Selected columns related to climate change written by Eric Grimsrud for various newspapers in Montana and Minnesota.
For The Missoulian, Missoula, Montana, August 2009.
Change Cap and Trade to Tax and Dividend
In an attempt to address the problem of man-caused global warming, the Waxman-Markey Cap and Trade bill recently passed the House and will be considered soon by the Senate. I hope this bill will not be passed and that an alternative plan called Tax and Dividend will replace Cap and Trade as soon as possible. Let me explain.
First and foremost, it is absolutely clear that we must take action immediately that will have the effect of decreasing our future use of fossil fuels. The CO2 level in our atmosphere is already much too high (it presently is 33% greater than it has ever been in the last million years!) and it is increasing at an alarming rate (about 0.6% per year). Because we have ignored this problem for the last three decades, we no longer have sufficient time for testing various corrective options. We must now get it right the first time, because there is a very real possibility that this will be mankind's last shot at halting the relentless advance of man-caused global warming.
Like many others, I detest the fact that the voluminous and complicated Cap and Trade bill will encourage massive legalistic positioning and legislative lobbying (business as usual, that is) with everyone fighting for their share of "carbon credits". In addition, after the general public figures out that the word "Cap" is really equivalent to a "Tax" in this case and that they will not be receiving any portion of the revenue thereby collected, the public will not continue to support it. BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, the Cap and Trade plan would not do nearly enough to address the global warming problem. Its goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 17% by the year 2020 relative to the year 2005 is far too modest.
An alternate plan, called Tax and Dividend, has a far greater chance of addressing the problem in my opinion. A version of this called Tax and 100% Dividend has been presented to the US Congress by the American scientist, James Hansen, and its details can be found at www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2009/20090226_WaysAndMeans.pdf. The basics of this plan are as follows. A linearly increasing tax would be applied to all purchases of fossil fuels (gas, oil, and coal) during the next couple of decades. The dividend thereby collected would be returned entirely to the public on a per capita basis (initially, a typical family of four would receive about $9,000 per year). In order to benefit from this arrangement, people would strive to increase their efficiency of fossil-fuel use and would explore use of the alternates. People from all income levels could actually make money if their dividend exceeded their carbon tax. The gradually increasing cost of fossil fuels would make the alternates increasingly more competitive and popular. Within a decade or so, this would lead to a "tipping point" at which time the alternates would become less expensive than the fossil fuels and the ultimate goal of near-zero CO2 emissions would be within sight.
In addition, the Tax and Dividend plan has the great advantage of simplicity. Like the system we presently have for the sale of tobacco products, user taxes would be collected at the point of consumption. This system could be installed very quickly and would require little additional bureaucracy for its management. The only decisions of significance would be made by the consumers of energy — does one select taxed fossil fuels or does one select untaxed alternates. The adoption of similar systems in other countries would be promoted by charging import duties on all goods that were not subjected to such taxes in their own countries.
So, one might wonder, why hasn't the Tax and Dividend plan been more favored in Washington up to this point? The answer is probably best provided by Will Rogers' timeless observation that "we have the best Congress money can buy". The Tax and Dividend plan holds less interest for some very powerful special interests. As indicated above, the dividend collected under that plan would go to the public, not them — as most of it does in compromised Cap and Trade plan. The only hope for passage of the Tax and Dividend plan is that the general public forcefully looks after its own interests. And because climate change legislation is so new to the public, they really don't know much about their options yet but hopefully will before one of these plans is put in place.
I urge you all to become as informed as you possibly can on this issue. It is no exaggeration to say that never before in the history of any country has there been more important legislation before its citizens. We simply must get it right this time.
