Archive for Friday, October 26, 2012

Letter: Climate choice

October 26, 2012


To the editor:

Over some time, I have clipped, from your newspaper, articles with headlines like “Report: Arctic melt faster than expected” (May, 4, 2011), “Scientists: Get used to hotter summers” (June 9, 2011), “Biggest jump ever seen in global warming gases” (Nov. 4, 2011), “Greenhouse gases hit record level” (Nov. 22, 2011), “New planting map reflects global warming” (Jan. 26, 2012), “Drought-parched soil leads to homes cracking” (Sept. 10, 2012), “Drought clouds crop outlook” (Oct. 12, 2012), “Recent rain barely a drop toward making up deficit” (Oct. 16, 2012).

All are evidence that scientific predictions are proving accurate, that humanity’s excessive emissions of greenhouse gases from using fossil-based fuels (coal, petroleum, natural gas) will cause climate disruptions that affect all aspects of our lives. It’s clear that conscientiously reducing our output of greenhouse gases is absolutely essential. Although it will probably not be politically advantageous for a candidate to speak openly about global warming until its effects have become extreme, truly our most urgent need now is for leaders committed to policies that will drastically reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

Between the two presidential candidates in the upcoming elections, voters do have a clear choice: Mitt Romney bases his “economic plan” on driving full-speed into extracting coal, oil and natural gas from every possible source on U.S. soil. President Obama can, at least, emphasize his priorities to invest in the education, scientific research and technology development needed to make us world leaders in energy efficiency and a brighter future less reliant on climate-disrupting fossil fuels. Voters, let’s keep this in mind as we cast our 2012 ballots.


Les Blevins 5 years, 5 months ago

Nancy makes some excellent points and they point to the need for voters who are critical thinkers or not to vote straight democratic ballots. Republicans don't like alternative/renewable energy because in reducing carbon emissions it can also cut into the profits of big oil financial supporters like the Koch brothers who own several LLCs that will soon be free of state income taxes and will have more money to use for the support of their Republican candidates like Lynn Jenkins and Sam Brownback.

Fretster 5 years, 5 months ago

Why so rude? It's incredibly immature and does not make a point whatsoever.

rtwngr 5 years, 5 months ago

Because most of us choose not to worship at the alter of the world collective. All of the evidence that the writer stated is anecdotal. Manmade global warming is "malarkey" to quote a buddy of yours.

jaywalker 5 years, 5 months ago

All good in idyll. We could dial it back to pre-industrial, but since India, Brazil, and China have opted to crank up their "progress" it seems such a move would be as effective as shooting BB's at a tank. I'd love to believe that by "leading the way" we might change the world in this aspect, but the "our" in Nancy's letter is a world collective. And it ain't gonna happen 'til we stand on the brink.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

Well, if everyone else is going to commit mass suicide, the only possible response is to join them in that suicide pact. I'm glad we have clear thinkers like you around to keep on course off that cliff, jaywalker.

Liberty275 5 years, 5 months ago

The left won't be happy until we are pushed back into the stone age.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

Actually, quite the opposite-- we'd like to avoid massive die-off of 100's of millions if not billions of people that will result if global warming/climate change is allowed to advance unabated.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

Do you have any thoughts on what sort of lifestyle would be sustainable?

In other words, given the population of the earth now, how would we all have to live in order to prevent disastrous climate change?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

I like comfort and convenience as much as anyone does, but the choice isn't between having that and not having that. The choice is whether we consciously control our destiny, maximizing our comfort and convenience in a sustainable way, or continue as we are until we have no choices about anything.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

So, no answer?

I'm curious as to what level of living and resource use the earth can support sustainably.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

I have no magic ball that gives the precise answer you appear to be looking for.

All I can say with a high degree of certainty is that Americans' current level of comfort and convenience and the way we produce it is completely unsustainable. It will end either because we change in a conscious and controlled way that still leaves us with comfortable lives and loads of modern conveniences, or the whole house of cards collapses around us, leaving 100's of millions or even billions of humans in a very miserable state.

Chris Golledge 5 years, 5 months ago

We'd have to live about as we are now, with approximately 1% less material goods. Or, there can be a bottleneck in the human population.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

Source for that?

You mean that we can continue to have all the modern conveniences, and everybody else can have them as well? Or that we continue to use a lot of resources, and many others live much more simply?

