Answers to the ‘Top American Science Questions’ from President Obama and Mitt Romney


General scientific knowledge is not the purview of Coyote Gulch. We try to confine ourselves to Colorado water issues, including the entire Colorado River Basin, with little opinion or editorializing. However, the presidential candidates’ answers to the questions posed by are important. The collapse of whole ecosystems is imminent with climate change yet our political process disallows discussion of the science. Instead we have polarized factions arguing issues that have been largely settled in the science community. Shameful.

Here’s a breath of fresh air. Both candidates this year have answered the Top American Science questions for 2012. Click through and read them for yourself. Here’s an excerpt:

[ Question] 2. Climate Change. The Earth’s climate is changing and there is concern about the potentially adverse effects of these changes on life on the planet. What is your position on cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, and other policies proposed to address global climate change—and what steps can we take to improve our ability to tackle challenges like climate change that cross national boundaries?

We’ll let President Obama go first:

Climate change is the one of the biggest issues of this generation, and we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits. Since taking office I have established historic standards limiting greenhouse gas emissions from our vehicles for the first time in history. My administration has made unprecedented investments in clean energy, proposed the first-ever carbon pollution limits for new fossil-fuel-fired power plants and reduced carbon emissions within the Federal Government. Since I took office, the U.S. is importing an average of 3 million fewer barrels of oil every day, and our dependence on foreign oil is at a 20-year low. We are also showing international leadership on climate change, reaching historic agreements to set emission limits in unison with all major developed and developing nations. There is still more to be done to address this global problem. I will continue efforts to reduce our dependence on oil and lower our greenhouse gas emissions while creating an economy built to last.

And now, challenger Mitt Romney’s answer:

I am not a scientist myself, but my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming, and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences. However, there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue — on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution, and the severity of the risk — and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community.

Ultimately, the science is an input to the public policy decision; it does not dictate a particular policy response. President Obama has taken the view that if global warming is occurring, the American response must be to slash carbon dioxide emissions by imposing enormous costs on the U.S. economy. First he tried a massive cap-and-trade bill that would have devastated U.S. industry. When that approach was rejected by Congress, he declared his intention to pursue the same course on his own and proceeded through his EPA to impose rules that will bankrupt the coal industry.

Nowhere along the way has the President indicated what actual results his approach would achieve — and with good reason. The reality is that the problem is called Global Warming, not America Warming. China long ago passed America as the leading emitter of greenhouse gases. Developed world emissions have leveled off while developing world emissions continue to grow rapidly, and developing nations have no interest in accepting economic constraints to change that dynamic. In this context, the primary effect of unilateral action by the U.S. to impose costs on its own emissions will be to shift industrial activity overseas to nations whose industrial processes are more emissions-intensive and less environmentally friendly. That result may make environmentalists feel better, but it will not better the environment.

So I oppose steps like a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system that would handicap the American economy and drive manufacturing jobs away, all without actually addressing the underlying problem. Economic growth and technological innovation, not economy-suppressing regulation, is the key to environmental protection in the long run. So I believe we should pursue what I call a “No Regrets” policy — steps that will lead to lower emissions, but that will benefit America regardless of whether the risks of global warming materialize and regardless of whether other nations take effective action.

For instance, I support robust government funding for research on efficient, low-emissions technologies that will maintain American leadership in emerging industries. And I believe the federal government must significantly streamline the regulatory framework for the deployment of new energy technologies, including a new wave of investment in nuclear power. These steps will strengthen American industry, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and produce the economically-attractive technologies that developing nations must have access to if they are to achieve the reductions in their own emissions that will be necessary to address what is a global issue.

So there you have it. Click through and enjoy the rest of the answers. I also want to thank Mr. Romney for his answer, it will not sit well with his base.

Meanwhile, here’s an editorial from The Denver Post on the subject. Here’s and excerpt:

According to scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, the ice cap has shrunk to a record extent and likely will continue to do so. An area of ice equivalent to the size of South Carolina is melting each day. That’s about twice the rate observed since 1979.

“As far as the larger scale, when you’re heating up a region of the world, compared to what it used to be, you’re changing the balance of the climate system,” NSIDC research scientist Walt Meier said during a conference call. “Now, your air conditioner is losing coolant, so to speak. It’s not as efficient as it used to be.”

It’s bad news, and it deserves more attention than it has gotten.

Earlier this month, a study co-authored by NASA climate scientist James Hansen concluded that a jump in the number of very hot summers can only be attributable to human-caused global warming.

Hansen linked several severe heat waves and droughts to global warming via statistical analysis.

