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By Robert Rapier on May 26, 2010 with 61 responses

Changing Attitudes on Climate Change

I have long taken a detached view of the climate change debate. As I have explained before, this is not because I don’t view it as a very serious issue, it is simply because I don’t see much hope of actually addressing it because of the global nature of the issue and the strong desire from all for cheap energy. (I explained my position in detail here). So I devote my energy to reducing and replacing our fossil fuel consumption. Locally, fossil fuel reduction/replacement can improve the sustainability of a community, but globally developing countries will continue to burn cheap fossil fuels. I can impact local sustainability, but can’t really see a way to impact global CO2 emissions. Thus, despite all of the attempts to rein in carbon emissions, the atmospheric concentration continues to rise unabated.

I have friends on both sides of the climate change issue, and I do follow the debate. I know that some of the skeptics are just as convinced of their position as are climate change proponents. So I knew that when the news of Climategate broke and suggested the whiff of a scandal regarding climate change data, it was going to get a lot of mileage. This issue was certain to embolden skeptics, and I felt it would make it much more difficult to pass climate change legislation in the U.S. So I placed the issue as one of my Top 10 Energy Related Stories of 2009.

Some readers disagreed. In fact, one even wrote “saying the contrived scandal over the “climategate” emails will have legs outside the right wing blogosphere completely undermines your credibility.” Another referred to it as a “denier freak-show” and suggested that it would all soon blow over. I was certain they were miscalculating how this was likely to play out. (As is generally the case when I discuss climate change, some took the opportunity to paint me as a “denier.” This is always humorous to me, because others have criticized me for accepting the science on climate change. I suppose this is like the conservatives who think I am too liberal and the liberals who think I am too conservative).

When I was in New Zealand earlier in the year, I spotted a story that confirmed my suspicions about the implications:

Public concern about global warming appears to have eased in the past year, following economic uncertainty and widespread media coverage of climate science slip-ups.

An online survey of 1066 people in February and March found the majority believed climate change was an immediate problem – but the proportion of believers had fallen from 76 per cent in 2008 to 65 per cent this year.

Almost all governments accept the findings of a UN report based on the work of hundreds of scientists which concluded in 2007 that warming of the climate was “unequivocal”.

But public confidence was dented when, shortly before world climate talks in Copenhagen, emails were released showing a few leading scientists tried to avoid releasing data to their doubters, in breach of British freedom of information laws.

I blogged on that story here. Now comes news that Climategate has caused a shift in attitudes in Britain and Germany:

Climate Fears Turn to Doubts Among Britons

A survey in February by the BBC found that only 26 percent of Britons believed that “climate change is happening and is now established as largely manmade,” down from 41 percent in November 2009. A poll conducted for the German magazine Der Spiegel found that 42 percent of Germans feared global warming, down from 62 percent four years earlier.

“Legitimacy has shifted to the side of the climate skeptics, and that is a big, big problem,” Ben Stewart, a spokesman for Greenpeace, said at the meeting of environmentalists here. “This is happening in the context of overwhelming scientific agreement that climate change is real and a threat. But the poll figures are going through the floor.”

Here in Britain, the change has been driven by the news media’s intensive coverage of a series of climate science controversies unearthed and highlighted by skeptics since November. These include the unauthorized release of e-mail messages from prominent British climate scientists at the University of East Anglia that skeptics cited as evidence that researchers were overstating the evidence for global warming and the discovery of errors in a United Nations climate report.

At this point, I think it is safe to say that my take on the issue was correct. I would imagine that even those who insisted that I was overstating the significance of the event would now concede that I was right. Otherwise, I suppose we could call them “deniers.”

  1. By Walt on May 26, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/t…..136639.ece

    May 26, 2010

    EU sets toughest targets to fight global warming

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  2. By RCeng on May 26, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Having worked in rivers engineering for long time now; I wish I could explain to my children that the climate phenomena is not man-related, but soon I would be denying my own observations and experiences. whether we like it or not, the facts show that actions need to be taken at the highest level before our ‘civilization’ gets submerged under the waters our human irrationality.

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  3. By simon on May 26, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    My view from London: you are right to say Climategate has reached far further than the “right-wing blogosphere” not least because UK national newspapers have been all over the story. But these articles on the meme “people are now more sceptical because of Climategate” are too simplistic.

    The BBC’s Richard Black offers useful thoughts on what other factors are at play
    .
    The way poll questions are formulated can also have a big impact.

    enjoying the blog Robert!

    cheers,
    simon

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  4. By Matt on May 26, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    “EU sets toughest targets to fight global warming”

    Meanwhile, Italy and Germany have new coal plants.

    I agree with Robert that the political will will never be there to have sizable reductions in our carbon footprints. I also think, based on all the issues that have come of bias in climate science, the effect will be a non-catastrophic rise in temperature that’s happened so far as opposed to the meteoric rise predicted by models. That may increase droughts, but I don’t think all of Florida will be covered in water any time soon.

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  5. By Benny BND Cole on May 26, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    The only time I get worried about global warming is when I look at people who are not worried about global warming–often, the same people who believe in creationism as science.
    I had a “serious” discussion with an office-mate who believed that T-Rex and ancient man were contemporaries. That the Grand Canyon was made in 5,000 years or less.
    Of course, manmade Global Warming is no less or more true given some people’s belief or skepticism in creationism.
    Still, it is a bit unsettling how people come to believe what they believe. Right now, right-wingers scoff at Global Warmiing, and left-wingers are certain we will cook tomorrow.