What lifestyle will the planet support for everybody on it, without causing too much damage?

Ken Lassman 5 years, 5 months ago

A good place to start is improving energy efficiency. Without too much trouble, most folks could maintain their current lifestyle options and cut 20% off their energy use just by wasting less of it. After that, with a few technological tweaks, you could cut an additional 30%--and why not? Germany uses only 50% per capita energy consumption of the US already.

Other areas, such as transportation, are also ripe for decreased waste, and the new CAFE mileage standards is an excellent way to get us moving to reach significant gains in efficiency.

Without these kinds of gains in efficiency, it will be impossible to keep up with the inevitability of decreased production that will not result not necessarily from dried up reserves so much as it will come from reduced return on your investments. Oil pumped up in the 20's and 30's had a energy return-to-energy invested ratio of up to 100 times the amount invested; the tar sands being mined in Alberta has so much energy invested to extract, refine, pump and process that the return ratio is in single digits. Eventually, the fracking boom will also see a reduced return for natural gas, and prices will hike up there, too.

Getting our technologies matured in the renewables area is just good planning even if you don't believe the climate writing on the wall, and even moreso if you do--or will. Will we be able to sustain our current lifestyles either way? What does that even mean? The way we live is constantly changing anyway--all you have to do is think back to when you were a kid, or look at your parents, grandparents. It's apples and oranges anyway you look at it, so I say, take the bull by the horns and work on fashioning a lifestyle that is kind on humans and the planet together.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

All of that is fine.

And, we use a lot less energy/resources than most, and live quite comfortably.

But, it doesn't answer the question I asked.

In order to have a sustainable situation environmentally, what kind of lifestyle can people on the planet have? If all of your changes result in lowered energy use, but lead to a still unsustainable situation, it's not enough, right?

So, I'm curious about the question. I'd like to believe that everybody could live as I do, but I'm not at all sure that's the case, even with our very conservation oriented lifestyle.

And, if you look at the changes you mentioned over time, they are pretty straight line in the direction of larger footprints, and heavier resource use, aren't they?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

Americans use twice as much energy per capita as Western Europeans, but even if the rest of the world only aspired to the level of consumption of Europeans, the current status quo in energy production and use makes that impossible.

As I noted above, no one can state with certainty the answer to your question(s) about what the future will look like. But what is certain is that the current lifestyle of most Americans is completely unsustainable. Continuing to do the same will have one predictable outcome-- the complete loss of comfort and convenience for all but a very small fraction of surviving humans.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

If massive changes in lifestyle are necessary, that's a very hard sell for many people.

That's probably a big part of the resistance to dealing with the issue, I think.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 5 months ago

jafs, I really don't think that your assumption that everyone wants to live as you do is correct. Have you been to other countries, particularly 3rd world countries? Do they want economic security, shelter, healthy food and meaningful lives? Yes. Do they define each of those things the same way we do? Not at all. Given economic and technological resources, they will come up with very different looking solutions than we have, and in fact they are. Many, many countries are acutely aware of the resource limitations in their country and are much more capable of doing much more with much less than we have, and they are looking less and less at our country as the source of innovation and emulation, rather they are seeing us more and more as using more than our share of those resources.

In other words, many countries could enlarge their consumption footprints some with resulting significant gains in improving their lot and they would still be consuming way less than we do per capita. Furthermore, instead of trying to make their economies dependent on ours so we can increase our exports and keep our party going a little longer, helping them help thems elves would be a much better path where we might be able to bring back some local innovations and learn from those places with a more immediate memory of what it means to know and help your neighbor. Typically, these decentralized approaches tend to be less carbon intensive, too.

Finally, I don't know if there is a sustainable way to keep a growing humanity of 7 billion folks on the planet. The numbers are already there now and growing, but I don't see the current disparities as a sign of humanity being anywhere close to being sustainable in an equitable manner, do you? I guess my sense is that if we just build walls and stick our heads in the sand, things will get worse faster than if we acknowledge the disparities and try our hardest to come up with way more sustainable lifestyles than we currently have.

jafs 5 years, 5 months ago

I don't assume that.

But, if they do, I'd like for them to be able to, rather than having Americans use resources at a much higher level than a lot of other folks - just seems fair to me.