For the News-Record of Goodhue County, Minnesota, September 30, 2009
Explaining AGW to the GOP
I have noted that almost all of the GOP candidates for Minnesota's upcoming gubernatorial election do not appear to recognize that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is occurring. (see minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/09/15/gop-candidates-global-warming/). In addition, on the national level, the denial of AGW seems to have become a plank in the Republican platform. I find that to be most unfortunate -- at least a few of these individuals are likely to win their upcoming elections. Since Mother Nature is sure to act much more in accordance with scientific principles than our political preferences, I would like to take this opportunity to convince members of the Minnesota GOP that the notion of AGW is driven by very sound and sensible science and is, indeed, occurring. While the reality of AGW is almost unanimously accepted by those who have studied this phenomenon at the highest levels of science in our country, this conclusion also becomes clear when considered at a layman's "common sense" level of science. It is not "rocket science", as will be demonstrated below.
The problem can be viewed this simple way. The Earth contains two very different forms of carbon. We will call one of these "geological carbon" (GC). GC includes "inert" substances such as the fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) and various inorganic substances such a calcium carbonate (limestone). These forms of carbon stay put in and on the Earth essentially forever if they are left undisturbed.
The other basic form of carbon we will call "biological carbon" (BC). BC consists of all living plant and animal materials as well as the CO2 in our atmosphere and the CO2 that dissolves in our oceans, lakes and streams. The BC forms of carbon are "active" and continuously cycle through the atmosphere, oceans, plants and animals.
The present AGW problem has been caused by the exceedingly rapid rate with which man has been converting GC to BC by the combustion of fossil fuels. While the plants might like the EXTRA CO2 man has been adding to the BC cycle, both the atmosphere and the oceans do not.
In the atmosphere, this EXTRA CO2 increases the amount of radiation (heat) that is absorbed as the Earth attempts to cool itself via its emission of infrared radiation. Therefore, just as you get warmer when you put on a heavier coat, the Earth also gets warmer as EXTRA atmospheric CO2 is produced by the combustion of fossil fuels.
In the oceans, the EXTRA dissolved CO2 is converted to carbonic acid (CO2 + H2O = H2CO3), which makes the oceans more acidic, thereby perturbing its ecosystems.
Now consider the exceedingly rapid rate with which man is converting GC to BC. We began doing this on a significantly large scale in about 1850. We have become so good at it that we now estimate that the Earth's known reserves of oil will be gone in several decades and its known reserves of coal will be gone in less than two centuries. If allowed, that would mean that man would accomplish this massive conversion of GC to BC in approximately three centuries, which is to say "instantly" if viewed on the geologic time scale.
Now consider the very slow rate with which this EXCESS CO2 will be removed from the BC cycle and returned to the inert forms of GC. First, it takes many million years to naturally convert plant material to the fossil fuels, so let's ignore that one. Another means of BC to GC conversion is called the "weathering" of CO2 by which the CO2 dissolved in rain drops or in the oceans comes in contact with rocks that contain calcium oxide (CaO). A small portion of that dissolved CO2 will then be converted to limestone (CaCO3). Unfortunately this process is also quite slow and has a significant effect only over a time scale of several centuries to a few millennia. Another natural process by which carbon can be removed from the BC cycle is by its sequestration into the soil of the Earth via the roots of plants and trees. While increased forestation could help increase the rate of removal of atmospheric CO2 by this mechanism, our planet as well as the State of Minnesota (see duluthnewstribune.com/event/article/id/146564/) is clearly not moving in that direction.
Therefore, every single day, with business as usual, we are ratcheting up atmospheric CO2 to a new highest level that is unprecedented during the Age of Man and that change will last essentially forever on the time scale of Western Civilization (say a millennia or two). That is, we cannot undo what we are presently doing. Today, the atmospheric CO2 level is 33% higher than it has ever been in at least 750 millennia and is increasing at a rate of 0.6% per year. As this rate is further increased by the rapid economic development of other countries (especially China and India), we can expect to see a 50% increase in the pre-Industrial Age level of CO2 by the year 2025 or sooner. That is only 15 years from now!! Why would anyone who understands the effect of greenhouse gases on climate think that we can get away with that? Yet, many GOP leaders still say AGW is nothing more than a political hoax!