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  6. By sam-geckler on May 26, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    I have often wondered what type of dramatic change in someone’s personal life would be required for climate change to be accepted? I think only a personal experience, of something dramatic happening locally, can change some people’s mind. I just don’t think numbers and reports are going to be enough.

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  7. By rrapier on May 26, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Sam Geckler said:

    I have often wondered what type of dramatic change in someone’s personal life would be required for climate change to be accepted? I think only a personal experience, of something dramatic happening locally, can change some people’s mind. I just don’t think numbers and reports are going to be enough.


     

    It really depends on the person, Sam. Some are able to look into the future and plan for various consequences. Many more don’t plan at all, living for the moment. And then there are those who live on credit. That is a very large portion of our population, and those are not the people who are going to be concerned about climate change, peak oil, or any number of potentially troublesome events. Many people don’t respond until as you say – something dramatic impacts them personally.

    I see the same over peak oil planning. Most people don’t give it much thought, confident that we will figure something out.

     

    RR

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  8. By Perry on May 26, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    C02 may well cause global warming. It doesn’t necessarily follow that we need to lower CO2 levels. Reflecting 1 or 2% of the sunlight that hits the planet would accomplish the same thing and cost a fraction of the multi-trillion dollar “fixes” being proposed. We could even throw some space-based solar platforms up there and get some bang for our buck.

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  9. By Perry on May 26, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    The reason I think we should reflect sunlight instead of lowering CO2 is the obvious benefit of increased CO2 levels. Bigger and better plants.

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  10. By David on May 26, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    http://calderup.wordpress.com/…..disappear/

    Until someone is successful at falsifying this research on the basis of sound physics it certainly bears exploring.

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  11. By Randall Parker on May 26, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    It was inevitable as the steep economic downturn took hold that people would place less priority on a more distant future and focus on short term effects of policy changes. Even without ClimateGate the recession was bound to cut public support for CO2 emissions reduction. People who owe more on their mortgage than their house is work, people who are unemployed, people who have had their bonuses abolished and working hours cut, well these are not people who are thinking about 30 or 40 or 50 years from now.

    The sovereign debt crisis is deepening fears for the future. People fear their pensions will be cut and their wages to stagnate.

    The economic effects of Peak Oil will make people even less concerned about CO2. When the economy starts shrinking every year due to declining oil production the focus will shift even more intensely on short run economic prospects. A 20% unemployment rate will cause a massive shift in just what people worry about. The struggle for survival as airlines and auto companies go out of business won’t leave a lot of time for worrying about 20 years from now. Homelessness, hunger, failed banks, and broke governments will become much bigger worries. The sheer amount of total worry will go up even as global warming gets short shrift.

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  12. By Wendell Mercantile on May 26, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    Right now, right-wingers scoff at Global Warmiing, and left-wingers are certain we will cook tomorrow.

    Benny,

    Neither is true. The one fact that both left and right overlook is that it always gets warmer after an Ice Age and the Northern Hemisphere is now still rebounding after the most recent Holocene Ice Age.

    The other fact both sides overlook is that it will certainly get colder again when the next Ice Age arrives.

    The comings and goings of the great ice sheets that periodically cover large parts of the earth has gone on for millions and millions of years ~ millions of years during which no humans even lived on the earth. At the most, humans can affect the cycles of those ice ages only at the fringes.

    Try this thought experiment: When the next great ice sheet starts advancing towards North America, Northern Europe, and Siberia, do you think it would be in the power of humans to stop it? (How could we stop billions and billions of tons of ice from advancing south when we can’t even stop an oil well leak on the floor of he Gulf of Mexico?)

    It is my opinion that antropogenic global warming is a fact, but that it is also irrelevant for those who can think in geological and astronomical time.

    The real threats to the existence of humans on earth are a large meteorite or asteroid strike; or the eruption of a super-volcano such as the one under the Yellowstone Park region. Either could cause the extinction of the human race. Yet no one gets their panties in a twist about either event because there is no political agenda or advantage to be gained from debating them.

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  13. By Rufus on May 26, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    Temperatures didn’t go up an iota in Ms in the 20th Century. Jes sayin.

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  14. By russ-finley on May 27, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Few people follow science blogs. Most get information from the lay press (newspapers, magazines), and television. These sources stay in business by selling ads. To get readership they have to provide attention grabbing sensationalist news. The last thing many people heard from their sources of information is that climate change may not be real after all. The lay press and television literally can’t afford to follow up the sensationalist headlines with others that say “Oh, never mind.” Newsprint is limited by space and television by time.

    People who read science publications and blogs are well aware that the climate hoax was a hoax.

    Not to say there’s much hope of fixing it based on what we know today.

    On a related note, I just stumbled on a study showing that by 2050 we will barely be able to feed ourselves, let alone grow biofuel crops. It takes about 7 units of fossil energy to produce 1 unit of food energy:

    http://www.tsl.uu.se/uhdsg/Pub…..ulture.pdf

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  15. By klem on May 27, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    So let me try to figure this out, you are an AGW believer but you don’t take it seriously because there is nothing you can do about it. So you’re labelled a denier. Lol! Environmentalists are truly environ-mental.

    Climate change is a political issue, not a scientific one. So if you believe, you’re on the left; if you don’t believe, you’re on the right. If you don’t take it seriously because the problem is too huge then perhaps you’re one of the few who actually are in the middle and want to do something real, local and concrete; rather than push the fantacy of a global carbon commodity market with funding going to a UN managed world government (a bit far fetched).

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  16. By PHYSICS MSC on May 27, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Climate change has always been happening, just not from the causes that Al Gore, Mann, Jones, and the UN would like you to believe.