Otherwise, our ability to continue to be comfortable comes at somebody else's expense.

I agree that it's better to help other countries work well and be independent, rather than dependent on us.

If there isn't a sustainable way to do that, then we're in big trouble no matter what we do, right? Unless we have some big pandemics, or more wars, etc. to decrease the population.

I agree we should do what we can - my point is really that some sort of idea what would be sustainable would be helpful in determining our goals and being clear about them. Of course, if bozo's right, and massive lifestyle changes are necessary, that's a hard sell, and it's exactly what opponents of environmentalists are afraid of.

Either way, I'd like some clarity on the subject - couldn't one do some sort of math, taking the required decreases in CO2 necessary, and come up with some sort of average carbon footprint, or something like that?

If it turns out we just need to live in smaller houses, with efficient appliances, be mindful of energy use, and drive fuel-efficient cars, that's not too hard to sell.

Paul Wilson 5 years, 5 months ago

A few articles from like minded zealots does not constitute proof. What fool would have their litmus test for a candidate be something so utterly flawed. You are just the flip side of the religious right.

Liberty275 5 years, 5 months ago

You don't have proof. All you have is the word of people that play their cards right and get nice grants.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

Those people with their nice grants have scientific expertise and mountains of data. You've got nothing. I'll go with the ones who know something, not the know-nothings.

Liberty275 5 years, 5 months ago

"You've got nothing"

I've got the money they want.

Matthew Herbert 5 years, 5 months ago

+1 thank you. I hear people whine constantly about how politicians aren't doing what they need to do to help (insert problem here). So many issues can be, and frankly were meant to be, solved by active citizens doing their part; not just doing their part to vote, but doing their part to ACTUALLY act to solve the problem within their own lives

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

Yes, individual action is important, but to truly address the problems of global warming/climate change requires systemic changes that can't be achieved by individual action alone.

And there lies the ideological rub-- the current form of self-centered, greed-based capitalism is incapable of and unwilling to bring about those systemic changes. Its proponents can't admit that to themselves or anyone else, so they resort instead to the denial of the very clear data and scientific evidence.

Armstrong 5 years, 5 months ago

Someone should hook up a windmill to this thread

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

There is plenty of very strong data and evidence. And yet your response is to cover your ears and scream "wa wa wa!!!!"

So quit asking if you're too immature to hear what you don't want to hear.

livinginlawrence 5 years, 5 months ago

Even if environmentalism could be considered an ideology, it's pretty hard to argue with an "ideology" that prioritizes concern for the welfare of the world upon which we all live.

Liberty275 5 years, 5 months ago

Sounds like a good reason for voting for Romney.

5 years, 5 months ago

@LOL. Actually, it sounds like a good reason to stop pretending that science is equivalent to engineering.

Engineers can be held professionally and personally responsible for their work. If it goes horribly wrong, they are occasionally prosecuted for gross negligence. And few complain: we expect a certain, measurable level of competence and professionalism from engineers.

Do we get that from scientists? Quite the opposite. Just witness the defense in the Italian Earthquake trials (and not just the paid legal defense, but the defense of outraged scientists worldwide). They will tell you that science is not an exact science, that it cannot predict the future, and scientists cannot therefore be held responsible for the failure of their predictive models.

Considering the poor performance of climate models to date, that's a pretty reasonable position for them to take. But it does make the argument that we ought to trust scientists because engineers put a man on the moon a little silly.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

You and Glenn Beck share the same level of mindless immaturity.

Paul Wilson 5 years, 5 months ago

Thanks. You don't want to know if the deception occurred? Of course you don't....your ideology has your blinders firmly in place.

Chris Golledge 5 years, 5 months ago

Pork, just wondering if you have heard of the psychology term, 'projection'.

Brock Masters 5 years, 5 months ago

Individual action is not only important, it is essential to systemic change. You cannot support protecting the enviroment when you continue to harm it yourself by using fuel and driving a car. Give up driving and electricity and then you'll be walking the walk instead of just talking the talk.

Paul Wilson 5 years, 5 months ago

Show me the data and scientific evidence you have to this point and I'll show you how invalid it is. You need a hell of a lot more time to come to the conclusions you do. Your bought "scientists" simply haven't had the time. Plus...if they didn't come to the conclusions that they have...they would be out of jobs. Corruption on the grandest scale.

