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Thursday, March 8,2012

Climate change & the ingratitude of the eighth generation

By Paul Danish

“Why should I do anything for posterity?

What has posterity ever done for me?” —Groucho Marx

Good question that, even if it was intended to be a joke.

The correct answer is because half a billion years of evolution on this planet preclude you from doing anything else — unless you happen to be one of natural selection’s culls.

Nor is the question hypothetical or abstract. It is as real, concrete, relevant and topical as a Boulder City Council resolution.

OK, I admit the analogy is infelicitous, but I was thinking of the resolution the council was expected to pass on March 7 urging the Obama administration to Do Something about climate change.

The resolution, which was introduced by Mayor Applebaum at the urging of the Center for Biological Diversity in Arizona, declares that climate change “is not an abstract problem for the future or one that will only affect far-distant places, but rather climate change is happening now, we are causing it, and the longer we wait to act, the more we lose and the more difficult the problem will be to solve.”

It calls on the feds to use the Clean Air Act to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million (ppm).

It’s currently at 385 ppm, according to the resolution (and at 391 ppm and rising at 2 ppm a year, according to NOAA). The Supreme Court has ruled the EPA can regulate CO2 as a pollutant under the act.

Granted, meaningless symbolic acts are a way of life in Boulder, and there is no point in beating up the city council for indulging in the municipal pastime.

What’s interesting is what the council is really trying to do here — which is, despite the “happenin’ now” rhetoric, do the right thing for posterity.

There is, of course, no other rational reason for attempting to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels. That’s because if we stopped emitting CO2 tomorrow, it will be two or three centuries before atmospheric CO2 began to drop. Like it or not, the planet is going to keep getting warmer for centuries just on the strength of the CO2 that’s been released up to now. Today’s level of global warming, and then some, is a done deal, yea unto the seventh generation.

So the only reason to reduce our carbon footprint today is the hope that the eighth generation will get something out of it — to do the right thing for posterity, in other words.

Too bad the eighth generation isn’t going to see it that way.

When that glorious day finally arrives when CO2, temperatures and sea level all begin to fall, the eighth generation will be angry beyond belief. They will curse our names and piss on our graves.

The reason why the advent of the global cooling will not be met with huzzas and hosannas is that the eighth generation will have adapted to global warming. Embraced the suck. Learned to live with it. More than learned to live with it. Learned to thrive in it. Learned to thrive because of it.

And they will be horrified by the prospect of having to re-adapt to a colder world, just as we would be horrified by the the prospect of having to re-adapt to ice age conditions.

None of this, of course, will deter the city council from trying to fight climate change instead of preparing the city to adapt to it.

However, if the council is bound and determined to pass resolutions nagging the government to cut CO2 emissions, it ought to have the integrity to state within those resolutions, with candor and precision, exactly what steps they will and will not support for reducing atmospheric CO2 levels to 350 ppm.

For example,would the council favor replacing all of the nation’s coal-fired power plants with nuclear ones — which would eliminate the burning of 1 billion tons of coal a year?

No nukes? OK, would it favor converting all of the nation’s coal-fired power plants to natural gas, which would cut their CO2 emissions in half? If yes, would it favor a crash program to develop U.S. shale gas reserves through the use of horizontal drilling and fracking?

Would it favor installing 150 450-foot-high wind turbines on City of Boulder open space, which would produce enough green electricity to meet all of the city’s electric needs?

Alternatively, would it favor using 6,400 acres (10 square miles) of City of Boulder open space for a solar power plant capable of meeting the city’s electric demand?

And so on. All of the above require the sort of hard choices and real trade-offs that are mandatory if CO2 levels are to be stopped from rising any further, never mind cut to 350 ppm, and there is little reason to believe that the Boulder City Council — and more important, the people who elected it — have the stomach to make them.

Which is good news for the eighth generation.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.

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It's sad to see Paul Danish's considerable intellect devoted to justify destroying the climate, now claiming that future generations will have "learned to thrive because if it." He uses the phrase "global warming," which sounds like a subtropical vacation, but any climate scientist knows the expected 5-10 degrees F of extra warmth means much more water vapor in the atmosphere, causing mega-tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms, etc. as we're starting to see.  The insurance idustry, which pays for most of the destruction, was the first industry to recognize this truth.