    The cause has been understood to be from solar activity, long before Mann came along with his half-baked graph. The AGW movement is he same kind of “consensus” that once told Galileo to accept the “truth” that the earth was flat. The facts are that CO2 has nothing to do with climate change, and you can build accurate predictions based on solar activity, unlike Jone’s useless models.

    The only problem with the solar model of climate change, is that you can not figureout a way to make a profit from it, or use is to justify social engineering.

    Solar scientists on the actual cause of climate change:
    http://opinion.financialpost.c…..un-stupid/

    Environmental Research Letters 5(2010) 024001:
    http://iopscience.iop.org/1748…..024001.pdf

    National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 5306-5310|PNAS|March 23 2010|Vol 107|No 12:
    http://www.pnas.org/content/ea…..l.pdf+html

    A good primer for layman:
    http://www.john-daly.com/hocke…..hockey.htm

    http://www.aip.org/history/cli…..cycles.htm

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  17. By Perry on May 27, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    “On a related note, I just stumbled on a study showing that by 2050 we will barely be able to feed ourselves, let alone grow biofuel crops”

    I saw the report as somewhat optimistic Russ. From a gross figure of 20,000 TWh of energy, the net energy content shrinks to 7200 TWh by the time it reaches our tummies. 2700 TWh is lost to mold. As the report stated, that fraction can be used for biofuel with no negative consequences. A similar amount is deemed inedible for whatever reason and can also be used for biofuel. 5000 TWh would replace 20% of our fossil fuel consumption in the transport sector. That’s before cellulosic comes into play. The report estimates 10,000 TWh of biogas and ethanol can safely be produced from crop residues. That estimate assumes 2/3′s of residues are returned to the soil. Taken together, that represents 60% of the fuel we’re currently using, and it wouldn’t impact what gets to the table at all. That’s pretty heartening in my opinion.

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  18. By Perry on May 27, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    “rather than push the fantacy of a global carbon commodity market with funding going to a UN managed world government (a bit far fetched).”

     

    That’s the problem Klem. The solution being foisted on us is worse than the underlying problem. CO2 may well cause global warming. But, it also causes bigger crop yields. Returning to the CO2 levels we had in the 1800′s could cost as much as 20% of our food crops, not to mention the trillions of dollars it would require. Instead, we should be finding the most cost efficient way to block 2% of the sunlight reaching earth.

     

    http://www.thetartan.org/2010/…..citech/sun

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  19. By rrapier on May 27, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    So let me try to figure this out, you are an AGW believer but you don’t take it seriously because there is nothing you can do about it. So you’re labelled a denier. Lol! Environmentalists are truly environ-mental.

    Sorry Klem, but you didn’t figure it out. You are way off the mark. The phrase “you don’t take it seriously” is something you have erroneously concluded; based on what exactly I don’t know. But people jump to conclusions like you did – which is why I am sometimes labeled a denier. It is unfortunate, but it happens when people don’t try to understand exactly what I am saying.

    If you want to understand my position, look at the chart of atmospheric CO2 concentrations taken from Mauna Loa. The rise has been unabated, despite the best efforts of Kyoto, etc. The reason is that consumption continues to rise, and I see no chance that you can impact what something like China does with respect to their coal consumption. Thus, I simply see it as an issue that will not be addressed globally until our fossil fuel supplies start to run out. (Copenhagen turned out like I thought it would, and just goes to show that a global agreement is going to be unlikely). Your conclusion from that is that I don’t take it seriously. Bizarre, but not the first time.

    RR

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  20. By rrapier on May 27, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    It was inevitable as the steep economic downturn took hold that people
    would place less priority on a more distant future and focus on short
    term effects of policy changes. Even without ClimateGate the recession
    was bound to cut public support for CO2 emissions reduction.

     

    This is an important point, and in fact one I have argued many times. This is why I think we will inevitably burn up all of our fossil fuel resources. When times get tough, people won’t be nearly as concerned about the impact of coal consumption on the environment. Their concerns will be immediate.

     

    RR

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  21. By Wendell Mercantile on May 27, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    On a related note, I just stumbled on a study showing that by 2050 we will barely be able to feed ourselves, let alone grow biofuel crops.

    Russ,

    That is what is really scary. The earth’s population is headed towards nine billion — which without divine intervention — will be unsupportable and will be a real calamity.

    The issue we all should be debating and acting upon is how to reduce the earth’s population, yet that is something I’ve never heard Al Gore address. We can’t just go blissfully along believing an earth with 9 billion people on it (happily I’m old enough I won’t be around by 2050) will be a fun place on which to live.

    Many of the problems we face (energy, AGW, etc.) wouldn’t even exist if there were only two billion people or so on the earth. Why will so few people say our real problem is too many people?

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  22. By Al Fin on May 27, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    If one does not derive his income from carbon hysteria or peak oil doom, the scientific reasons for believing in either tend to fade significantly, as better data accumulates. But if you are prone to believing in disaster tales, either one or both can become a great and time-consuming hobby.

    When one is a true believer in both Anthropogenic Climate Catastrophe, and Peak Oil Doom, the cognitive dissonance can be paralyzing.
    You can’t mitigate peak oil because that would make climate catastrophe worse. Getting too serious about climate catastrophe will hasten peak oil doom. One begins to see doom coming from all directions at once.

    The two combine to provide a nice knit cap of aluminium fibre, to be sure. Doomers will be doomers.

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  23. By Argonaut on May 27, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Quoting Al Fin-
    “You can’t mitigate peak oil because that would make climate catastrophe worse. Getting too serious about climate catastrophe will hasten peak oil doom.”