Brock Masters 5 years, 5 months ago

Nancy, did you not watch the debates?

Romney said he supported green energy and Obama bragged about how much oil is being produced under his administration.

Here is a headline I gleaned from the internet - plenty more like it.

Obama Administration Offers More Than 20 Million Acres Offshore Texas for Oil & Natural Gas Exploration, Development

I think it is great you want to protect the enviroment, but don't mix it with a less than honest attack on Romney.

Also, oil and coal are going to be burned - maybe not here, but elsewhere in the world and it will affect us too. So, lets develop a plan that doesn't harm us while protecting the environment.

Chris Golledge 5 years, 5 months ago

Two basic things, it will cost less to mitigate than to adapt; no matter at what point we get serious about mitigation, and there is no such plan. Fossil fuels are used because their direct costs are less than anything else, and the heart of the problem is the production of CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels, and the cost of CO2 capture and sequestration pushes the cost of producing energy that way higher than the cost of some of the alternatives.

Nancy Hanson 5 years, 5 months ago

Mr. Mertz, I did indeed watch all the debates. And listened very carefully. I'm sure the League of Conservation Voters did also--and they support President Obama in this election. As you point out, there are necessary nuances to be dealt with in policy decisions. But when one candidate barely mentions renewable energy--only AFTER stridently emphasizing increaased harvesting of coal and gas--while the other candidate emphasizes clean and renewable energy development as a PRIORITY, with all due respect, sir,I don't believe it is either "less than honest" or an "attack" to simply point out the differences in the two positions. Your point is well taken, that oil and coal are going to be burned elsewhere in the world; however, it was our beloved United States of America that set the standard for profligate consumption of carbon fuels--the dire consequences of which we are now becoming aware. Is it not, thus, our responsibility to take the lead in setting wiser standards? And I do, of course, agree that we should all work together to try to achieve what you propose in your ending sentence. As the saying goes, "the devil is in the details"--as well as in getting political parties work together....

Paul Wilson 5 years, 5 months ago

Bozo: Thank you for proving my point. I'm ready to jump on the bus...but I can't find any valid evidence that hasn't been totally contradicted. Please supply and I will sincerely listen. If you can't supply...then who's opinion is driven on ideology?? You say there's "plenty of strong evidence" it.

Paul Wilson 5 years, 5 months ago

Typical leftie spin. You have nothing...and what you do have is ridiculous...and you know it. You show me yours...I'll show you mine. The burden of proof is on you. You are making the claims. Same with the God folk....burden of proof is on them.
Show your cards...or shut up.

Paul Wilson 5 years, 5 months ago

Here you go: There is enough there to keep you busy for a while.

Chris Scafe 5 years, 5 months ago

You are selling doubt just like the tobacco companies. If people are not sure that tobacco is bad for you, they'll keep smoking. If people are not sure that climate change due to human activity is happening, they will keep burning fossil fuels. That's good for the most current bottom lines of the providers of fossil fuels just as it has been for tobacco companies. So do you work for one of those fossil fuel companies? Are you with Americans for Prosperity? I could be way off base here, but if I am then I have to conclude that you just have your head in the sand.
Here is a link to an EPA site that would be a good start as you embark on your climate education: If you still have trouble wrapping your mind around climate change, think about the last time you were in a plane cruising at 20,000 feet. At that altitude you're not too high to see cars moving along the highways, but you are so high that if the cabin lost pressure, you could die without oxygen. That gives you some idea of how much usable atmosphere we have. With that in mind, do you not think that all the carbon we mine and release can have a detrimental impact on our environment? Here's a link to a picture of some cars emitting greenhouse gases in case the visual helps you:

Chris Golledge 5 years, 5 months ago

junkscience is exactly that.

Basically, you don't understand the science, and one side is telling you what you don't want to hear, and the other side is telling the opposite. You have allowed yourself to be convinced by those telling you what you want to hear.

Paul Wilson 5 years, 5 months ago

Hey CG: Basically, you don't understand the science, and one side is telling you what you don't want to hear, and the other side is telling the opposite. You have allowed yourself to be convinced by those telling you what you want to hear. Sound familiar?

Chris Golledge 5 years, 5 months ago

Please see my comment on 'projection'.

and then respond to my questions about the basic science below.

