Seaside waves

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The climate change debate isn’t really about a change in the world’s climate. Almost everybody knows the earth has undergone millions of years of hot and cold weather cycles. The controversy is whether human use of fossil fuels and other natural resources affects the earth’s normal weather cycles.

I’ll say at the outset I think regional weather is becoming warmer. Anybody who visited Montana’s Glacier National Park in 1953 like I did, and again in 2018, can come to no other conclusion.

The climate change debate over the years has morphed into a multibillion-dollar business. The federal government spent $37.7 billion in 2014 alone. A Forbes study estimated about $150 billion was spent on climate change during President Barack Obama’s first term. During that same period, governments around the world spent an estimated $359 billion. And in 2018, Oregon State University took in almost $100 million for environmental research.

It seems to me that kind of money can warp the opinions of climatologists who’re funded primarily with government money. That’s not to say they’re dishonest. Just that they’re human like everybody else and know where their bread’s buttered. Besides, I’m at a loss to remember a government study, funded with government money, that recommended the government do nothing about the subject of the study.

For example, it’s certainly not correct to claim, as an Oregon State University climatologist did at a Columbia Forum speech in October, that scientists aren’t divided over science showing human influence has been the dominant cause of global warming.

In fact, 31,487 American scientists of all branches of science, including 9,029 with Ph.D.s, signed the following little-known petition to the United States government after then-Vice President Al Gore signed a treaty to ration world energy production (the treaty was never ratified by the Senate). Here is the petition in its entirety:

“We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.

“There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing, or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”

America’s media never publicized this petition, called the Global Warming Petition Project. It was originated by Oregon’s Institute of Science and Medicine. Most folks know nothing about it. But you can read all about this petition, signed by scientists from all branches of American science, including 350 Oregon scientists, at petitionproject.org/index.php. And anybody who wants to nitpick this petition can find plenty of folks who criticize it for one reason or another.

Furthermore, two other Oregon State University scientists, in a recent paper signed by 11,258 scientists from around the world, expressed opposite opinions from these American scientists who signed the Global Warming Petition.

So what’s really going on?

It seems to me climate change has morphed into just another big political controversy. It’s no longer a scientific endeavor. Anybody can easily find an opinion on climate change to support whatever their political beliefs happen to be about the role of government in their lives.

It’s true that a large majority, but certainly not all, of today’s climatologists claim mankind’s use of fossil fuels is causing global warming from carbon dioxide emissions. They’re paid handsomely for their opinion that government needs to step in. Unfortunately, too many politicians readily act on opinions that folks need more government control over their lives. Politicians know that when everybody thinks there’s a possibility of fire, everybody wants a fireman.

The big question is what Americans should do about the possibility, however remote, that carbon emissions at least contribute in some fashion to, if not actually cause, the Earth to warm up before its usual cycle. In other words, since opinions are all over the lot, whether most folks can be satisfied about government’s role in the matter.

Extreme suggestions aren’t acceptable to almost everybody. To claim we must stop using fossil fuels is like saying we must stop growing food. Or stop using airplanes, ships, cars, or lawnmowers. Or stop eating beef because cows produce methane gas.

Cap-and-trade laws proposed in Oregon are another example of extremism. That kind of brand new tax and control over citizens’ lives by one small rural state in the Pacific Northwest will do absolutely nothing for a worldwide weather phenomenon. Even if all 50 American states enacted the same new tax and control over people’s lives, little would be accomplished — except to make everything more expensive for everybody. And make America much weaker compared to other nations of the world.

Extreme American proposals will do nothing about carbon emissions for a very simple reason. America already regulates carbon emissions to a very low level compared to China and other far eastern countries. America’s not the biggest polluter and emitter of carbon dioxide in the world. China is. And countries in the far east exceed by far America’s carbon emissions.

It seems to me those folks interested in climate change would be well-advised to take on China instead of blaming today’s America for the world’s weather. They should encourage America to motivate China to take a more responsible attitude about pollution in general and carbon emissions in particular. Because as China goes, other far eastern countries will follow.

It’s difficult to deal with dictatorships like China when a moral perspective is needed toward the environment. That need is the best reason why everybody should encourage Congress and President Donald Trump to make concerted efforts to have China become more environmentally responsible.