    Fascinating view. That’s exactly the opposite of how I see it. The top two strategies for addressing climate change- efficiency and substitution (replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy) are also the top two for addressing peak oil!

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  24. By Rufus on May 27, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    If you will go to the Mauna Loa site, here,

    ftp://ftp.cmdl.noaa.gov/ccg/co…..mm_mlo.txt

    You will see that from April 2007 to April 2008 (when the World’s economy was booming) the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere grew by 0.82 parts per million.

    However, from April 2009 to April 2010 (when the World was in serious Recession) the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere jumped by 2.93 ppm.

    Why was this. Well, obviously, during the earlier period the Oceans were a bit cooler, and absorbed more CO2. During the later period (an El Nino period) the Oceans were warmer, and absorbed less.

    All through history we have seen CO2 “Following” Temperature, not “Leading” it.

    They tell us that it was considerably warmer during the Medieval Warm Period, but CO2 Concentration was considerably less. The Roman Warm Period was even Warmer, and the Holocene “Optimum” was even warmer, still – again, both the Roman, and the Optimum Periods had less CO2 in the atmosphere than now.

    It’s all nonsense, and “manipulated” temperature records.

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  25. By Optimist on May 27, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    That is what is really scary. The earth’s population is headed towards nine billion — which without divine intervention — will be unsupportable and will be a real calamity.

    That’s BS.

    Earth cannot support 6 billion hunter-gatherers, each need too many hectares to support himself. But it is supporting 6 billion people with today’s technology. With future technology there is no reason it can’t support 9 billion, and beyond. The fact is we’re going to need some of those 9 billion to come up with the technologies we need. It’s worked for the past several centuries, and continues to work in spite of the acceleration of the last century. There is no reason to believe it will stop working now.

    I know the system isn’t perfect (as BP insists on reminding us), but then it never was and never will be. I also know there are those who suffer tremendously at present. But allof that suffering can be traced back to leadership or lack of (the infamous prostitutians).

    There is a reason Malthus has been wrong for 200 years: a fundamental error in his logic. He won’t break that streak anytime soon…

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  26. By Wendell Mercantile on May 27, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    But it is supporting 6 billion people with today’s technology.

    It is not supporting six billion in a lifestyle you or I might consider comfortable. There are now about 6.8 billion and probably no more than ~25% of those are living what most would call a comfortable lifestyle. About 40% of the people on earth are already in dire straits and have no sanitation facilities or a reliable source of potable water.

    Of course there is plenty of water on earth, but how many nuclear power plants do you guess it would take just to distill and purify seawater for them? (Peak Oil is actually small beer compared to the coming water crisis.)

    Malthus was wrong only in a matter of time. He was unable to forecast things such as the “Green Revolution” or the Haber-Bosch process. But Malthus did get the basic idea right.

    Perhaps there is some breakthrough we don’t yet know about similar to Haber-Bosch. But that’s what it will take. Some technology we now can’t even understand, let alone forecast.

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  27. By Optimist on May 27, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    It is not supporting six billion in a lifestyle you or I might consider comfortable. There are now about 6.8 billion and probably no more than ~25% of those are living what most would call a comfortable lifestyle. About 40% of the people on earth are already in dire straits and have no sanitation facilities or a reliable source of potable water.

    Excuse me, but you are moving the goal posts: inequality, noble a goal as it is, is not quite the same as sustainability. Besides, the roots of inequality is bad leadership too.

    Of course there is plenty of water on earth, but how many nuclear power plants do you guess it would take just to distill and purify seawater for them? (Peak Oil is actually small beer compared to the coming water crisis.)

    There is no coming water crisis: you recycle treated sewage to the potable reservoir. As the city of Windhoek, Namibia has been doing for decades. Or many American cities have been doing inadvertantly. A large portion of the Colorado river is reclaimed water. And we can’t get enough of it here in Souther California…

    And if you do water reclamation right, you could also harvest renewable power and renewable fertilizer. But we’re still working on perfecting those technologies.

    Malthus was wrong only in a matter of time. He was unable to forecast things such as the “Green Revolution” or the Haber-Bosch process. But Malthus did get the basic idea right.

    Stop! Mathus got absolutely nothing right. Let’s start with his observations:
    1. In the wonderful New World populations were growing at a geometric rate.
    2. In Europe they were growing much slower.

    The reason: when you apply advanced European technology of the day, the New World could support more people, and soon did. In spite of that, people were NOT soon dying for lack of resources in the New World. No, population growth rates just adjusted to what the land could support.

    Same as it always has. And always will.

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  28. By Kit P on May 27, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    “It takes about 7 units of fossil
    energy to produce 1 unit of food energy:”

     

    Of course that is not what the study
    says. Our vegetable garden produces tomatoes requiring zero fossil energy
    input. Who know what the energy input is for those filet mignon that
    cost $15/lb?

     

    It does not take very much fossil
    energy to produce food. A small amount of chemicals results in a
    large increase in yields. Currently nitrogen is produced with
    stranded natural gas but in the past it has been produced by stranded
    renewable energy. It can also be produced with nuclear power.

     

    The study also says that 25% of
    transportation fuel can come from the non-edible portion of the food
    supply

     

    Supply a decent standard of living is
    not a matter of having a lot of resources but the absence of
    repressive and corrupt governments. Compare North ans South Korea.
    The south has gone from a 90% country of peasants with dirt floor to
    one of the strongest economies in the world.

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  29. By cce on May 28, 2010 at 4:00 am

    Journalists had little interest in reporting what “hide the decline” or Trenberth’s “travesty” actually meant, because that would require actual reporting.

