David Moss: Climate change context

Advertisement

On Wednesday, Sarah Jones wrote a letter to the editor in support of sustainability. She called for the Steamboat Springs City Council to develop a climate action plan with specific energy-efficiency goals. On Friday, Steve Mendell replied with a letter that supported global cooling and free-market activity. Both letters were written by true believers, and time will tell who is correct about the global temperature changes and any actions needed.

The purpose of this letter is to try to put climate change in a larger context. Climate change began on the Earth when the atmosphere and oceans formed and will continue until Earth looks like Mars, probably as a result of the sun expanding to become a red giant.

Let us put temperature in a local context. Where I live on Seedhouse Road in North Routt, my house would have been covered with hundreds of feet of glacier ice during the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago. In contrast, in West Routt, the coal being mined formed in an earlier time when the area was much hotter, wetter and covered with large amounts of vegetation. The carbon dioxide level at that time was also much higher than now. It is worth noting that the carbon in the coal and other fossil fuels are part of the carbon cycle on earth and previously had been in the atmosphere. Our activity of burning it only speeds up the cycle.

So clearly, our local area has been both much colder and warmer than now. The climate will continue to change. Until we have a much greater understanding of this extremely complex process involving the sun, landmass, oceans and atmosphere, I doubt there is much man can do about it.

How rapidly can climate change, at least at the local level? It can happen very rapidly, probably because of changes in ocean currents, but again, who knows? My evidence comes from the mammoths frozen in the tundra in Alaska and Siberia. They are found intact with vegetable matter in their stomachs.

What this means, to me, is that the animals were eating on the tundra when a sudden massive blizzard caught them. Just as cattle on the range in Eastern Colorado do, they sought shelter in a low area and were buried by the storm. Unlike today, spring never came, and they did not decay or become food for scavengers. They were buried for about a thousand years in the permafrost that formed after the sudden cooling. Recent warming has brought them to the surface. I think this shows the cooling period came on suddenly and lasted for a long time.

So what do I think is happening now (and the emphasis is think, not know)? I think we are in a transition in global temperature from warming to cooling. This allows both sides of the debate to cherry pick data in support of their arguments. Time will tell.

People who talk about “stopping” climate change do not understand the big picture. We need to focus on developing a better understanding of the forces involved in climate change and their interactions before we even can begin to consider actions that might have a meaningful impact on the change. The current models are totally inadequate in this regard. Until we have a much better understanding, I think each person should make their own choices about how to behave and what to do to protect the environment.

David Moss

Clark


Comments

jerry carlton 6 months, 1 week ago

David Most sensible letter I have seen on this debate.

0

John Weibel 6 months, 1 week ago

Well said and what the debate should be left at.

0

mark hartless 6 months, 1 week ago

I do not understand why people can not grasp this point which David makes so very well.

The earth's climate has always changed and it will continue to do so in ways that man CAN NOT possibly predict.

For a group of people who could not control a pine beetle to suggest they can affect global atmospheric change is laughable.

1

Neil O'Keeffe 6 months, 1 week ago

Thanks,for sharing David! Have to say that is one of the most balanced and rational positions on this subject I have come across in some time. Thanks for not putting it an ideological/political context which only tends to stiffen the backs of both sides of the issue, whatever it may be. Diplomacy at its best, not that I know much about that subject.

0

John Fielding 6 months, 1 week ago

Much of the physical evidence that links higher CO2 levels with warmer climate is clearly accurately reported. What is less certain is whether the CO2 was the result of or cause of the warmer weather, or even coincidental in that the same forces produced them both but they did not produce each other.

Anyone?