Paul Wilson 5 years, 5 months ago

What have you developed? Asked for "a little support". Meaning....a handout. I want to know what "sort of technology" you have developed with obviously no money.

Brock Masters 5 years, 5 months ago

KSConscience - do you really think Hanson is fairly characterizing Romney and Obama's energy plan? Both said we need to use energy sources from all of the above.

Obama was proud that domestic petroleum production has grown to a new record under his administration.

Obama was proud of the amount of natural gas we have - natural gas that is due to the fracking that is going on.

So, while there may some differences between Romney and Obama there isn't enough to characterize one as good and the other as evil as Hanson tried to do.

I guess that is unless Obama wasn't being truthful during the debate?

Chris Golledge 5 years, 5 months ago

Romney refuses to admit that we are causing the earth to warm; Obama does not. That difference will lead to fundamentally difference approaches to balancing the economic needs with the, well, economic needs. Ultimately, a degraded environment will be the biggest economic problem ever faced.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

The difference between Obama and Romney is that Obama, especially as evidence for global warming mounts, MIGHT use his power to push us all into action in time to make a difference to the next few generations.

Romney will do absolutely nothing.

Paul Wilson 5 years, 5 months ago

So...with all of your Green Recycling efforts...have any of you ever considered how many Millions of Tons of fossil fuels you use processing and carting all of it around. Land fill space was never in short supply and there are great parks and natural spaces built on the old. The hypocrisy is unreal. The onslaught of recycling efforts is completely destroying our environment with an unreal amount of added climate-disrupting fossil fuels. The extra trip in your car to the recycling center or the massive fuel hog that goes drive to drive picking it up. The massive electric machines that compact it (driven off coal plants). The huge trucks that move it from facility to facility. I wish you silly lefties would pick a cause and stick to it instead of choosing causes that contradict each other. If you back recycling are the biggest, added threat to our air quality.

Chris Golledge 5 years, 5 months ago

OK Pork, let's start with some basics.

About 200 years ago Fourier showed that the earth was warmer than it should be based on simple radiative physics. He attributed the extra energy to the atmosphere reducing the outflow. What have you got the proves Fourier wrong?

About 150 years ago, Tyndall showed that CO2 absorbs and emits infrared radiation. The earth emits IR in the same band that CO2 interacts with. What do you think you know about the absorption and emission of radiative energy by gases that hasn't been discovered since then?

About 100 years ago, Arrhenius was the first to predict that our use of fossil fuels would eventually increase the CO2 content in the atmosphere and that would lead to planet getting warmer, based on the work of Fourier and Tyndall. What do you think you know that has controverted his conclusion?

Ken Lassman 5 years, 5 months ago

Hey CG, what happened to Pork? You start asking about the real science behind climate change and suddenly the room gets quiet and the guy asking for evidence is no where to be found.

Typical...and also important to do over and over again, as it's important to counter ignorance and/or deception whenever it rears its head. Thanks.

Nancy Hanson 5 years, 5 months ago

Great comments & info, cg! And in the early 1950s, chemist Charles David Keeling (ref. THE NEXT ONE HUNDRED YEARS: SHAPING THE FATE OR OUR LIVING EARTH, Jonathan Weiner, 1990) got the ball rolling for modern-era, world-wide measuring of carbon in the atmosphere. He eventually produced the Keeling Curve showing rising carbon content of the atmosphere and demonstrated the direct relationship of the curve with human-cause emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. (More online, e.g. at

Chris Golledge 5 years, 5 months ago

But yeah, I refuse to burn 10 pounds of gas in order to recycle 2 pounds of plastic. So, I don't make a special trip out of it; I take it when I'm going that way anyway, and I don't even do that unless my bins are getting pretty full.

Nancy Hanson 5 years, 5 months ago

Read THE STORY OF STUFF, by Annie Leonard. Recycling is good, does save energy (in the total analysis), is certainly better than not recycling, but is not the ultimate answer. Reducing the "waste" stream, and toxics in products in the first place, will be much better. Oh, and by the way, it's all one cause: taking more responsible care of our planet for the benefit of all God's creatures (including, or especially, human beings).

Flap Doodle 5 years, 5 months ago

The usual dead horses are getting their usual pummeling on this thread.....

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