    So yeah it’s not surprising the public becomes more skeptical, especially after a couple of relatively cold years in the US.

    Meanwhile, there’s reasonable chance that 2010 (near the solar minimum, no less) will become the new record year in the UAH satellite temperature analysis, setting us up for another decade of “Global Warming stopped in 2010″

    http://www.woodfortrees.org/pl…../from:1979

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  30. By russ on May 28, 2010 at 9:56 am

    The wonder of the internet and the Wikipedia – You can find supporting information for most anything and any point of view – 95% of it quite questionable as to quality.

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  31. By Wendell Mercantile on May 28, 2010 at 11:42 am

    There is no coming water crisis:

    There’s not? You may want to ask the people of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and Southern California. The governors of those states are already talking about plans to bring Great Lakes water to their states via a gigantic pipeline, while the governors of the states and provinces surrounding the Great Lakes not too long ago signed a compact saying in effect, “They can’t have it.”

    For numerous cities in the Southwest, solving their water supply problems has shot up to the number one issue.

    Water shortages in the southwest will soon cause a significant change of lifestyle there, and shift attention to the parts of the U.S. that do have adequate water.

    Oh, and I didn’t even touch on the depletion of the Ogalala Aquifer which underlays seven otherwise dry states in the middle of the country west of the 100th parallel. In the not too distance future, the farmers in those states will be back to dryland farming. (Remember something called the Dust Bowl?)

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  32. By russ on May 28, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    İt is pretty well a given that water will become ever more difficult with or without climate change. More people with improved life styles mean more water consumption all along the chain.

    How anyone can claim the junk we put into the air, water and soil is not causing problems today and greater ones in the future is beyond me.

     

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  33. By Wendell Mercantile on May 28, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    west of the 100th parallel

    I of course meant to say 100th meridian. Sorry.

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  34. By Rufus on May 28, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    Nope, if you’ll go here:

    http://vortex.nsstc.uah.edu/da…..uahncdc.lt

    You’ll see that not only was 1998 hotter ytd than 2010, but 1998 stayed hot, while the 2010 El Nino has now ended (meaning the second half of the year will be quite a bit cooler.

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  35. By Kit P on May 29, 2010 at 8:49 am

    “How anyone can claim the junk we put
    into the air, water and soil is not causing problems today and
    greater ones in the future is beyond me.”

     

    It is not beyond me because I have
    spent a lot of time in the classroom and the field studying the
    environment and protecting it. The CAA, CWA, & 10CFR20
    (radioactive releases) regulate emissions. NEPA requires energy
    project show that environment impact is insignificant in an EIS
    subject to public review.

     

    CERCLA & RCRA regulate hazardous
    waste. We are cleaning up super fund sites and preventing new ones.

     

    Finally the EPA & CDC monitors the
    environmental impact for harm. Our air is clean, our children have
    levels of lead and mercury below thresholds of harm.

     

    Forty years ago I learned that an ice
    age was coming, future generations would not be born because of
    radiation, and there would be mass starvation.

     

    Now the air and water are much cleaner
    and we are worried about insignificant changes in climate over
    periods of multiple life times. People are still going to starve 50
    years from now.

     

    It is always going to awful 50 years
    from now despite all the evidence of it being better in 50 years.

     

    I am not sure where Russ lives but in
    the US we have figured out how to maintain a high standard of living
    and protect the environment. Other places are still working on that
    but those places will get there.

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  36. By Wendell Mercantile on May 29, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Forty years ago I learned that an ice age was coming,

    There is an Ice Age coming. But it’ll probably be 10,000 years or so until it gets here, and by then, you, I, and Al Gore will be long gone. It would be fun though watching the “Al Gore of the year 12,000 AD,” taking on the daunting task of trying to rally political support to stop the oncoming ice and those dreadful dropping temperatures.

    in the US we have figured out how to maintain a high standard of living and protect the environment.

    Depends on where in the U.S. you are. Parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Appalachia are like being in a Third World country. We may have the knowledge of how to maintain a high standard of living, but that standard is by no means spread equitably across the country.

    Nor do we protect the environment equitably. For how many years has there been a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico because of the fertilizer, ag chemicals, and silt we’ve allowed to drain out of the Corn Belt down the Mississippi basin?

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  37. By Rufus on May 29, 2010 at 10:49 am

    The Indians called the Mississippi River the “Big Muddy River” for a reason.

    It has always been a “Big Muddy River” washing silt from Iowa to the GOM. All rivers have “hypoxia” zones. They expand, and they shrink. Last year the Ms River hypoxia zone contracted by about 30%, I believe. This year? It’ll just depend on those things, like floods in the midwest, that it depends on. Of the phosphate washed into the Gulf, it’s estimated that Chicago, alone, accounts for 5%. Add in St Louis, Louisville, Memphis, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and all the other town, and cities along the Ms, Mo, Ohio River Systems, and pretty soon you’re talking a lot of phosphates, Nitrates, etc washed to the Gulf. Oh, yeah, and “some” comes from farmland, too.

    Of course, if your choice was a 10% larger hypoxia zone, and shutting the Gulf down due to Oil covering the entire Gulf Coast .. . . . . .? You make the choice.

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  38. By Kit P on May 29, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    “are like being in a Third World
    country.”

     

    I suspect Wendell is talking about
    places he has not been. He most likely confusing being rich with
    having a high standard of living. My mom always said you could not
    be poor if you lived in a town with a library. A high standard of
    living is having shelter from the elements, adequate diet, clean
    drinking water, electricity, and opportunity. A work with a young
    engineer from Appalachia. Appalachia is a very nice place. Drive
    through Appalachia every year.

