Staff Column: Global warming position takes thought
The other day one of our readers left me a voice mail asking the question "Is the Sun Advocate brave enough to take a stance against the idea of global warming?"
First of all, the Sun Advocate as a newspaper never takes positions on anything. While we are all for the good of Carbon County in general, the paper doesn't take a stance on particular issues.
However, our individual writers in the opinion pages do take a stand, put out an opinion or give views about various issues that concern mankind and the local area. That's why you many see stories in the general newspaper without names, but you will never see, as long as I am publisher, a piece on the opinion pages of this newspaper without a name attached to it.
I ask that no reader ever take the opinion of one writer on the opinion page as the position of this newspaper. Not even mine.
So since I am writing this, let's get down to the question that he posed. I think that the courage to confront the issue of global warming has little to do with bravery, but with facts. And when people mention global warming most are actually posing at least two questions. First, is global warming actually taking place? Second, are man's activties on this planet causing it?
Let's tackle the first one first, because depending on the answer, the second question could be moot.
Based on the overwhelming scientific evidence and the perponderance of information available, I have a hard time believing that something is not going on with the climate. Ice is melting in places where it has been frozen for thousands of years. And you don't have to go to the north or south pole to see it. Glacier National Park in Montana is a good lower 48 example. Glaciers that have covered vast expanses of the park are retreating rapidly. Even the small glaciers in some of Utah's high mountains are shrinking such as the one on Mt. Timpanogas. Something is definitely going on.
I have heard people say in the last couple of winters that they don't believe in global warming because "look how cold it is this winter." But the day to day, even year to year weather in a place is not the same as a climate change. Climate change is overall and often not noticible in a short span of time.
I know that there are some scientists with disenting opinions about global warming actually taking place, and certainly there are a lot of politicians out there that want to deny it, but the world of science largely says something is changing. And I believe them.
Now onto the other question. Is that change being caused by man? That question seems to be much harder to answer than the other one. Just like a patient being diagnosed in the doctor's office, he says he is sick and he shows signs of being sick. But finding out what is causing him to be sick is a whole different matter. And in the case of climate change, is it really something that shows an illness or is this just something (a cycle) that we as a modern society (or our society in recent memory) has never experienced before? That, I believe, is the good question.
It's hard to decide whether to be a chicken little about this or be like a ostrich and hide our heads in the sand from the reality of what is happening. People do this with illnesses all the time. Some think every ache and pain is a sentence of death, while others will ignore the signs of illness, often chronic ones, hoping they will go away.
Now I am not trying to be a fence sitter here, but I think the truth about the second question is really unknown. And if I am pressed I believe that we are partly in a warming cycle on the Earth, and that we ourselves are also doing things that is affecting the climate as well. Part of the problem with this is that if we are causing a lot of it and we wait too long to do something about it, we may not be able to reverse it. On the other hand we don't want to destroy the world economy and crush standards of living to fix something we are not certain we are responsible for either.
I hate to say it, but human beings seem to be inheritly selfish. We will do anything, say anything and believe anything to protect our own circumstances. In this area, with coal being such an important part of our economy, it's scary to think that what we are producing and is being used might be adding to the problem of global warming. But of more immediate concern to all of us is what if coal becomes an energy of the past? What would happen to our area?
While much of what is called "clean coal" technology is still in development, it lends great hope to the future of the black rock that we burn for power and industry. Those that think our world can only be operated on solar power and wind generation, I think, are up in the night. That could only happen if people would be willing to have electricity when the sun shines and the wind blows. Coal needs a place in the future of energy; maybe not the same place, but a large place just the same.
So to sum it up, I think anyone who doesn't see something is happening to the Earth's climate, is not wanting to see it. But when it comes to the cause of global warming, those that believe only man's activities are responsible or think man has nothing to do with it at all, are both probably wrong.