Columnist: Climate change and hot air |

Columnist: Climate change and hot air

Heather Lemon
Vail CO, Colorado

The Vail Daily article “Solar showdown in some neighborhoods” screamed of the conflict between aesthetic conservation and our desire to seek alternative energy sources. We somehow rant and rail against global warming, and the evils of the current administration’s massive failings to approve the Kyoto Protocol (among other environmental sins ” even the Democratically controlled Senate rejected Al Gore’s feel-good global warming bill) ” but cannot accept small steps in our own neighborhoods if it does not look good.

Wind turbines are rejected because they are an eyesore ” or perhaps the lynx might walk across the pad and be disturbed by the whooshing whirl of the blades. We drive hybrids to assuage our conscience of the continued miles we insist to drive without any reduction in the use of the vehicle. We complain about gas prices that are a bargain compared to practically every other place in the world, because driving in the United States is an unstated inalienable right of every American starting at 16 years old. And somehow buying carbon credits to achieve a “carbon neutral” footprint justifies a mansion that consumes more energy in a month than most American households in a year. If we are serious about reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, we must accept and actively seek a change in lifestyle.

To achieve this lifestyle change, what motivating factor will get results? For me, I am not persuaded by the shrill Chicken Little squawking “Global warming!!! Global warming!!! The sky is falling!!!” I remember in 1975 the Newsweek cover story wailed of impending doom due to global cooling. This story was followed by a May 31, 1976, U.S. News and World Report special edition espousing the scientific proof that indeed temperatures were falling and a new Ice Age was about to engulf us. Just 13 years later we are suddenly facing an apocalyptic crisis of world-ending proportions because of global warming. And now, some 20 years into the current crisis, it is all due to man-made carbon dioxide emissions. Not to be a cynic, but there seems to be some dispute in the science regarding climate change.

If you were to read the IPCC’s (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N. policy group on global warming) fourth assessment report of May 2007 (and not the summary issued three months before the report), the scientist-authors are much more reserved in their conclusions and observations than the policy wonks who drafted the summary. There is no consensus in the scientific community as to the correlations and causes.

Granted it is a popular political issue, and it is “politically correct” to claim consensus. But a quick Google search shows hundreds of articles written by IPCC scientists looking at other causes of climate change. Their theories, as scientifically based as CO2 emissions, have been studying water vapor (evaporation from the oceans), solar activity, and the cyclical nature of the cooling and warming of the Earth. One particularly interesting article suggested a change in diet for English cattle and hogs which will reduce burping (emission of methane gases) significantly. Another suggested that if you allocated 1,219 square feet to every human on the planet (a lot more living space than in the mega-cities of Asia) the entire population of the world would fit in the state of Texas, and living density would be slightly greater than San Francisco but less than Brooklyn.

I am in no way advocating an abandonment of our community responsibility to protect our environment. Granted, some only respond to fear (observe the callous, fear-mongering histrionics of political advertising). I am suggesting that we tone down the hysterical hype, review all of the scientific literature available and seek practical lifestyle changes, because we want a quality of life, not because the end of the world is near.

Global warming is a huge industry with billions being spent. Rather than spending a 100 bucks to watch a concert, perhaps the ticket should be some certificate of tree planting issued by the town or conservation society as Rich Galen, the blogger on, suggests.

If we took one-tenth of the money allocated to study and research ways to achieve a socialist redistribution of wealth, and actually invested in clean water for Africa and Asia we would save millions of lives. That statement will probably piss some people off. Sorry. I get peeved when I am being railroaded into policy woven by spin doctors rivaling those from the Bush White House.

There are good reasons to practice conservation and preserve our environment. We need less dependence on foreign oil, or on fossil fuels period. We do need to reduce our CO2 emissions because of the impacts it does have on our environment. We should recycle, use less packaging and reduce our landfill waste. We need to improve our health, and less dependence on the automobile will force us to walk or ride more.

Last week a commentator suggested a program for community solar panels that could be used to heat driveways, water, and conserve our electricity usage. Communities in California have made tangible commitments to seek alternative energy sources. What are we doing?

We need less rhetoric and more response. I guess I should look into planting cactus to replace my water-guzzling flowers.

Heather Lemon of Eagle-Vail writes a biweekly column for the Vail Daily. She can be reached at

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