0

Dan Shores 6 months, 1 week ago

The fact that global climate has experienced periods of cold, as in the ice age, and periods of warming and drought have nothing to do with the discussion and question of whether or not the activities of man could impact global climate and more importantly weather patterns now and in the future. That's why the issue is not referred to as "global warming" but rather "climate change". The majority of scientist who study these things have concluded that it is possible and infact likely that the activities of man are indeed influencing climate and whether patterns. Never before in the history of the planet has man spewed as much carbon into the atmosphere as is being done today and this activity is only increasing in intensity. So looking at ancient history and concluding that since climate has changed in the past without interference by man, this is somehow proof that current or future activities of man couldn't possibly influence the climate is plain crazy and false logic. Unless you are a die hard denier, you would have to admit that more hydrocarbons are being released into the atmosphere now than ever before in history and if we continue on the current path, who knows how bad it could get. There is nothing, no record in history of this much pollution ever being released into the air. So we have to look at the motivation of the deniers. Are the deniers beholden to big oil or the mining industry? This is the obvious motivation of todays right wing. Do they just not care about anyone but themselves and since they don't see pollution in the Yampa Valley they assume that it must not exist anywhere and is just not worth worrying about? This seems to be the reasoning of some of the contributors to this thread. What is the motivation? Is it just a purely scientific discussion with no political overtones and simply a matter of the validity of someones scientific theory? If it is the latter, it is impossible to prove that the activities of man can't influence climate, or that they can. What is a fact is that burning fossil fuels for energy production is releasing an unprecedented amount of hydrocarbons, THAT ARE TOXIC, into the earths atmosphere and that this activity is unsustainable and that the release of these previously buried hydrocarbons COULD and MOST LIKELY ARE contributing to climate change. So again, I can't understand the argument against investing in clean, renewable sources of energy and thereby eliminate dependence on our enemies as a source of fossil fuels as well. It is unacceptable to just continue to ignore the problem or pretend that you can just drill for more oil or natural gas and continue to release more and more pollutants into the air we breathe and eveything will just be fine. Why should we continue to spend billions of taxpayer dollars each year to subsidize big oil instead using that money to hire the best of the best in the scientific community to come up with clean renewable energy sources.

0

Dan Shores 6 months ago

Big oil, the Steve Mandells of the world and the right wing drill baby drill crowd have no interest or concern whatsoever about the damage they are doing to the environment. Their only concern is profit maximization. Anyone notice that no new refineries have been built in the U.S. in at least 20 years. Big oil is quite aware of the theory of profit maximization. There is an equilibrium between price, supply and demand and that equilibrium is constantly being sought. You can drill and drill and drill and increase the supply of crude but all of the U.S. refineries are at or near capacity. Big oil has no interest in increasing the supply of refined product for fear that the increased supply would lower the price and upset the profit maximization model. They also know that if they charge too much, demand will decrease and again, profit potential will not be maximized. So they produce just enough to meet demand and charge the highest possible price that will not inhibit demand and thereby maximize profit. Environmental concerns would only add to cost and upset the model so they have no concern about the damage they do to our planet. Then, they get a bunch of nuts like Steve who claim to be scientists to deny that their production, or the consumption of their product produces toxins that are released into the environment or has any harmful effect at all. It's just like the days of old when big tobacco claimed there was no correlation between smoking and cancer. I bet Steve still doesn't think there is any connection. Clean, renewable sources of energy must be sought and made a priority, not only to protect our fragile environment, but to insure energy independence. Thank you.

0

Dan Kuechenmeister 6 months ago

Dan S. Big Oil is why no new refineries have been guilt seems to be inferred by you in your most recent post. Do you do any research before you post or do you just spew hate "bunch of nuts like Steve who claim to be scientists". here is part of an article regards oil refineries and I will post a link to the whole article at the end. I don't expect you will read it or believe it because it doesn't fit into your thought process or ideology. "The number of US refineries has fallen steadily, from 301 in 1982 to 143 last year. Because this mainly involved the retirement of smaller, less efficient facilities, while larger refineries "de-bottlenecked" or expanded, US refinery capacity actually grew over this period. It's generally cheaper to expand an existing facility, leveraging its infrastructure and experienced staff, than building a "grassroots" facility.

The hurdles facing new refinery construction in the US have been compounded by environmental regulations covering permits, emissions and product specifications. The time when a new entrant could simply distill light crude oil, sprinkle in some tetraethyl lead and other additives, and sell a full slate of refined products is long gone. New refineries in North Dakota, Texas and Utah are apparently focused on producing diesel fuel from the shale, or "tight" oil in the Bakken, Eagle Ford, and Uinta shales, respectively, and selling the rest of their output to other refiners or petrochemical plants as feedstocks." http://theenergycollective.com/geoffrey-styles/352711/will-shale-oil-growth-lead-new-us-refineries

1

Dan Shores 6 months ago

Dan K thanks for confirming what I wrote in my post that there have been no new refineries built in the last 20 years. Go ahead and pretend that continuing to rely on fossil fuels for our energy needs is a great idea and there is no need to look at clean renewable sources because it is impossible. Go ahead and pretend that there is no pollution produced by the extraction, refining and burning of fossil fuels and everything is hunky dory. Fine by me. I'm just thankful that you all are in the extreme minority.

