them and you get PCBs in you --- not a good thing.

After years of fighting, the dredging of the Hudson River is finally underway and GE is finally removing literally tons of imbedded PCBs from the river bottom.

In the interim time period, the striped bass which had been literally unable to spawn in the toxic waters --- for a myriad of reasons other than just PCB contamination --- of the Hudson have returned w/ a vengance. Though it is still not advisable to eat stripers from the Hudson, it is probably overkill. The fish nonetheless are spawning their hearts out. The fishing is very, very good.

Why is the problem political? Because the EPA made a deal w/ GE to have GE only cure 10% of the problem and for the US Gov't (that would be you, my friends) to pick up the balance through the Superfund legislation. The Hudson River is the largest Superfund site in the US --- huh?

How did GE get away with this? Raw, simple, political muscle!

Lobbyists, campaign contributions, propaganda, litigation, settling out loud little claims, using their media muscle to divert attention and to "influence" the story. This is a perfect reason why a corporate conglomerate like GE should NOT be allowed to own media outlets. They become in house propaganda organs.

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