     

    So Wendell tell about a specific
    problem you know about where you live. Not something you have read
    about. Where is the air quality bad and the water quality not
    improving? Too often environmental justice is people living in NYC
    of California tell others how to live.

     

    “by no means spread equitably across
    the country”

     

    Sure it is. Lots of people are unhappy
    because they are not a rich as Bill Gates but there are at least a
    billion people who do not have clean drinking water and electricity.

     

    It cost nothing to pick the litter up
    in your yard and grow a garden and have a few plants. If you define
    your life by the size of your car, house, and TV; I would suggest
    that you are not too worried about your environment.

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  39. By Rufus on May 29, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Ms has excellent air, roads, and water. Per Capita Income in Ms is about average for a Western European Country.

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  40. By Engineer-Poet on May 29, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    If the projections of China’s coal supplies vs. its production are correct, CO2 emissions from there are going to reach a limit rather soon (before 2020).  China will then be limited by imports, and its rush to build inefficient powerplants will haunt it in a big way.  It’s going to be hard to blame foreign elements for troubles when people remember their skies being black at noon and coughing all the time because party apparatchiks wanted the cheapest, fastest power they could build to run the new factories.

    In the USA, climate change is going to take a back seat to blaming oil.  If this means Ford’s small cars with even smaller EcoBoost engines and hybrid drivetrains become their most profitable segment, it’s far from the worst thing that could happen. 

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  41. By Rufus on May 29, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Ford will announce within months that their newest Ecoboost will match Buick’s new 2.0 L 4 cyl in that it will get virtually the same mileage on E85 as on gasoline.

    In the meantime, some Buick Regal owners will be driving their new Sports Sedans for about $0.06 mile. Times, they be a’changin.

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  42. By Wendell Mercantile on May 29, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    I suspect Wendell is talking about places he has not been.

    I lived in Mississippi for three years, and have also lived in Alabama. Much of both states is very nice, and the equal of anything in Connecticut, Ohio, or Southern California.

    But there are also parts (if you’ll notice, I didn’t say the entire states were like third-world countries, only parts) of both states where people are living barely above subsistence, don’t have indoor plumbing or a safe source of water, and many do not have electricity. I now live in the Upper Midwest and the only places around here without indoor plumbing are deer camps where people spend only a couple of weeks a year.

    Per Capita Income in Ms is about average for a Western European Country.

    True, but in Mississippi’s case, that only means a tremendous differential between the lowest and the highest incomes. An average income the same as Western Europe doesn’t mean everyone lives a Western European lifestyle.

    The salary of an insurance broker in Jackson averaged with the salary of a subsistence farmer near Greenwood may be impressively high, but the insurance broker is the only one living high off the hog.

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  43. By Rufus on May 29, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Wendell, I think it’s been a long time since you were in Mississippi.

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  44. By HalfEmpty on May 30, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    I suspect Wendell is talking about
    places he has not been. He most likely confusing being rich with
    having a high standard of living. My mom always said you could not
    be poor if you lived in a town with a library.

    I’m not certain, but I think Kit P. is talking out of his ass again. If you are an making verbage with no input except methane, and hydrogen sulfide you get mouth farts. Which is what Kit P. is producing by the mouthfuls.

    tl;dr
    troll me, troll him
    he’s a damn no-input whinging pest who spent 45 minutes in the Navy before his duty sock got lost.

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  45. By russ on May 31, 2010 at 8:54 am

    ‘I am not sure where Russ lives but in
    the US we have figured out how to maintain a high standard of living
    and protect the environment. Other places are still working on that
    but those places will get there.’

    ‘I suspect Wendell is talking about
    places he has not been. He most likely confusing being rich with
    having a high standard of living. My mom always said you could not
    be poor if you lived in a town with a library.’

    Actually Kit P lives in a parallel universe where things are as you wish them to be and change as often as you change your mind. You can be all sorts of things like an engineer or an officer in the nuclear navy, a boss at an engineering office for nuclear plant design. Knowledge is picked up by osmosis as required or desired.

    Most people call that universe Lala land.

    Often there are guys with white jackets around to keep everything in order, get people back down out of trees etc.

    The saying about a library is a laugher – İ remember that Surat, İndia had a public library – a few million people there didn’t realize they were not poor İ guess. Of course many couldn’t read anyway.

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  46. By Kit P on May 31, 2010 at 11:08 am

    I made a generality that a high
    standard of living and a good environment are not mutually exclusive.
    I cited the United States based on observations over the last 50
    years.

     

    Now Russ and Wendel seem to think that
    stating an exception to a generality proves it wrong. Of course they
    have not actually cited any places that prove me wrong.

     

    My parents and grandparents made sure
    that I appreciated the natural beauty. I always find it interesting
    that the left thinks that caring about the environment and human
    rights belongs to them. It is nice that the left has discovered
    compost piles, conservation, and recycling.

     

    My earliest memories was living in a
    rural area near Seattle. However, I finished high school in Fort
    Wayne, Indiana. I bring this up because I am a Hoosier not Indian.
    I mistake my Columbus and history calls the Huron people Indians.

     

    So Russ Surat, İndia is not the United
    States.

     

    I work with lots of people from West
    Virgina and India. I high standard of living is a result of being
    productive. People who learn to read and spend time in libraries are
    generally more productive. If you grow up someplace like Fort Wayne,
    Lincoln is likely to be a hero.

     

    To be productive, you must study both
    the road to success and the root cause of failure in the context that
    it occurred. For several hundred years, manifest destiny was the
    mindset of America. Cutting down all the trees and turning Indiana
    into farms land was the goal.