Most comprehensive models of the Earth's atmosphere indicate that if we reach the 50% EXTRA CO2 level by 2025, the probability of having reached an irreversible "game over" condition will be very high. Because there is a time lag of about 20 years between the causes and full effects of the CO2 level we accumulate up to any point in time, we Baby Boomers might still enjoy relatively livable conditions in the year 2025. However, for our younger generations expecting to live into the second half of the current century, life will become exceedingly problematic and would be getting worse with additional time. The worst aspect of their plight would be that there would be little hope of reversing the process.
Just how bad those conditions will be for future generations will depend on three things. One of these will be the exact sensitivity of our climate to CO2. Another is the "feedback" effects that can put the degradation process on autopilot. Both of these factors will be beyond our control in the hands of Mother Nature. The third factor is how much CO2 we emit during the next decade. This is the only factor that is under our control.
In short, members of the GOP, listen up! Think carefully about all of this for a moment. Is it really just the fear-mongering horror fabrication you say it is? If so, what part of the GC to BC view of AGW don't you get? Because of its dire consequences, isn't the AGW question the most important one on the table today?
It appears that the rank and file of the GOP needs to assure their leaders that its OK to seriously consider this issue like grownups rather than ignore it. Many of them are undoubtedly smart enough to realize that AGW is occurring but don't have enough courage to be the messengers of this "news" and thereby lose an election to someone with a much more comforting message. In addition, such messengers run the great risk of losing the financial support of the multitude of special interests whose businesses will indeed be challenged by the changes needed in fossil fuel use. Nevertheless, you should not let your leaders treat you like children. Apparently there is one GOP gubernatorial candidate that does admit that AGW is real and that it must be promptly addressed (see the web address indicated above). Perhaps you should learn more about this more courageous GOP candidate.
While I suspect that the Democrats will be far more proactive on this issue than the GOP, it is nevertheless a shame that one half of our two-party American political system is either brain dead or too cowardly to deal with this single, but most important issue. It seems to me that the rake and file of the GOP needs to buck up their leadership and, if necessary, explain to them that the notion of AGW is, in fact, driven by excellent and easily understood science — starting with the point that man is converting GC to BC much too rapidly.
The professional deniers of AGW will try to convince you that the climate change issue is too complex for the lay person to understand. Hopefully, now you know better.
For the News-Record of Goodhue County, Minnesota, October 28, 2009
Is the Earth Cooling?
One hears so often these days (note that this article was written in 2009 - see the follow up comments written in 2012 as the end of this article) that the Earth has cooled during the last decade or during the last year that it is instructive to consider the basis of such statements. For this purpose consider the figure shown here of the observed annual average temperatures of the Earth from 1880 to the present (compiled by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies). The zero on this figure is the average temperature observed from 1961-1990 and the solid line represents the average temperature observed over the previous five years.
Two features of this data are immediately apparent. One is that the trend in temperature change has been generally upward, by about +0.7 degrees Centigrade (1.3 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1880 and by about 0.5 degrees C since 1980. The other apparent feature is that year-to-year variations both upward and downward as great as +/- 0.2 degrees C have always been observed. The causes of some of these can be related to well understood single natural events (as in the downward change for the two years following the eruption of Mount Pintatubo in 1991) or to more complex short-term variations in climate/weather dynamics.
So where do claims of recent global cooling come from? They typically come from the selective use of the anomalously low temperature year of 2008. For example, one can legitimately say that the Earth did cool during the last year since 2007 was warmer. However, it is also obvious that this observation means next to nothing in terms of a long-term trend. In addition, the often-heard claim that the world has cooled in the last decade is based on cherry-picking the anomalously high temperature year of 1998 along with 2008. Again, inspection of all of the data in the figure indicates just how bogus that claim is. Eight of the hottest years since 1880 have occurred in the 21st century.
So the next time you hear someone claim that the Earth is presently cooling, pull out a copy of this figure and ask them to explain themselves. One does not have to be an expert statistician to recognize "bull" on this one.
