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Climate change: Deal with it

City Sage



Going to forums and listening to mayoral and City Council candidates focus on transient problems can be dismaying and depressing. It's as if Colorado Springs existed in a self-directed bubble, unaffected by the problems of the larger world.

One example of such detachment is the refusal of many candidates to address global climate change, much less acknowledge that residents should take meaningful steps to reduce carbon emissions. Maybe Fountain Creek should be called the River of Denial, since the Martin Drake Power Plant sits on the bank of that unfortunate stream.

Some candidates, including mayoral hopeful Amy Lathen and Utilities Board Chair/City Council incumbent Merv Bennett, are climate-change deniers who proudly display their scientific illiteracy. They use the disingenuous rhetoric of energy-industry shills who pretend that anthropogenic climate change is still a matter of debate among serious scientists.

We need to hear both sides ...

It happens over millions and millions of years ...

Global warming? Look how cold it was last week ...

Global climate change is settled scientific fact. You might not like it, but too bad. You're entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. And the facts lead to sobering conclusions.

Climate change is the direct, incontrovertible result of human production of greenhouse gases (principally carbon dioxide and methane) and the injection of those gases into the atmosphere. We've already seen some effects that climate scientists predicted 20 years ago: higher global temperatures, melting glaciers, ocean acidification, prolonged drought in California and the Colorado River basin, and diminishing ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.

Every week brings more dire news, such as the recent discovery that the East Antarctic ice sheet may be melting as fast as its West Antarctic counterpart. When both disappear, world sea levels will rise by an average of 20 feet. North American shores will see a 25-foot rise, thanks to our old friend gravity (another pesky scientific fact!).

How soon? Not in my lifetime, or Al Gore's or yours. But it may be well advanced in the lifetime of my granddaughter Anuhea Hazlehurst, born in Tahiti on March 1. She lives in Afaahiti, close to a river that runs into the sea. She contributes little to global warming, but the house where she lives may be underwater, the coral reefs that circle her island home may die, and many islands in the neighboring Tuamotu Archipelago will be drowned.

We all have a dog in the fight. The cumulative impacts of global warming will leave no nation unscathed — there may be no safe high ground, no cozy enclaves for the rich, no reprieve from the planet's death sentence.

But it's not our fault, right? We didn't do anything bad, so what are we supposed to do?

Sorry, but we're not the victims. We're the perps. Every year, Colorado Springs Utilities releases approximately 3.5 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Of that total, more than 75 percent comes from CSU's coal-fired generators at the Nixon and Drake plants.

More than one-third of all CO2 emissions worldwide come from coal-burning power plants. Coal is cheap, abundant, and users worldwide are committed to the bottom line. That's fine if you're selfish enough to believe the ancillary cost of altering the planetary environment doesn't belong on the balance sheet. CO2 may be colorless and odorless, but it's a lot more dangerous than cigarette smoke. You can neither avoid it nor give it up. So how about a health message on our utility bills and on the CSU website?

Warning! The continued use of electricity generated by burning fossil fuels, especially coal, will lead to extreme climate change, including rising sea levels, widespread species extermination and prolonged drought in the American West.

Even though the Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency have been tightening the screws on coal, Americans need to understand that coal threatens the lives and well-being of our children and grandchildren. After all, it took decades for most Americans to realize that cigarette smoking causes cancer.

Drake isn't just an unsightly industrial facility, but part of a terrible plague. Look at it with different eyes, and see Shiva in steel and fire. Remember the words of the Hindu Bhagavad Gita:

Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

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