     

    Growing up I learned the principles of
    environmental stewardship. By the time I graduated from high school,
    there was a clear trend that degrading air and water quality was
    having a negative affect on our quality of life.

     

    I think we have reversed that trend.
    Environmental stewardship is now a corporate ethic at many companies
    rather than just a personal one. Since it is also regulatory
    requirement, it is also good business to be good at protecting the
    environment.

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  47. By Rufus on May 31, 2010 at 11:15 am

    I’ve got to go with Kit, here. I haven’t been to Every community in the U.S.; but the one’s I’ve been to (including many in Mississippi) have all had clean water, clean air, and and affordable electricity.

    We have the cheapest food in the history of the world, and we provide free food for the poor.

    At present, our only problem, structurally speaking, is liquid transportation fuel. We have the capacity to solve this problem, readily. We will have citizens driving new Buick Regals this fall for the whopping cost of approx. $0.06/Mile. Even without the tax credit that could, easily be $0.07 mile.

    Now, we have the Enzyme Companies lowering the cost of enzymes for cellulosic from $5.00 gal of ethanol to $0.50 gal of ethanol.

    Sorry Doomers, America is going to “Win” Again.

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  48. By Rufus on May 31, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    The price of one year’s travails in the Middle East, and S. Asia will get us off Foreign Oil, Forever.

    One Year.

    Forever.

    Within 2 Years of Thomas Edison’s invention of the electric light bulb we had built 5,000 Electric Generating Stations.

    In the next 5 Years we built 127,000 More.

    What we have to do now is “Nothing” compared to that.

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  49. By rrapier on May 31, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    What we have to do now is “Nothing” compared to that.

    I disagree. The technical challenges are much different. Otherwise, we could have built 5,000 cellulosic ethanol plants at the same time they were building the electrical generating stations. The reason we didn’t is the technical challenges of cellulosic ethanol are much, much greater.

     

    RR

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  50. By Wendell Mercantile on May 31, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    the one’s I’ve been to (including many in Mississippi) have all had clean water, clean air, and and affordable electricity.

    Rufus~

    Have you been to Jefferson, Warren, or Issaquena Counties in the Mississippi Delta? All three rank among the poorest counties in the US? In fact, of the 100 poorest counties in the US, 13 are in Mississippi.

    Regarding MIssissippi, if you treat each of the 50 states as separate countries and rank them by their Human Development Index (HDI), Mississippi would rank 79th behind even such countries as Albania, Panama, Uruguay, and Libya.

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  51. By Optimist on June 4, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    There’s not? You may want to ask the people of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and Southern California. The governors of those states are already talking about plans to bring Great Lakes water to their states via a gigantic pipeline, while the governors of the states and provinces surrounding the Great Lakes not too long ago signed a compact saying in effect, “They can’t have it.” For numerous cities in the Southwest, solving their water supply problems has shot up to the number one issue.

    Run of the mill political incompetence. Lots of noise, little sensible conversation. Politicians (and many civil engineers) like to look at the way we used to do things. Admittedly that is not going to work for the future.

    But being forced to do things more efficiently is not quite the same thing as a crisis…

    Water shortages in the southwest will soon cause a significant change of lifestyle there, and shift attention to the parts of the U.S. that do have adequate water.

    And a change in lifestyle is sorely needed. When you pump your drinking water clear accross the entire width of California, you shouldn’t be using that valuble resource to grow a lawn in the desert.

    There is a simple solution: price the resource right. Watch people conserve. Watch innovation, at all levels happen. Problem solved.

    But if you are trying to maintain an unsustainable system, like giving water away to Big Ag, well yeah… Then you are in for some MAJOR problems.

    Oh, and I didn’t even touch on the depletion of the Ogalala Aquifer which underlays seven otherwise dry states in the middle of the country west of the 100th parallel. In the not too distance future, the farmers in those states will be back to dryland farming. (Remember something called the Dust Bowl?)

    We’ll see. My prediction: The Dust Bowl is NOT coming back.

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  52. By Wendell Mercantile on June 4, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    My prediction: The Dust Bowl is NOT coming back.

    Optimist,

    I don’t think it’s coming back either. In fact, it didn’t have to happen the first time, and did only because of the greed of the farmers who plowed everything in the mistaken belief of a now discredited climatology theory called “rain follows the plow.”

    But on the other hand, there are corn farmers who are tearing out 60-year old windbreaks and once more plowing fence-row-to-fence-row in an attempt to maximixe yield and cash in on the commodity market for corn that ethanol has created.

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  53. By paul-n on June 5, 2010 at 4:31 am

    Well, if you want to see a real, live, dust bowl, go for a drive to Bakersfield, California.  While I was there last Nov I got to see ploughed fields picked up by a windstorm and deposited over the whole city.

    Divvying up the water resources in southern Cal is indeed the number one issue, and the day of reckoning is coming fast as the population keeps increasing.  It is a microcosm of the US and oil dependency.

    I have no sympathy for farmers that cannibalise their own land, though they will likely get bailed out in some way or other.  There are ways to farm intellligently even in dry areas, but the approach always seems to be to find ways to turn it into a wet area.

    when the well has run dry, only then will we know the value of water”  Benjamin Franklin..

     

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  54. By Kit P on June 5, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    PaulN apparently does not know the
    difference between a localized wind storm that picks up some dirt and
    a dust bowl. There is a big difference that may be lost on those
    from other countries who do not take to read up on the topic

     

    One of my brother-in-laws was an “Okie”
    who grew up in Bakersfield, Great people who would give you the
    shirt off their backs as so ofter is the case of people who have
    survived true hardship. The central valley in California like the
    Columbia Basin is a semi-arid region that depends on mountain run off
    to support agriculture. Drive over the mountains from Bakersfield
    and you will find your self in the Mojave Desert where the unprepared
    soon perish.