Note added in May of 2012: We now know what the average Earth temperatures were for the subsequent years 2009, 2010 and 2011. Sure enough, the temperature popped back up in 2009 and was higher again in 2010 - thereby providing the two of hotests years on record. In 2012, the temperature decreased slightly again as it did in 2008. Thus, in the present year of 1012, we can once again expected to be subjected to silly claims of "global cooling" by the deniers of AGW, as we were in 2009.
For the Daily Inter Lake of Kalispell, MT, on April 30, 2010.
Co-op leadership is out of bounds on EPA directive
According to the April issue of Rural Montana, the leadership of our national and state electric cooperatives is using its political clout to limit the role of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in regulating carbon dioxide emissions. For this purpose they will be including stamped post cards in the May issue of Rural Montana and encouraging its readership to send their message on to our congressional representatives.
I believe that these actions are both inappropriate and unwise. This message is clearly based only on the leadership's understanding of the short-term economic effects of addressing climate change. As Glen English, the CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative, stated in that April issue, "Affordable electric bills must be at the heart of the debate and we're fighting on behalf of the consumers". As reasonable as this statement appears to be at first glance, it is certainly not a valid reason for preventing EPA's participation in the climate change problem in that it does not address two other elements that are also at the heart of the issue. One of these is the longer-term welfare of US citizens and the other is an acknowledgement that the physical forces of Mother Nature will always trump economic preferences. The mission of the EPA, on the other hand, is to deal precisely with these two aspects of all environmental issues. The additional suggestion of the Co-op leadership - that we let our congressional representatives set the rules concerning carbon emissions - is clearly a lame one that guarantees delays and compromises which, in this case, we can no longer afford if we ever hope to address the climate change problem.
It is also important to recognize that the scope of the EPA-sponsored Clean Air Act has not been limited to the regulation of just a few common pollutants, such as the oxides of sulfur and nitrogen, as Mr. English stated in his article. Instead, the EPA's role has been continuously adjusted to deal with all potential threats to our environment as each of these has been recognized. For example, the EPA's role has thereby increased to include the control of ozone levels in the atmosphere - both at ground levels where too much of it can result from man-caused photochemical smog, and in the stratosphere where its concentration can be diminished by various man-made chlorine- and bromine-containing compounds. Note also that ozone, like carbon dioxide, is a naturally-occurring compound and, by that measure, alone, some have claimed that carbon dioxide should not be labeled as a "pollutant" to be controlled by the EPA. This is an entirely moot point, however, because large changes in the levels of either ozone or carbon dioxide are certain to have horrendous long-term consequences on our environment. The same can be said of sulfur dioxide, which is also both a naturally-occurring compound and a well-known pollutant.
As I write this, I don't know what choices the readership of Rural Montana will be given for input to their congressional representatives on the post cards referred to above. If an appropriate selection of choices is not provided, I recommend that something like the following be written on them before sending: "While input from the leadership of the Electric Cooperatives concerning their predicted costs of addressing climate change merits careful consideration, their additional input concerning the EPA's role in controlling CO2 emissions does not".
For the Kalispell Inter Lake, of Kalispell, MT, August 2010
Enjoying the party while it lasts
My generation continued to kick the "responsibility can" down the road this summer as Senate majority leader Harry Reid announced that the Democrats will not even try to pass climate change legislation this year. For someone like me who happens to know a great deal about the Earth's atmosphere and the impact its changing contents will have on our planet, I am stupefied by the lack of action taken by the so called "progressive" party of the USA. To make matters worse the Republicans, who are predicted to gain additional congressional seats in the upcoming elections in November, appear to be essentially "brain dead" on this issue - as was made abundantly clear, for example, in Ed Berry's Guest Opinion in today's (8/15) Daily Inter Lake.
We can blame this setback on several aligned factors, including the greed and overwhelming power of our corporations, the cowardice of our elected officials, and the lack of leadership by our President. The point I wish to focus on here, however, is the nonchalance of my own generation. I am not yet as inclined to blame the generations younger than mine because they tend to think they will live forever, as I once did, and are less inclined to address long-term problems. While we "Baby Boomers" should know better by now, we still seem to be more interested in squeezing out a few more years of the long and good life we have been blessed with on the unfounded notion that our children and grandchildren will somehow be "OK" after we are gone.