0

Dan Kuechenmeister 6 months ago

Dan S. I have a project for you. Prove from my posts that the accusations you made of me are accurate. Prove that I have said "there is no need to look at clean renewable sources because it's impossible" or any thing similar to that. Prove where I have said "there is no pollution produced by the extraction, refining and burning of fossil fuels" or something similar to that. I am so tired of your left wing rants against anybody who may disagree with your ideology. A while back on another string of posts you were invited by Kevin Nearney to the possibility of getting together for a discussion. I can't quote you exactly but as I recall the gist of your response was you had no interest getting together with a group that might include libertarian/conservatives that you only wanted to hang with your "own" kind, whatever that means. You appear to have only one arrow in your quiver. To insult any and all that disagree with your view. Nothing to back your rants up except insults and false accusations. Why you would want to show yourself in such a poor light in a public forum is beyond me but it is America and there is that free speech thing so you just keep on ranting to your hearts content. "Certainty is a closing of the mind. To create something new you must have doubt." Milton Glaser

2

john bailey 6 months ago

you forgot about the no smoking and going to bars. like they have any thing in common now a days.

1

Dan Shores 6 months ago

Here you go Mr. Scientist:

Part 1 Waves crash onto the sea wall protecting homes in Longport, N.J. (Credit: AP/Joseph Kaczmarek) How’s this for a scientific consensus? The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society with a membership of 121,200 scientists and “science supporters” globally, just released an 18-page report confirming that the world is at growing risk of “abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes” due to climate change.

It’s called, simply, “What We Know,” and the facts it presents follow three basic assertions (presented here as summarized by its authors):

  1. The reality:

“Based on well-established evidence, about 97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening. This agreement is documented not just by a single study, but by a converging stream of evidence over the past two decades from surveys of scientists, content analyses of peer-reviewed studies, and public statements issued by virtually every membership organization of experts in this field. Average global temperature has increased by about 1.4˚ F over the last 100 years. Sea level is rising, and some types of extreme events – such as heat waves and heavy precipitation events – are happening more frequently. Recent scientific findings indicate that climate change is likely responsible for the increase in the intensity of many of these events in recent years.”

  1. The risks:

“Earth’s climate is on a path to warm beyond the range of what has been experienced over the past millions of years. The range of uncertainty for the warming along the current emissions path is wide enough to encompass massively disruptive consequences to societies and ecosystems: as global temperatures rise, there is a real risk, however small, that one or more critical parts of the Earth’s climate system will experience abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes. Disturbingly, scientists do not know how much warming is required to trigger such changes to the climate system.”

  1. The response:

“Waiting to take action will inevitably increase costs, escalate risk, and foreclose options to address the risk. The CO2 we produce accumulates in Earth’s atmosphere for decades, centuries, and longer. It is not like pollution from smog or wastes in our lakes and rivers, where levels respond quickly to the effects of targeted policies. The effects of CO2 emissions cannot be reversed from one generation to the next until there is a large- scale, cost-effective way to scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Moreover, as emissions continue and warming increases, the risk increases.”

0

Dan Shores 6 months ago

This is the scientific consensus on climate change part 2:

None of the above, the scientists explained, is up for debate any longer. What’s yet to be determined, however, is how many of those possibilities will come to pass, along with what we can and should do to mitigate the risks. In what the Guardian characterizes as a rare intervention into policy debate, the AAAS is hoping that making the scientific consensus as clear as possible, they can help advance the conversation to focus on the things we actually need to be debating right now. “Because so many people are confused about the science,” the New York Times explains, “the nation has never really had a frank political discussion about the options.”

“What’s extremely clear is that there’s a risk, a very significant risk,” Mario Molina, the head of the committee that produced the report, told the Times. “You don’t need 100 percent certainty for society to act.”

All of these scientist's got it wrong but Steve Mendell from Steamboat got it right. Too funny.

0

Thomss Steele 6 months ago

David thank you for a well written, logical letter. I hope people on both sides of the debate stop and think about it.

0

Dan Shores 6 months ago

Dan K., my comments were not directed specifically at you, but as they say, if the shoe fits, be my guest. So hears the deal, I've made my case in support of clean, renewable energy and the dangers of continuing on the fossil fuel train. I've backed up my claim by presenting the findings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general scientific society with a membership of over 121,200 scientist and "science supporters" globally and their just released 18 page report confirming that the world is at a growing risk of "abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes" due to climate change. 97% of the world's scientific community also agrees with these findings. On the other hand you have Steve the Steamboat scientist and Dan K. who disagree with the worlds scientific community. So if you believe me and 97% of the scientists and we are wrong, you still get a cleaner environment and energy independence. Or you can go with Steve the Scientist and Dan K. and if they are wrong you get dirtier air and water and continued reliance on our enemies for our energy needs. Doesn't seem like a very difficult decision to me. Dan K., I did thank Kevin for the invite to your little get together. I hope you all had fun. As I said I don't drink alcohol or smoke and I have no use for bars and prefer the company of my fellow athletes and like minded sensible individuals. Hangin out with you all sounds like about as much fun as watching Fox News and listening to Rush Limbaugh at the same time. What a hoot!

