Young: Extreme Colorado weather highlights extreme inaction
September 17, 2013
In Colorado, headline writers have run out of ways to say "unprecedented."
In the span of two weeks, the state went from unheard-of "heat day" school closures — yes, in September — to the worst floods since the mountains were under the sea.
This follows a fire season worse than the previous, each the costliest since the invention of coin. It seems residents and policy-makers can pencil in a worse one for next year, and the next.
For many years the city of Boulder had contemplated a destructive 100-year flood on Boulder Creek. Headline, Sept. 13 Boulder Daily Camera: "100-year flood."
Our atmosphere has become a microwave oven. The Big Thompson River just had that 100-year flood, devastating Estes Park. Its last 100-year flood? Thirty-seven years ago.
Heat waves and drought not known since the Dust Bowl. Sea levels rising.
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Extreme: Our weather has become that, and we are coming to know why. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's authoritative explanation: global warming.
A NOAA report says that climate change made several 2012 events more likely: U.S. heat waves, Hurricane Sandy's flooding, shrinking Arctic sea ice, drought in the European Iberian peninsula, and extreme rainfall in Australia and New Zealand.
The 78 NOAA researchers involved in the study weren't making broad-brush claims, either. They said, for instance, that the U.S. drought of the same period was most likely cyclical, along with several other weather events including a cold snap in the Netherlands.
Sens. James Inhofe and Marco Rubio may not want to hear this, wanting to believe that climate change is just, you know, change, but NOAA asserts that levels of man-produced carbon dioxide are behind the events linked to rapid climate change.
The scientists' point is that these events aren't as freaky as they appear. They are predictable because of how human activity has upset the balance of nature.
Whatever activity we are generating, when it comes to addressing this menace — the biggest story in the history of our planet — American policy-makers are inert, for the simple reason that necessary change is inconvenient.
Actually, that statement needs qualification, because one person has been doing things about it: President Obama. Not only has he directed the nation's most significant shift to renewable energy and conservation under the 2009 stimulus bill, but he recently issued a directive for power plants to curb greenhouse pollution.
By doing so, Obama applied CPR to a dead decade regarding this crucial global matter.
The United States is the only developed nation not to sign the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. (The other two holdouts are fitting company for those who don't believe what most of the developed word does about climate change: Afghanistan and Sudan.)
Some people will ask, haven't matters already gone too far to avert the types of events we now experience? Maybe so. That doesn't mean we don't do what's right regarding the pollution and resource deprivation that comes with our pedal-to-the-metal approach to fossil fuel consumption.
The Sarah Palin Pollyanna dodge is that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. But even if the greenhouse effect did not exist, and even if CO2 is harmless, what accompanies it out the smokestack and tail pipe is not.
Policies to limit fossil fuel usage are good for all living things.
Climate change is real, as real as the 100 days a year in which the gondola city of Venice now finds itself under water. Vendors there have now resorted to selling disposable galoshes to tourists.
This is the policy of private enterprise, the policy of profit today at the expense of tomorrow. Get used to it. There's money to be had. Hey, Bud, grow some gills.
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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