First of all, let me point out that I think I understand my generation pretty well. I was born in 1944 and, therefore, have lived in a place and time of unprecedented prosperity. When I was born, the USA was switching its industrial might from the production of war materials to the production of commercial goods and services — and we learned to love it! "Keeping up with the Jones" became our national pastime and from the 1950's to the present, most Americans continuously realized their expectations for bigger homes, better cars, more exotic vacations, and greater wealth, in general. By our ties to the suppliers of this material largess, we acquired a "cradle to grave" sense of dependence and security and this is not one provided by our government, as many rightwing conservatives like to claim. It is instead one that has been provided by "Corporate America", who have convinced far too many of us that they will look after the public's interests if we simply let them control our nation's policies. Have we forgotten that the CEO's of industry serve at the pleasure of their stockholders whose primary interest is simply a good financial return for their investments?
All of this is clearly reflected by the actions and inactions of both of our two major political parties. On the issues concerning the rules by which we play the great game of our times - the quest for excessive personal wealth — the differences between Republicans and Democrats have become difficult to detect. One party considers any efforts to redistribute wealth and services within our country to be a curse equivalent to communism and the other dares to suggest only half measures (as evidenced by the recent health care debate in Washington and its outcome).
In order to legitimize the accumulation of excessive personal wealth, the winners of this narcissistic game have embraced the messages of philosophers such as Ayn Rand and political leaders such as Ronald Reagan who told us that the quest for great personal wealth is actually an essential component of a healthy free-market system that leads to economic prosperity for all — including those that labor in the lower levels of the economic pyramid who will benefit from the so-called "trickle down" effect. During the Reagan years, movement towards leaner and wiser energy policies were also scuttled and even ridiculed (remember the removal of Carter's solar panels from the White House). While, to my knowledge, Reagan did not actually say "Drill, Baby, Drill!", he would have been most proud, I suspect, of his contemporary disciple who did. As we now also know, the "trickle down" part of Reagan's economic theory did not work out as well as he had hoped mainly because the appetites of its initial benefactors continuously grew to the point of becoming insatiable. Instead, we have experienced something closer to a "trickle up" effect and the division of wealth within the USA now rivals that which existed in the early portions of the 20th Century just prior to their Great Depression. Unfortunately, the hubris and foolishness of the Reagan Era still lives on today in the minds of many of its devoted disciples and continues to do untold damage to our national character.
It is illuminating to reflect on how different my generation now is from that of my parents - who belonged to what Tom Brokaw has labeled the "Greatest Generation". Their character was forged by the Great Depression and then World War II. In order to meet their challenges, collective action and team work was essential. The overriding goal of the Greatest Generation was basic survival and that goal was shared by all. War profiteering was not considered a virtue. Great personal sacrifice for the common good was commonplace. Overall coordination and direction by a strong central government was essential. I also have the impression that the Greatest Generation was motivated substantially by the hope of creating a better world for their descendents — a characteristic that is now much more difficult to detect.
In view of the opportunity not taken by our nation's Democratic representatives this summer, I suspect that a complete change of personnel, both public and elected, will be required in order to abandon the short-sighted and destructive attitudes we hang on to today. Perhaps the insurmountable set of problems we will be leaving our children might once again produce a stronger national character. Of the myriad problems they will face, those related to climate change are certain to dwarf and exacerbate all the others. Our now way-too-high and daily increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide is nothing short of sobering to those of us that understand the driving forces of nature. As Mother Nature relentlessly continues to respond to this specific impact of man in the coming years, we can be sure that even the most dense, greedy, and cowardly among us will eventually be forced to acknowledge that "Gee, we really are in big trouble here!" By then, it presently appears that my generation will be saying "Goodbye and good luck" to their children and grandchildren who might have the proverbial "snowball's chance in Hell" of experiencing anything close to the "good life" we had. Our generation will then be remembered, if not despised, by our children and grandchildren as the one that "Enjoyed the party " right up to its bitter end and was too ignorant and self-absorbed to even begin cleaning up its mess.
