Former Colorado governors Richard Lamm, right, and Bill Owens discuss climate change in front of a room mostly full of energy industry representatives Friday at the Holiday Inn of Craig. Owens said it was the first time he would participate in this same discussion with Lamm in front of a friendly crowd. Before, they have debated in front of college students at the University of Denver, who, Owens said, often have not heard his viewpoint before.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Former Colorado governors Richard Lamm, right, and Bill Owens discuss climate change in front of a room mostly full of energy industry representatives Friday at the Holiday Inn of Craig. Owens said it was the first time he would participate in this same discussion with Lamm in front of a friendly crowd. Before, they have debated in front of college students at the University of Denver, who, Owens said, often have not heard his viewpoint before.

Former governors debate climate change at Energy Summit



Global Warning - Fact or Fiction?

Former Governors Richard Lamm and Bill Owens offer differing viewpoints on the issue of climate change, global warming - its causes and effects.

Former Governors Richard Lamm and Bill Owens offer differing viewpoints on the issue of climate change, global warming - its causes and effects.


Former Colorado governor Bill Owens, left, answers a question Friday at the Fueling Thought Energy Summit 2009 at the Holiday Inn of Craig.

Although the questions surrounding global warming - its existence, causes and effects - were not settled Friday, two former Colorado governors took the opportunity to discuss the issues in front of an audience deeply invested in the debate.

Republican Bill Owens and Democrat Richard Lamm spoke during the lunch break on the last day of the Fueling Thought Energy Summit 2009.

Yampa Valley Partners hosted the event at the Holiday Inn of Craig.

More than 100 people - the majority of which work in some segment of the energy industry - sat quietly, listened and applauded both speakers.

Lamm, who served from 1975 to 1987 and now is the co-director of the University of Denver Institute for Public Policy Studies, said leading scientists throughout the world agree Earth is in a warming period, and humanity is at least partly responsible.

"The question of global warming, I believe it is largely settled," he said, adding the energy industry should spend money on developing solutions, not on battling the proof that global warming exists.

"I believe the coal industry, and industry in general, should really not fund and believe the opposition to the fact that it exists," Lamm said. "I believe it would be much better to say, 'How do we solve this without creating economic dislocation?'"

Owens, who served from 1999 to 2007 and is a senior fellow at the institute Lamm helps lead, said there is no proven evidence that greenhouse gases are the cause of the warming people see today and cited his own scientific support.

"We have had small differences in temperatures well before mankind was on the Earth," he said, adding global warming has happened before.

Greenland received its name because the country's first settlers in the 1300s found a green, grassy land, and not the ice-covered tundra it is today, Owens said.

The average temperature continues to change, he said, such as during the global cooling period from 1940 to 1975.

He also contended Earth has not gotten "measurably warmer" since 1998. Owens cited a study from the University of Illinois Arctic Climate Research Center to back up his point.

The study showed that between September 2007 and spring 2008, the world experienced the greatest accumulation in sea ice since 1979.

Climate change, then, may be the result of ebbs and flows in natural forces, Owens said.

"I would suggest : what's happening has to do with the sun," he said.

The research of two Canadian climate scientists shows that solar activity is a "major driver" in climate changes up and down, Owens said, and can be correlated to historic temperature changes when carbon emissions can't.

"There has been a small amount of global warming," he said. "We don't know yet what causes it."

In that regard, Owens said the world's governments should spend their financial resources on other issues that may be more pressing than global warming, such as disease and the supply of clean drinking water.

The spontaneous ups and downs of recorded temperatures should not be exaggerated, Lamm responded.

Earth's temperature has never risen as fast as now, he said, and there has never been as much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

"Let's not confuse weather with climate," Lamm said. "There's always going to be variations in weather."

He added that 11 of the 12 warmest years ever recorded were in the past 12 years, and cited studies from the Intergovernmental Panel about Climate Change and the British government that said climate change is a key issue for every world government.

As for other scientists who disagree, Lamm was unconvinced their research was more valid.

"You always find somebody," he said. "I would suggest to you, you have this overwhelming consensus (about greenhouse gases). Why would the world's scientists be lying to us?"

Lamm added the financial cost tied to climate research and mitigation is worth the investment.

"Being in public policy is like sleeping with a blanket that's too short," he said. "Your shoulders get cold, and you pull up the blanket around your shoulders and your feet get cold.

"I think it's not only a matter of the odds, it's the stakes. When you really read the world's top scientists, and they're saying that our grandchildren's future might be at stake in this thing, I always said that gets my attention big time."


sickofitall 7 years, 11 months ago

I think that once places like Florida, Manhattan and other places 20 feet above sea level are buried in water, I think that just MIGHT convince them that this is happening.


aichempty 7 years, 11 months ago

Flooding the first 30 miles from the beach inland might just be the solution to the whole mess.


JLM 7 years, 11 months ago

To take the worst possible view of things, when all the discussions are completed and all the theories are advanced and all the contrary information is either embraced, discarded or ignored --- we are talking about a 1.5F increase in "global temperature" over a 103 year time period.

During over half of this time period, the accuracy of temperature measurement has not been within the percentage increase that 1.5F represents.

Said another way --- the entire debate turns on a measurement made by a fictitious micrometer and cut with a real axe. This is kind of like choosing your "favorite" scale upon which to weigh yourself.