Future American elections will help resolve our government’s role toward matters of climate change. But international diplomacy is needed to realistically deal with China’s pollution of the Earth itself, and the environmental havoc China’s pollution causes.

Don Haskell is a retired attorney and former Clatsop County commissioner who lives in Astoria.

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(3) comments

Bill Graffius

Fortunately, right above this scurrilous piece of cherry-picked misinformation was the page title: Opinion. That’s what Mr. Haskell’s piece was, absolutely nothing more than unverified, unsubstantiated, science-denying opinion. Let me respond with some verifiable facts.

Haskell’s piece relied very heavily on a, two decade old, outdated non-scientific poll known as the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM) Global Warming Petition claiming that a large number of scientists (31,487 to be exact),do not agree with the consensus of climate scientists that there is a significant anthropogenic factor in the current climate changes even Mr. Haskell is forced to admit we are experiencing.

Here’s a couple of facts about that petition and its claim that are very easy to corroborate.

1. While nearly 32,000 “scientists” sounds like a lot, it represents less than 1% of all US science graduates.

2. Of the scientists signing the petition, only 39 “claimed” a degree in a Climatology related field.

3. Signature verification was neither scientific nor independently reviewed. Hence, names on the list included fictional characters from Star Trek, M.A.S.H. long deceased scientists such as Charles Darwin, and names such as I.C. Ewe.

4. OISM is connected to the Heartland Institute – a climate science denying organization funded by energy companies and right-wing foundations. OISM has very cleverly hidden where their funding comes from.

5. The founder and main beneficiary of OISM is Art Robinson, known as the Grandfather of Alt Science. Alt science, as in alt facts. Look it up. Dictionary.com defines alternative facts as: “falsehoods, untruths, delusions,” and continues to say “to talk about alternative facts is to talk about the opposite of reality (which is delusion), or the opposite of truth (which is untruth).”

But let’s get to the heart of the matter. The Global Warming Petition offers zero evidence to support its claims that “the proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.”

Their second thesis states “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate.”

However, professional climate scientists disagree. Reputable sources say 94% to 97% of active, publishing climate scientists believe in anthropogenic climate change.

Not liking such overwhelming numbers, Haskell chooses to impugn the honesty of these professional climate scientists by suggesting it is a “business” raking in billions. “It seems to me that kind of money can warp the opinions of climatologists who’re funded primarily with government money,” Haskell writes. He adds, later, “They’re paid handsomely for their opinion that government needs to step in.” In effect, Haskell has impugned the integrity of every scientist in this country working under government funding of any kind. He also ignores the reality that this consensus is worldwide, not just of U.S. scientists. He also ignores the fact that even the people who fund climate change denying organizations have, themselves, decades ago, made the anthropogenic link but buried their findings, fearful that that knowledge would impact their profits. Ultimately, I find Haskell’s suggestions not only demeaning, but specious and disgusting. But that’s my opinion. I grow very suspicious of someone who suggests everyone else is corrupt and the leap to believing they are projecting is not a hard one to make. I wonder, where is your bread buttered, Mr. Haskell?

Haskell closes with the argument that we should worry about China’s contribution to carbon emissions, not America. First, he is, for all intents and purposes, admitting an anthropogenic factor in climate change and literally just refuted, all by himself, his entire argument. I was literally ROFLMAO. But his argument translates to “why bother if the other guy doesn’t.” That is self-defeating nihilism at best.

Conservative science deniers like Mr. Haskell love that their beloved orange autocrat pulled us out of the Paris Climate Agreement. The cheese (America) stands alone. Every other country (187 states and the European Union, representing almost 97% of global greenhouse gas emissions), have ratified or acceded to the Agreement, including China!

In closing, I submit that climate change and the anthropogenic factor are not “just another political controversy.” This is not a “political” issue. It is a survival issue. To paraphrase Haskell himself, your house is on fire, Don. You can stay inside, believing it will put itself out, but we’re still going to call the fire department because we don’t want your fire spreading to your neighbors’ homes. You may choose to burn. But we don’t.