To all of my contemporaries: If you want to be absolutely sure that our country continues along the denier's comforting path of non-action on the man-caused climate change problem, definitely vote Republican; their 2008 election year party platform did not even list climate change as an area of concern. If you are concerned about this issue, but are not yet in the mood for substantial sacrifices, the Democratic Party might be just right for you. If, on the other hand, you want to squarely address the causes of man-caused climate change — let me think for a moment — what other parties are there? Perhaps we can hope that Ralph Nader will give it another go? He, more than anyone else in politics, seems to realize how helplessly coupled and subservient both of our major parties have become to the interests of Corporate America.
In the meantime, I will close here with the wish we Boomers so generously bestow upon one another: "Have a nice day!".
The following opinion piece has appeared in several newspapers of Montana in October 2010.
Alberta tar sands: the rest of the story
Recently, Governor Schweitzer forcefully rebuffed criticisms that have been lodged against Alberta's development of their tar sands. While he emphasized the benefits of the tar sands, he failed to mention its greatest problem. What the Governor ignored is similar the dilemma also posed by Montana's abundance of coal.
In order to minimize the detrimental effects of the excess carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere, the only factor man has any control over is how much of the stuff he emits IN TOTAL. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is now 35% greater than it has ever been in the last 700,000 years and continues to rise at a rate of 0.6% per year. The excess CO2 we continue to accumulate each day will not come out for many centuries and we will be stuck with its delayed heating effects essentially FOREVER on a time scale of relevance to human beings.
Some of our most credible American experts in this area tell us that we must not only stop CO2 emissions ASAP but must also figure out a way of reducing the existing level of 392 ppm back down to about 350 ppm within this century. This extraordinarily difficult task is being made still more difficult every day as we proceed with "business as usual" energy policies.
Now let's inject a bit of realism into this picture. Until the world manages to change to CO2-free and carbon-neutral sources of energy, we will have to use at least a small fraction of our fossil fuels. For that purpose we should use only existing sources of gas and oil — for two reasons. One is that these two fuels provide the least CO2 emitted per unit of energy produced. The second advantage (ironically) is that the reserves of these two fuels are thought to be limited. With this approach, it is conceivable that the upper level of atmospheric CO2 might be held to about 430 ppm, of which then about 80 ppm would then somehow have to be removed — 50 ppm of which could possibly come from improved land use (mainly reforestation).
So what's wrong with burning coal instead of gas and oil? Again, it produces much more CO2 per energy unit derived than do gas and oil. A greater problem, however, is that there is simply too much of it — its known reserves are several times those of gas and oil. If the world's coal continues to be burned, then atmospheric CO2 is sure to reach levels well over 500 ppm from which recovery is almost impossible to envision.
Dangers posed by the Alberta tar sands are even worse than those of coal. Most importantly and like coal, there is simply way too much of it — the Earth cannot bear the CO2 overload its use will cause. Also, vast boreal forested regions of Alberta will be destroyed in this process (about 20% of Alberta, an area the size of Florida!) which otherwise would be removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Also, the methods used for separating the oil from the tar sands produces an enormous amount of surface and water pollution and a huge amount of natural gas, about 40% of Alberta's total, is also required. Thus, the production of this oil produces far more CO2 than that of normal crude oil. Finally and unlike coal, there is no way of capturing and sequestering the CO2 emitted in the processes of extracting, refining, and using the tar sands oil.
In short, there is an unacceptably high probability that the full development of the Alberta tar sands and existing coal fields (Montana has about 25% of the USA's and about 8% of the world's) would boost the temperature of Earth to levels beyond which our planet would find itself on an unstoppable path of run-away feedback effects leading to distinctly less human-friendly states. Therefore, it is very troubling to me that the Governor's "full steam ahead" recommendations for what to do with Alberta's and Montana's endless supplies of tar sands and coal are never (to my knowledge) accompanied by considerations of these long term issues. In short, the Governor's plan seems to me to be "no way to run a ranch" if you have any intention of passing that ranch on to your grandchildren.
