Janice Kurbjun
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April 21, 2012
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Who We Are: Doubting Marty: A dissenting voice on climate change

Martin Hertzberg says global warming is a farce.

Even if advocates of the phenomenon are right about their claim the Earth is warming, it's not because of humans, he says.

"If there is any global warming, it's natural. But I would go further. The theory that human emission of carbon dioxide having an effect ... that theory, in my humble opinion as a scientist, is one of the greatest frauds in the history of science," Hertzberg said.

The bottom line is that carbon dioxide has a minimal impact on climatology, he says. And he should know, because he was a meteorologist in the Navy, and has since taught the subject as well as turned it into his retirement hobby for the past 15 years.

Since the start of the global warming fad, as he might call it, in the mid-1990s, and since he moved to Copper Mountain as a full-time resident in 1996, he's delved into the subject. He's published several papers and coauthored a book titled "Slaying the Sky Dragon: Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory." He rarely lets any mention of climate change in the pages of the Summit Daily go unchallenged, and opinion page readers are accustomed to seeing him voice his doubts on a regular basis.

Carbon dioxide makes up such a small portion of the atmosphere, it can't have an effect, Hertzberg said. He uses the figure of 395 parts per million, which he said is roughly .04 percent of the atmosphere's composition.

"That one small constituent in the atmosphere is responsible for all this weather phenomenon is nonsense," Hertzberg said.

Instead, other factors contribute to long-term weather change. "Little ice ages" have occurred as recently as the middle of the last millennium, following a warming period during the medieval period, and fluctuations since, he said.

"It's no coincidence they grew grapes in northern England. That the Vikings settled Greenland during that period," Hertzberg said, adding that when temperatures changed, Viking villages went "belly-up. The Thames froze over. Manhattan's rivers froze."

According to Hertzberg, Earth's average temperature has increased only slightly - .05 degrees in the last 100 years.

"It increased from turn of the century to 1940, decreased again from 1940 to 1970, and from 1970 to 2000 it increased, but from 2000 on it leveled off and has actually been decreasing," he said, adding that temperatures are tough to measure accurately because there are few, if any, weather stations in the heart of the oceans.

But to Hertzberg, the biggest factor that's being ignored in global warming models is water vapor.

Those patterns - the la Nina and el Nino precipitation patterns we hear so much about - are known, but not understood.

According to Hertzberg, the words originated with Peruvian fishermen who observed that when the water was warm, there were less fish. When it was cold, fish yields were outstanding. Warm water brings less oxygen and therefore fewer nutrients in the water, he said, and the opposite is true in cold water.

That and some complexities surrounding the active and passive sun and its impact on cosmic rays cause changes in water vapor and clouds that impact climate, Hertzberg said.

"The agency through which all or most factors that control the weather operate is water in all its forms," he said. Clouds reflect the sun. The oceans stay cool because a temperature increase causes evaporation. Ice reflects sunlight.

"Compared to that, carbon dioxide is zilch. It's absolutely nothing. There's no evidence it plays any role whatsoever," Hertzberg said.

Another frustration for Hertzberg is the idea that carbon dioxide harms humans.

"Going zero carbon is nonsense," he said. "In a carbon-free world, you and I would be dead. It's essential to photosynthesis. All life forms depend on it."

Studies show that trees grow faster in a higher carbon dioxide environment, Hertzberg said. Artificial greenhouses, he said, bump up their levels to 900 parts per million. Geological data Hertzberg found shows that Earth today is low in carbon dioxide on a historical basis compared to Earth millions of years ago.

Hertzberg said opinions contrary to the main stream are often suppressed, but there's evidence that high-level scientists are pushing the contrary philosophy.

"It's slowly unfolding. It's beginning to crumble, like a house of cards," Hertzberg said.

Hertzberg doesn't dismiss all environmental claims. He just finds that the hype surrounding global warming is misplaced - and earns a lot of people a lot of money that might be spent

elsewhere.

"Global warming is a Trojan Horse in the environmental movement," he said. "There are legitimate concerns in pollution ... but chasing this global warming phantom is going to discredit the rest."

Like pursuing natural gas electricity rather than coal.

"Natural gas is inherently cleaner. It doesn't contain soot. No sulphur. It generates nitrogen oxides, but they're easier to control," Hertzberg said, adding, "There are good reasons for conserving energy. It's costly. We import a large fraction of what we use for transportation. I think we should go with electric cars." He also promotes pursuing oil shale.

"(These are the ways) we can beat this whole system," he said.

And so, he conserves what he can. He doesn't have an electric car yet - he's waiting for technology to improve - but he also doesn't travel as much now that he lives at Copper Mountain.

In his retirement, Hertzberg pursues pieces of his old professions.

He occasionally teaches, and spends his free time researching and combatting climate change theories.

But he also does consulting work, investigating fire and explosion accidents in mines, which made up the majority of his career. For example, he was involved in the investigation of the Upper Big Branch Coal Mine explosion in West Virginia that killed 29 people.

Hertzberg holds a PhD in physical chemistry from Stanford before being trained as a meteorologist - which is where he came to know water vapor and its impact on weather.

He and his wife, Ruth, have three sons and a daughter, who range in professions from physical and mental doctors to a judge and marketing manager. They have seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, one of whom is adopted from Russia and plays hockey as a junior Penguin in Pittsburgh.

Ruth teaches, even in retirement, and often drags her husband along to help out.

"I like teaching, so long as it doesn't interfere with important things like skiing and golf," Hertzberg said.

He and Ruth also founded the High Country Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, a small group that meets at Lord of the Mountains Church in Dillon on Sundays.

As for living in Colorado, Hertzberg said, "It's hard to beat the scenery."

"Before we bought the house, we used to go to Vail," he said. "We landed at the airport and a bus would take us to Vail. We'd go through (Ten Mile) canyon and I felt like I could reach out and touch the walls, they were so steep and sharp. Vail Pass is nothing compared to the canyon."

The only negative is they don't have children and grandchildren close by, save one granddaughter who lives near Colorado Springs and wants to go into medicine, like her dad.


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The Summit Daily Updated Apr 22, 2012 12:01AM Published Apr 21, 2012 11:58PM Copyright 2012 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.