Which is the right temperature --- the ear, under the tongue, the armpit or the rectal measurement? Regardless of which one you choose, you are still talking about 1.5F over 103 years.

To further compound things, the trend is not consant and during extensive periods --- in particular the 1960-80 time period, there was ample evidence of global cooling. In fact, the concern of that day was the "coming ice age". To connect two static points in time and to ignore the fluctations in between seems folly.

Further, there is absolutely no consensus as to where exactly to measure the Earth's temperature --- which leads to the use of sometimes bogus and certainly irrelevant anecdotal static information to try to explain a dynamic phenomenon.

If the east side of Antartica's ice is declining while the west side of Antartica's ice is increasing --- do we have any "global" warming phenomenon at all?

The confusion between weather and climate is to simply acknowledge the difference in time frames --- a short time period (weather trends like 400" of snow in SBS in two consecutive years, if this is the product of global warming, please sign me up) and long time periods (climate).

The fact that the debate has become politicized and has become the rallying cry of political parties is just sheer nonsense.

The idea that all of the Earth's temperature variation is a perfectly normal phenomenon and is influenced more by the Sun's energy variations is as likely an explanation of a 1.5F temperature variation at some mythical location on Earth over a 103 year time period --- an instant in the life of the Earth.

There are nonetheless a huge number of environmental issues which should be addressed and which do not require this issue to be resolved before taking action. It is unfortunate they cannot be discussed and acted upon based on their own merits.


sickofitall 7 years, 11 months ago

I believe the measurements are key in the Artic circle. Studies have shown the ice thickness to be 1/2 of what they were, and a loss of the ice would decrease the reflection (albedo) of energy (the Sun). With the ice gone the ocean would absorb 70% of the energy and reflect 30% whereas now 90% is reflected. This would greatly accelerate the proccess. There are conclusive measurements that have been taken that show the air and water to be warming. Also, a 3-5 degree shift from 31 degrees F to say 33-35 degrees F is a magical point where the ice turns to water.


Fred Duckels 7 years, 11 months ago

This warming controversy is difficult to judge. We have self interest fingers on the scale from both sides and hundreds of lobbyists, waiting at the starting line in Washington. Those in the favored positions will be handsomely rewarded. Add to this scenario the fact that both sides will try to make this into a political tool to get or maintain power. I cannot agree with the position that the Dems are taking, no nuclear, no more coal, no hydropower, essentially no more drilling, lets go with wind and solar which defies the imagination, as how to pull the logistics off on this one. We need to drill now to provide insurance against future fuel hikes. High fuel prices would put this life support economy into total ruin, we need time to bridge into the future,and the left seems to have found God, as only he could protect us in this case. Finding the time and capital to convert to solar and wind again is out of the bounds of my imagination. Taxes needed to pull this off would be inconceivable, especially in an economy that is bankrupt. It is this "money is no object" mentality being tried once again, to see if we might get lucky. I guess this in called "investment". God whispered in my ear the other day and he told me to do this. 1 Drill baby drill, as we have no protection against the next fuel spike and using our own oil will help our balance of payments, preventing total collapse. 2 Develop all our resources to provide protection against an uncertain future. This would include a healthy nuclear industry that other nations seem to find workable. 3 Scrap the political subsidies to fuels like ethanol that don't work, Proponents of the borderline fuel sources will always claim that more federal aid will be the answer, as they are just on the verge of a breakthrough. Deadend research will always take take more money, if you offer me money, I'll take it. 4 Convert to the path of cleanest options, let the markets assist, and try to remove politics, if this can be agreed upon. Some micromanaging may be necesary, 5 Problem solved, now what about the rest of the world, sure am glad that I'm getting old.


JLM 7 years, 11 months ago

Woulda, coulda, shoulda and now "magic" ---- wow! Grasping at straws. LOL

Facts: 1.5F in 103 years, inaccurate measurements, global cooling as believable as global warming.


But, hey, Al Gore is a great scientist after all, he invented the freakin' Internet!


JLM 7 years, 11 months ago

Solar and wind are the most expensive conceivable alternatives --- 4-10 x as expensive as current carbon realities. Most unreliable as sun doesn't always shine and wind doesn't always blow. These are the darlings of the political left and they simply don't make economic sense. Want to pay 4-10 x for your electricity?

Nuclear power is the lowest cost alternative. It works. It is safe. More people have been killed in Teddy Kennedy's cars than in the entire history of the nuclear power industry.

The US Navy has been running hundreds of nuclear power plants continuously for the last 55 years. Not a single accident. France derives almost their entire electrical producton from nuclear. Are we as clever and smart and innovative as, say,........................................................France? I think so.

Yucca Mountain in Nevada (Federal nuclear waste depository) was to have been operational 12 years ago --- but Harry Reid is from Nevada. We've spent $10B to build it, let's use it. Obstruction is not energy policy.

We have undrilled domestic resources in proven fields, an abundance of natural gas which faces only a distribution challenge, huge deposits of coal which can be used for 'clean coal' technology and yet we continue to import crude from Middle East (which uses the revenue, in part, to finance terrorism) and Venezuela. We continue to allow Venezuela owned Citgo to retail refined products in the US. Why trade w/ our enemies?

Whether you agree on global warming or not, there are a great number of good ideas which should be implemented while the debate rages. Let's do the stuff we agree on NOW!


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