And the next time the Daily A makes the mistake of giving you nearly a full page of bully pulpit, please try to do at least a minimum of fact based research supporting your opinion. Remember, science doesn’t care what you believe in, what your opinion is or how you feel.

Barry Plotkin

Mr. Haskell's op-ed and Mr. Wisner's response muddle several issues: (1) Is the fact of global warming a matter of crucial urgency or not? (2) If it is, is there a "political response" that is appropriate? (3) If so, can the citizens of Oregon make a difference via a statewide-mandated action? I think the short answers to these questions are: (1) Yes, the threat of global warming for future generations is real and critical, and human activity contributes to it to a significant degree. (2) The appropriate political response is to join with most (195) of the other nations in the world in joining the Paris Agreement of 2016. (3) Once the U.S. signs on to the Paris Agreement, the individual states, including Oregon, will have their roles mapped out. As a particular comment to Mr. Haskell, the only way for the citizens of the U.S. to address China's contribution to global warming, or that of any other nation for that matter, is to partner with those nations in a world-wide effort. No single nation, on its own, can accomplish what needs to be done. I am personally neutral on whether a carbon tax or cap-and-trade will be effective. But I am not neutral on whether we should be doing something significant to save the planet for future generations. We owe it to our children and all future generations to fix - or begin to fix - the mess we have created through our profligate and thoughtless consumption of earth's natural resources. Greta Thunberg is right to point the accusing finger at the spineless inaction of the world's leaders in this matter.

Richard Wisner

Many claim that the point of the 'cap & trade" legislation and the debate it brings is about our environment, but it looks to me it is once again just reestablishing historical battle lines in what is actually a war for yet more tax dollars. The gist of the legislation, in ten words or less, is that merely paying a fee will alter the earth's atmosphere. That being said, climate change is not so much a discrete problem to be solved as it is a never-ending condition under which we will have to make choices about priorities for economic development and the way we govern ourselves.

It is apparent to growing numbers of taxpayers that the Oregon legislature is trying to control a non-pollutant in the forlorn hope that reducing the state's minuscule carbon dioxide emissions will have a beneficial affect on our entire planet's complex and ever-changing climate. This, in spite of the fact that by the state's own estimate, reducing our CO2 emissions will have a negligible affect world-wide, as Oregon's contribution to global carbon dioxide levels is infinitesimal to the point of meaninglessness.

Disputes about climate change often end up being used by competing voices of authority as a proxy for deeper conflicts between alternative visions of our future. Even when people agree on the basic principles and the most uncontroversial findings of climate science, there is still room for disagreement about what the implications are for various actions suggested, such as taxing carbon—the building block of all life on earth.

Climate change, widely reported through the language of catastrophe and imminent peril as the greatest problem facing humanity is alarming, and people in turn put pressure on our legislators to "do something". The prevalence of public and policy discourse is heavily influenced by the way it is represented in the media, by campaigning organisations, by advertisers, by green energy vendors and other vested interests. As all should know by now, the media do not, in fact, act as neutral conveyors of information. The predominant media's messages about climate change have no starting point and no ending point. Their repertoire uses an inflated language, using terms such as “catastrophe”, “chaos” and “havoc”. Its tone is usually urgent. Their message travels around and around, changing frame, changing form and meaning as they go.

More ominous is that in the long run, should this carbon tax be imposed, it will only result in ever-higher taxation, ever-rising fuel costs, ever-tighter regulation, ever-greater state interference, ever-larger general funds for the state (perhaps the over-arching goal), and ever-diminished individual freedom. Remember, when the Oregon legislature speaks of generating revenue what average wage-earners hear is taking yet more dollars from our pockets.

Someday, politicians, journalists, bureaucrats, educators, and ordinary citizens will notice that the predictions of doom and gloom about the climate are flexible and that it is nonsense to say the science is settled and that the only way to protect the planet and survive is to hand over millions of dollars to the state of Oregon so it can pretend to control temperatures, sea levels, and storm activity—forever. This is the camel's head in through the tent door. Does anyone really think this current, particular legislative bill is the end of it?

Lastly and most significantly, this legislation should not be brought up in the so-called legislative "short session". That is not what the short session was passed for in 2010. Passing a comprehensive carbon tax bill alleged to affect the entire planet is not "tweaking the budget".

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