Thus, we can't adapt just by moving north, or growing crops high in the Rockies. While the marijuana growing industry has largely moved indoors, to move all food-growing indoors is surely impractical -and replacing the sun with grow lights would soon use up all fossil fuels -and greatly increase greenhouse gases, "warming" and mega-storms.

I think Ted Turner's much closer to the truth. in 2008 he said that in 30 or 40 years, "Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals."I doubt anyone will consider that "thriving."



Read "Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats" by Gwynne Dyer for a realistic projection he gleemed from government experts (including the military). Oh, as far as another "ice age" is concerned. Dr James Hansen addressed that by stating it could be averted by just putting on line the coal plants again! (or something to that anyway). PS I like dark meat...just kidding Looks like we will double the Co2 in the air by the looks of things


It is impossible to "destroy the climate." Any climate scientist knows that 5-10 F increase in global average surface temperature is not in the wildest imagination of even the IPCC. Just because global average surface temperature has increased 1.5 degrees F in the past 150 years does not mean it will continue to do so. Climate variation has never been unidirectional in the past millions of years. Why would it change now? There is absolutely no scientific evidence of climate variation causing any changes in the frequency or strength of "mega-tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms, etc." The insurance industry recognizes that places where "mega-tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms, etc." occur have more people and more development, thus producing more insurance claims. Species adapt or go extinct. Which do you choose?



Anthropogenic CO2 amounts to 3% of the total atmospheric CO2 yearly increase. If we managed to stop all human CO2 production (an impossibility), the remaining 97% natural CO2 would continue the increase. 

Furthermore, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that increased atmospheric CO2 influences climate change.

Yes, climate change is real, natural and continuing. There's nothing we can do to stop it or reduce it. All we can do is build resilient societies so as to accommodate to natural climate variation.


I'm sorry Dr. Michael Lewis, but your facts are TOTALLY wrong. Anthropogenic CO2 accounts for 100% of the total atmospheric CO2 INCREASE. There is a large amount of CO2 in the Earth system that cycles naturally between plants and animals and that (by itself) reaches an equilibrium concentration of 290 ppm. Humans are adding more carbon into the atmosphere by digging stored carbon out of the ground and burning it at the rate of an additional 2ppm per year. ALL of the increase is anthropogenic. There are numerous lines of evidence for this, from the isotopic ratio of the carbon atoms to the simple fact that we have kept good records of how much oil, coal, and natural gas is mined and sold every year - the numbers add up to just about exactly what we see showing up in the atmosphere. Climate change is real, but there is definitely something we can do about it. Please check your facts when you post in the future.


It is impossible to destroy the climate, sure but we sure are changing it. And speaking as a farmer that is terrifying. We exist on this planet because there is a layer of top soil, it rains in moderate amounts and the temperatures are moderate. And we are busily changes the two factors that make it possible to feed the 7 billion people who now inhabit the planet. The temp dropped by only 1 degree during the little ice age. There was crop failures, starvation people eating barkbread, and rioting, At that time there was only 300 million people on the planet. Just what do you think is going to happen with 2 degree increase fro C02?


Jim and Vickie: Thank you for such an excellent job of parroting the propaganda dispensed by the IPCC and other science policy organizations. Fortunately, there is a large body of research that has been purposefully excluded from the IPCC reports, as it does not fit with their preconceived ideas about anthropogenic climate change. As it turns out, climate variation is not so cut and dried as you suppose. As a scientist, I keep an open mind about all information on a given subject. My initial skepticism about the AGW proposition was prompted by the Mann "hockey stick" promoted so heavily by the IPCC and Al Gore. I knew immediately that the graph was wrong as it contradicted my own carefully documented research on the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age, which had been expunged in order to create the "hockey stick." The situation with respect to understanding climate science by the lay public has gone downhill from there, due to political and economic agendas that rely on popular perception of global warming as "settled science." Nothing could be further from the truth.


I agree with you Dr. ML about the need to keep an open mind when researching, yet I think that humans contribute heavily to creating imbalances such as what Jim Stevens mentioned regarding the CO2. Roland