0

Dan Shores 6 months ago

As I said, you can believe Steve the Steamboat scientist and Dan K., or you can believe 97% of the scientific community. The choice is yours!

0

Dan Shores 6 months ago

I stand with AAAS and the 97%. Believe what ever you want, I don't care. As I said, you are a tiny, psychotic, paranoid minority and hold no sway with the actual scientific community and have zero impact on public policy, so who cares.

0

john bailey 6 months ago

and I'm gonna take my ball and go home.... you sniveling little liberal, here wipe your mouth your spewing xit again.....you wanted a link war and you got one, and you still whine

1

Dan Shores 6 months ago

Oh I almost forgot, Steve the Steamboat scientist, as far as polling goes. your party just hit a new low of 25% approval in the most recent polls. Maybe you can do a scientific study on why your party is so unpopular. I wonder if it has anything to do with being full of bona fide nut cases. The republican "Clown Car" has a full tank of gas and a new driver nearly every week!

0

john bailey 6 months ago

and another thing........oopps you spilled some more there Dan, i'll get more napkins.....hang in there......

1

Dan Shores 6 months ago

Thanks John for the adult behavior. What's the matter, am I hittin a little to close to home and gettin your panties all tied up in knots?

0

john bailey 6 months ago

and who is throwing a hissy fit cause ya got out linked. your the perfect little liberal and an awful whiney one at that. do you spew your liberal logic to your ski students? I'd hope not they might bounce ya out of the chair. and god forbid who your selling houses to......you are a fine piece of work but you belong in Colyfornia and not here.

1

Steve Lewis 6 months ago

Huh. Melting ice at the North pole is allowing new shipping through through the area. Global cooling?

0

mark hartless 6 months ago

And the great lakes are ice-bound well into March... Ice breakers are working overtime there...

0

Ken Collins 6 months ago

Somebody to the rescue for D Shores. Man pollutes the rivers, lakes and oceans to nearly unusable states. We've wiped out thousands of species. We're blowing up mountaintops and pushing the toxic waste into rivers just to make it easy to get coal. We're drilling thousands of holes so we can cram toxins and carcinogens down them and we get methane gas leaking at a large portion of them. We're fertilizing our grain fields to the point of death. We're irrigating fields till they are no longer usable because of salt residue. We're destroying millions of acres of rain forest every year so that, in a very short time, become useless because rain forests can't sustain crops for more than a few years. We grow corn, a crop extremely hard on soil, just so we can add it to gas, even though it takes more energy to produce than what we get from it's use. We're slowly killing ourselves and the planet. And all you guys are saying that man can't have any effect on climate? Even though we spew billions of tons of CO2 and an arm's length list of toxins into the atmosphere every year? Apparently, smoking doesn't hurt our lungs? We're turning thousands of acres of Canadian arboreal forests into a hell on earth for tar sand oil and this doesn't do any harm? Pretty much any scientist worth his weight in element charts agree man is effecting the climate. And the argument that the earth is "not cooling"? A crock. Go to Greenland, western Antarctica, Patagonia, Iceland, Glacier Natl Park. The seas are rising as is the temperature of the oceans. You can find a website to support the evidence of the Easter Bunny. Maybe we should use COMMON SENSE.

0

Ken Collins 6 months ago

Steve, I have to wonder if you or Bailey ever fought in either of W's wars that helped along our current fiscal disaster? Something my "ilk" was against from day 1.

0

john bailey 6 months ago

Ken , I for one was tending to and learning my skilled craft on the Front Range building it up for what apparently was for the comfort of the forth coming invasion of the Colyfornians to my adopted state. xit and we had em confined to Boulder at one point..... now as for my childhood buddy and best man at my wedding , I think he would take offence at what appears to be your lack of gratitude for his many missions flown in Desert Shield and Storm following in the foot steps of his father who served proudly in the 2nd AF along with my father. and what prey tell were you and your "ilk" doing? Dan doesn't need help , he needs a shrink and a change of scenery.....west coast scenery.....