Appeared in Kalispell's Daily Inter Lake in February 2011
Let Congress and our State Legislature be irrelevant on Climate Change
This letter is in response to Julie Wolf's Guest Opinion in the 1/9/11 issue of the Inter Lake -which bore a title similar to mine with the word "Don't" in front of it. Let me explain here why my advice concerning the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions makes better sense than that of Ms. Wolf.
First, who is it that will determine the environmental future of the world? The answer is Mother Nature, of course, and She does not care whatsoever about the preferences of human beings. She will do Her thing in accordance with Her Laws of Nature.
Second, what professional endeavor of Man has historically provided our best understanding of Her Laws? Is it politics, economics, or philosophy? Of course not, the answer is science.
Third, what country has been a leader in essentially all aspects of science since the middle of the 20th Century. The answer is the USA. An international conference without the Americans is not an international conference.
Fourth, the cumulative and best thoughts of American scientists concerning various topics of great importance are typically expressed as "position statements" issued by the official professional organizations of all related disciplines. In addition, our country's National Academy of Sciences also issues its opinion on important topics whenever a sitting President asks them to. This organization, begun by President Lincoln consists of the very best scientists of our nation in many different fields, was recently asked by President Bush to issue their opinion concerning carbon dioxide's effects on climate change and they did. All of the organizations described above have warned the American public of the great dangers associated with our continued emissions of carbon dioxide and have recommended that forceful and immediate action be taken to halt them.
Fifth, we can neither negotiate or compromise with Mother Nature. She holds all the cards and has never been known to alter her Laws or cut any slack for those who violate them. She does not even care if we make a "nice try" but come up short. While "compromise" is considered a virtue when dealing with politicians on the other side of the aisle, it will be of no use in dealing with Mother Nature.
Sixth, President Nixon established an organization called the Environmental Protection Agency whose job it is to set and enforce regulations that result from the best science emerging from our country's scientists and their representative organizations. One reason for creating this organization was to separate the establishment of regulations concerning the maintenance of a healthy environment from the legislative branches of government where decisions are typically compromises made between the most powerful political forces involved.
Seventh, it is naive to think that the Congresspersons could set appropriate regulations for future CO2 emissions that will be in compliance with the Laws of Mother Nature. Can you imagine, for example, how difficult it would be for even our Democratic Senators Baucus and Tester to vote for a halt or reduction in the emissions of CO2 from all coal burning power plants when our state's economy is so strongly dependent on our sales of coal to the rest of the world? If they did, they would probably be replaced immediately in their next election cycle due to the controlling interests of well entrenched financial powers who are determined to prolong business-as-usual practices for as long as possible.
And, of course, our Republican representatives are downright obstructionists when it comes to addressing the climate change problem - as has been evidenced by essentially all of them in Washington DC and in Helena also at this very moment. For example, Joe Read, a first year Republican Representative from Ronan has introduced House Bills 549 and 500, which are now pending action in Helena. The first of these would constitute some sort of declaration of understanding that man's activities are having no effect on climate (at least not in Montana) and the second would deny any federal agency the authority to control greenhouse gas emissions in Montana. It will be both interesting and possibly sad to see if either of these two childish bills gains any traction. Unfortunately, Mother Nature in unlikely to pay any attention whatsoever to the outcome of HB549.
Because of all of the above, I believe that we must let the EPA take the leading role in this difficult task and allow our elected officials to be taken "off the hook", so to speak. The suggestion of Ms. Wolf, if taken at face value, is so foolish and naïve that one suspects that it might be the mischievous suggestion of a hard core denier of man's effect on climate who understands that insufficient and token actions, only, are likely to occur if our elected officials remain in the driver's seat.