In an op-ed piece that appeared in The Washington Post, Hansen wrote: “There is still time to act and avoid a worsening climate, but we are wasting precious time.”

Patty Limerick’s ‘A Ditch in Time: The City, the West, and Water’ book signing Wednesday on the CU campus


Limerick is a terrific speaker and writer so I’ve been looking forward to her book about Denver Water for a while now. Here’s the book description from the Tattered Cover website.

“The history of water development…offers a particularly fine post for observing the astonishing and implausible workings of historical change and, in response, for cultivating an appropriate level of humility and modesty in our anticipations of our own unknowable future.”

Tracing the origins and growth of the Denver Water Department, this study of water and its unique role and history in the West, as well as in the nation, raises questions about the complex relationship among cities, suburbs, and rural areas, allowing us to consider this precious resource and its past, present, and future with both optimism and realism.

Patricia Nelson Limerick is the faculty director and board chair of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado, where she is also a professor of history and environmental studies. She currently serves as the vice president for the teaching division of the American Historical Association. Her most widely read book, “The Legacy of Conquest,” is in its twenty-fifth year of publication.

Here’s a review of the book from Jane Earle writing for Your Colorado Water Blog. Here’s an excerpt:

The line [for a history of Denver Water] went back in the budget and, backed by Chips Barry, then Manager of Denver Water, it was passed by the Board. This time, the proposal was to ask Patricia Limerick, Colorado’s McArther prize winning historian, to write the history. And that was my idea. This time, it was [Charlie Jordan] who was incredulous. After all, Professor Limerick was not always kind to the white builders in her history of the West, “The Legacy of Conquest.” But that was why I wanted her: No one could accuse Denver Water of commissioning a coffee table book about the glories of its past if Patricia Limerick was the author. Chips was beguiled by the idea. The rest is history, as they say. This time, literally.

Professor Limerick doesn’t call her book a history of Denver Water. She subtitles it, “The City, the West, and Water.” It’s well named. She has set the story of some of the major events in the development of Denver’s water system in their proper geographic and historic context. The contributions of the people who built the water system and their legacy are stories that needed to be told. They were men of vision who could imagine a great city on the treeless plain next to the (mostly dry) South Platte River.

Here’s an interview with Ms. Limerick from the Colorado Water 2012 website.

More Denver Water coverage here and here.

Drought news: Horsetooth Reservoir at 36% of capacity and dropping


From CBS Denver:

According to the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Horsetooth Reservoir is at 36 percent of capacity and continuing to dwindle…

[Glen Werth] has owned the marina for 15 years. This is the first year he’s ever had to close down in the middle of summer because of a lack of water.

Meanwhile, the City of Fort Collins is blending Colorado-Big Thompson Project water from Horsetooth Reservoir with water from the Cache La Poudre River. The latter source has experienced fouling from mudslides and ash since the High Park Fire earlier in the summer. Here’s a report from the the city via the Fort Collins Coloradodan. Here’s an excerpt:

Fort Collins Utilities is again blending water from the Cache la Poudre River with water from Horsetooth Reservoir to provide city drinking water.

The city temporarily stopped using Poudre River water this summer, as runoff from the High Park Fire turned the river black with sediment at times. The water goes through the city’s treatment process and will be treated to assure it is in full compliance with all safe drinking water rules and regulations, according to a city release.

Activated carbon also will be added to the blend to remove potential taste and odor compounds due to fire damage in the Poudre watershed, and the city will continue to monitor effects of fire-related runoff on the water.

The city is also monitoring weather conditions in the burn area and can shut off the Poudre River supply if a storm or other event affects water quality. The water supply will remain shut down until water quality returns within normal limits, according to the city release.

From the Longmont Times-Call (Scott Rochat):

As of Friday, McIntosh Lake was only 45 percent full. By itself, that’s not unusual; farmers own 55 percent of the lake and don’t hesitate to use it for irrigation. But it is unusual to have Burch Lake down at the same time — at 57 percent of capacity, according to city officials.

Now that’s a dry year…

How dry is it? Put it this way. From June through August, Longmont saw just a trickle above 2 inches of moisture — less than half what a normal summer would bring. The parched month now coming to an end is the fourth driest August ever recorded, according to Times-Call weather expert Dave Larison…

And there may be some relief later in the year — if your idea of relief includes a snow blower, that is. According to Larison, long-range conditions appear to be setting up for an El Niño season, a Pacific Ocean climate pattern that usually means more rain and snow along the Front Range. Some of Longmont’s heaviest snowfalls have come in El Niño seasons, most recently in the winter of 2009-2010, which dumped 72.3 inches of snow on the city.