     

    Most of the west is semi-arid except
    except where there are deserts. Even in Seattle and San Fransisco
    you will not have green grass. There is enough water in the west to
    go around. However, the political system may not be able to years
    when it rains less than average.

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  55. By Wendell Mercantile on June 6, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    There is enough water in the west to go around.

    Not the way they are now using water Kit. Not when most home owners still think they must have a green lawn in a climate that doesn’t naturally suport grass. (A few enlightened people have bought into xeriscape (dry) lawns and landscaping, but in much of the Southwest, it’s still a matter of social status to have a thick, green lawn.) Not when every cemetery keeper thinks graves have to be covered with green grass. Not when every golf course maintainer thinks all of every golf course has to be a lush, green carpet. Not when so many people think they need swimming pools in their backyards.

    The coming water crisis in the Southwest is going to open many people’s eyes and make it uncomfortable for the politicians who will have set the priorities for who gets water. For example, who is going to tell the huge casinos in Las Vegas they no longer get to water their golf courses, or have huge fountains in front of their buildings?

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  56. By paul-n on June 6, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    KIt, you missed my point.  I know the difference between a local dust storm and a dust bowl.  I grew in up one of the world’s largest dust bowls (Australia).  The point is, that many of the farmers around BK plough their land as if they were in the midwest.  I walked through a (non irrigated) field of silty soil that had been disc ploughed such that there were six inches of dry, loose soil, and no vegetation on top, to protect from wind and rain erosion.  Whether done on a one farm scale, or a whole region, that is asking for trouble, and even a moderate breeze was picking up soil.

    Agreed about the people in BK, some of the nicest, and most hardworking I have yet met in the US (or anywhere).  But some of the farmers would do better to adapt their methods to the local conditions, they will stay in business for longer.

    Farming practices need to be adapted to the local climate, or else you run the risk of creating dust bowls, or compromising your soil in other ways (e.g. salinisation in Australia)  and the area around BK is a good example, there are ways to farm successfully thewre, just not the same ways used in the midwest or the irrigated areas.

     I have also been in Sydney when the entire city is browned out from a dust storm form the western plains (farmland area 3-6hrs west)  Same thing, larger scale, same cause – farmers leaving their soil too exposed.

    As for the southwest, there is enough water to go around, if everyone uses less than they do today – otherwise there is not – it’s that simple.

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  57. By Kit P on June 6, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    PaulN just how many farmer in the
    midwest US and in semi-arid regions have you talked about different
    farming practices?

     

    Maintaining the organic content of soil
    is not as easy as it sounds in semi-arid climates.

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  58. By russ on June 7, 2010 at 12:35 am

    From Kit – Most of the west is semi-arid except except where there are deserts. Even in Seattle and San Fransisco you will not have green grass. There is enough water in the west to go around. However, the political system may not be able to years when it rains less than average.

    Haven’t got the foggiest idea what that blurb means – except that you had finished thinking before you finished typing.

    West of the Cascades is hardly semi-arid – that is where Seattle and San Francisco are located

    There is a severe restriction on irrigation water in Central Oregon – always as they never know what is going to happen in coming years. You can not expand irrigated farming at all – not allowed. You don’t place a pump in a waste water stream from a farm upstream from you – not allowed. You don’t open up new land requiring irrigation – not allowed. 

    Water is a problem in many areas today and will become a major problem in years to come. 

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  59. By paul-n on June 7, 2010 at 2:01 am

    Maintaining the organic content of soil
    is not as easy as it sounds in semi-arid climates.

    That is exactly my point – these farmers (not all of them, mind you) were farming as if they were in a temperate area, rather than semi arid.

    They are destroying their soil structure, removing or burying what vegetative cover they have, and exposing their soil to erosion by wind and water.

    With less than ideal weather, that will create a man made dustbowl pretty quickly, and that is what has happened.

    And those that have had reliable access to steady imported water in the past (both farmers and cities), are facing reduced allocations today.  Whoever adapts to it best, will thrive, and those that do not adapt will struggle, or go out of business entirely, and that is already happening.

     

    Just flew in and out of Seattle today, sure looks like a lot of green grass there to me…

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  60. By rrapier on June 7, 2010 at 2:50 am

    Just flew in and out of Seattle today, sure looks like a lot of green grass there to me…

     

    Ditto. I flew in and out of Seattle last Friday, and there was lush green everywhere (as always in that area).

     

    RR

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  61. By Kit P on June 7, 2010 at 9:26 am

    Did not say Seattle and San Francisco
    were semi-arid. They are examples of places where lawns must
    normally be watered in the summer if you do not want it to die. Yes,
    I have mowed lawns in both places.

     

    I am pointing out that perception may
    be different that reality.

     

    I will say it again. There is plenty
    of water in the west to meet the needs of the population.

     

    There is not an unlimited amount of
    water so use should be prioritized based on need and not wasted.

     

    Big city liberals like to talk about
    water ‘problems’. It is just an excuse for taking water away from
    traditional uses such as agriculture. Except for Jerry Brown
    (governor moon beam), I have yet to find one of those big city
    liberals who walks the their talk. Especially in California,
    Washington, and Oregon.

     

    Seattle and Portland do not steal water
    for the semi-arid region only because they do not need to. However,
    if you are looking for the landfills and wind farms that serve these
    large population, you have to drive east 200 miles.

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