0

mark hartless 6 months ago

Ken says:

"We grow corn, a crop extremely hard on soil, just so we can add it to gas, even though it takes more energy to produce than what we get from it's use."

That's right Ken. Ain't that ridiculous???

Know how THAT got started??? Religious environmentalists, corrupt government, farm lobby, and knee-jerk science.

1

mark hartless 6 months ago

We are at an impass because I will NEVER allow you to use the force of government to suddenly impose the changes you seek.

We are at an impass because you will NEVER allow free markets to gradually work out the changes i would gladly accept.

0

Steve Lewis 6 months ago

"I have yet to see any option that is worse than ignoring the risk of global warming and doing nothing." - Dr Judith Curry

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/10/AR2007101002157.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

Interesting lady. She seems adamant that a tribal approach to the science of climate change is bad, on both sides. The above quote comes from her rebuttal of climate change skeptic, Bjorn Lomborg. From the same article by Curry:

"In his Outlook essay "Chill Out," Bjorn Lomborg rightly notes that skepticism about climate change is no longer focused on whether it the earth is getting warmer (it is) or whether humans are contributing to it (we are). The current debate is about whether warming matters, and whether we can afford to do anything about it."

"Lomborg's attitude toward risk is also troubling. He focuses only on the middle range of the panel's projections, dismissing the risk from the higher end of the range. But if the risk is great, then it may be worth acting against even if its probability is small. Think of risk as the product of consequences and likelihood: what can happen and the odds of it happening. A 10-degree rise in global temperatures by 2100 is not likely; the panel gives it a 3 percent probability. Such low-probability, high-impact risks are routinely factored into any analysis and management strategy, whether on Wall Street or at the Pentagon."

"The rationale for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide is to reduce the risk of the possibility of catastrophic outcomes. Making the transition to cleaner fuels has the added benefit of reducing the impact on public health and ecosystems and improving energy security -- providing benefits even if the risk is eventually reduced."

0

Steve Lewis 6 months ago

"Lomborg gets it right when he calls for an ambitious public investment program in clean-energy technologies. But he mistakenly assumes that existing technologies and strategies can't make a big dent in carbon emissions at an affordable price. We're developing hybrid and electric cars, building wind farms and ocean wave energy stations. New batteries, fuel cells and solar panels are smaller, better and cheaper than they were just a few years ago. I am in awe of the new technologies that I see being developed at Georgia Tech, and such research is happening at the nation's major research universities and in the private sector."

"As scientists continue to challenge and improve the quality and understanding of climate records and models, skepticism by scientists conducting such research is alive and well. But oversimplifying the situation, using misleading information and presenting false choices is not useful in the public debate over global warming."

"... a sensible debate has begun on how to best respond to global warming -- in national and local governments, universities and the private sector -- in the U.S. and around the world. There is no easy solution to this problem; the challenge is how best to develop options that are feasible, efficient, viable and scalable. Lomborg is correct to be concerned about the possibility of bad policy choices. But I have yet to see any option that is worse than ignoring the risk of global warming and doing nothing."

0

Steve Lewis 6 months ago

Steve Mendell,

You quote Dr. Curry several times in your arguments. Surely you have come across the larger body of her commentary. If she does not agree with your position, this inconvenient fact should be worth your acknowledgment as you quote her. No?

0

Scott Wedel 6 months ago

Just because the previous models are not accurate does not mean the whole issue of global warming goes away. It puts a challenge to come up with better models.

The underlying trend of the earth receiving more heat than it is losing to space remains confirmed by very accurate satellite measurements.

Looks like there is a lot of other stuff going on since while atmospheric temps are rising less than expected, Greenland's ice sheets are melting faster than expected. And Arctic ice melted to an unexpected low level two years ago, but had closer to what is the recent average last year. Looks like oceans are warming. Oceans are big and a it doesn't take much of a ocean temp increase to absorb a lot of heat.

0

Steve Lewis 6 months ago

My hysteria mongering… ? Comrade …? You don't sound like a scientist, Steve.

From what I read, Dr. Curry believes as I do - 1) the earth is getting warmer, 2) humans are contributing to the warming, and 3) we should try to reduce our impacts. None of your links indicate she is recanting any of these views. She mainly argues the models are too sensitive and need correction. Her most recent article link refers to a period of flat temperatures, which she calls a "hiatus" from a warming trend which she expects to return.

Is she hysterical? Where is the fraud? Steve, you are the one cherry picking Dr. Curry's text to make claims she herself would deny.

0

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.