Aspen Times Weekly: Hit & Run with John Colson
A recent news story reported that it hasn’t gotten cold enough in Basalt to solidify the surface of the town’s new ice rink, unbelievably enough.
In Carbondale, by comparison, the 12-mile distance between the two towns seems to have given us a localized confirmation of the vagaries of global warming. That’s because Carbondale’s rinks did freeze over and have hosted skating parties, broom-ball matches and other social endeavors.
Some 97 percent of scientists believe humans activities have raised CO2 levels above 400 parts per million, apparently a record. And some of them have warned us that global warming (or climate change, its less politically charged labeling equivalent) will cause seemingly crazy geographical localized variations in temperatures, the severity of storms and other phenomena, as well as melting the ice caps and most glaciers, and raising the levels of our oceans.
This year, the denizens of the Roaring Fork Valley have been rejoicing in one of those crazy variations in the weather, which has brought this tiny part of the world the best early-season skiing conditions in some time.
The recent cold snap, perhaps understandably, has spawned a rash of jokes about global warming nationwide.
Fox News recently ran a piece titled, “What Global Warming?” along with other, similarly slanted broadcast bits over the course of 2013.
Hate-radio whack-job Rush Limbaugh repeatedly ridiculed the idea of global warming over the past year, in the face of mounting scientific acceptance of the concept. At one point he urged his followers to put their faith in God rather than in the blatherings of scientists where global warming is concerned.
It should be noted that some religious leaders, most notably the Evangelical Environmental Network, have appealed to Limbaugh to back off from his zanier anti-global warming rhetoric.
Limbaugh later followed his fellow traveler in Fox-News lunacy, Sean Hannity, in claiming that the monstrous quantities of CO2 we humans are pumping into the atmosphere will actually result in global “cooling.”
Limbaugh, true to form, never explained his reasoning and instead fell back on his tired old claim that “global warming is a hoax” perpetrated by the supposed (but really nonexistent) “left-wing media.”
Hannity, however, had made his remarks about a real theory that the sun is entering an unusually prolonged period of curtailed sunspot activity.
It seems sunspots normally go quiescent every decade or two, but scientists now worry the coming solar calming may be a bigger deal than at any time since the 1700s.
Researchers have reported that the sun has cooled off a bit in the last decade or so due to this calming effect, not by much but enough to cancel out some of the warming effects of the CO2 overload in the atmosphere from about 2000 to 2008.
There are some who say that, as a result of this hibernation by the sun, we are headed into a “mini-Ice Age” of the sort that chilled Europe for 70 years, from 1645 to 1715.
But others believe that, due to the amount of CO2 we’ve built up in the atmosphere, the chill won’t be as detectable, nor as dangerous, as in previous episodes.
And once the chilling is over, we’ll be back to the warming trend we are experiencing now, perhaps starting around the year 2080.
This implies a pause of some kind and, if we get our act together on greenhouse gases during that pause, we may be able to stave off some of the nastier consequences of climate change when the hibernation ends.
Given our tendency to ram our collective heads into the sand at every opportunity, though, it’s more likely that our petrochemical addiction will be allowed to continue unchecked, and the ultimate outcome will be a rebounding of global warming trends at an even faster rate than what we have now.
And, of course, Hannity and Limbaugh won’t be around to accept any portion of the blame for our lack of action during the pause.
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Painter Annie Decamp met the Denver-based artist Michael Dowling at a show a few years ago, and asked if he would mentor her.