Ken Buck would let climate change ruin Colorado and unilaterally disarm its clean energy leadership


Tea party favorite and would-be GOP Senator from Colorado, Ken Buck, has burst into the national scene with his climate denial (see Buck embraces Inhofe: “Global warming is the greatest hoax”).

Sure a study by the Aspen Global Change Institute forecasts that if global carbon emissions continue to rise at their current pace, Aspen could warm by some 14 degrees by century’s end “”giving it a feel similar to Amarillo, TX.  Hey, there will always be hiking!

And sure another Colorado-based study, from NCAR, finds that listening to opponents of action like Buck risks the state of Colorado facing a drought index post-2050 permanently worse than Oklahoma ever saw during the relatively brief Dust bowl.

And sure the National Academy of Sciences says the median annual area burned by wildfires is projected to jump 300% to 600% over much of the state by mid-century.

But why listen to all those experts, when, as Buck told The Coloradan, some guy he heard said it isn’t true:

Q: What sources do you turn to to shape your views on climate change?

Buck:  I went to a conference on, it wasn’t a climate change conference, but it was a conference on science and public policy and listened to a Harvard professor discuss climate change, then took down some of his authorities on the area and read up on it.

Q: Was he somebody who shares the views you just shared on unsettled science?

Buck:  Yes. And he went through the analysis Gore uses, I don’t want to call it the Gore analysis because I think he has accumulated a bunch of reports from various scientists. But he went through that, to talk about the curves and other things, and why those are wrong and how the ocean produces the CO2 and not humans, and on and on. And why the ocean produces that. We have a warmer temperature and that causes the ocean to do it. I listened to that science, and I read some of the authorities, and didn’t come to the conclusion – his conclusion was that this is a hoax. His conclusion was that they have financial reasons for doing it, that it is just bad science. I didn’t come to that conclusion. I listened to him, what he said made sense. I’ve listened to the other side, I’ve read about the other side and I believe that they are genuinely held views. My conclusion is, I’m not sure we’re ready for this radical departure from our current environmental policy based on these two sides having a difference of opinion.

Yes, on one side is some guy Buck heard, and on the other side is the overwhelming majority of climate scientists, the National Academy of Sciences, Colorado’s own National Center for Atmospheric Research, and every major US-based science association and National Academies of Science around the world.

Sounds like Buck has really done his homework — or has he?  The Coloradan reported on Friday:

In his interview with the Coloradoan on Thursday, Buck sought to distance himself from Inhofe’s claims that concerns over global warming were the result of a “hoax.” But he left open the possibility.”I’m not accusing people of committing fraud, I’m just not sure that we are making the best policy based on the best science at this point,” Buck said.

Then he added: “I’m not disagreeing with him. He may have some information I don’t about why he thinks things are fraudulent.”

Buck said he believes that most people who believe that man-made factors are causing climate change are genuine in their views, and he acknowledged he has more to learn.

As Weld County DA, I haven’t done a whole lot of research on this area, and I will,” he said.

However, in a November 2009 radio interview, Buck said he had researched the climate change issue.

I’ve read a lot of literature on that issue. I also have read and talked to experts that say climate change is not man made,” he said then.

So either he has read a lot a literature on this issue or he hasn’t done a whole lot of research.  His defense is about as well thought out as his position on climate.

Oh, but never fear, there is always some discredited ‘expert’ that an extremist antiscience campaign can turn to.  In another article, The Coloradan reported:

“It’s certainly not a hoax. This is a very well understood scientific phenomenon. It’s really been understood that CO2 (carbon dioxide) will warm the planet since 1863,” said Scott Denning, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Colorado State University.However, another climate change researcher said the science isn’t quite so clear-cut.

“Climate science is really a murky science and there really isn’t much you can say unequivocally,” said John Christy, director of the atmospheric science department at the University of Alabama-Huntsville. “It’s filled with opinion, it’s filled with arguments from authority and these notions of confidence are just pulled out of the air.”

Denning joined other scientists and environmental advocates in a conference call with reporters, organized by the League of Conservation Voters, which is supporting Democrat Michael Bennet. Christy spoke to the Coloradoan in an interview that was arranged with help from the Buck campaign.

What’s pulled out of the air is any claim that Christy has credibility on this issue.  Christy, of course, is one of the nation’s few remaining seriously credentialed disinformers who has arguably been wrong longer than any other serious disinformer and thus deserves our inattention and scorn (see “Should you believe anything John Christy and Roy Spencer say?“).  As RealClimate wrote:

We now know, of course, that the satellite data set confirms that the climate is warming , and indeed at very nearly the same rate as indicated by the surface temperature records. Now, there’s nothing wrong with making mistakes when pursuing an innovative observational method, but Spencer and Christy sat by for most of a decade allowing “” indeed encouraging “” the use of their data set as an icon for global warming skeptics. They committed serial errors in the data analysis, but insisted they were right and models and thermometers were wrong. They did little or nothing to root out possible sources of errors, and left it to others to clean up the mess, as has now been done.

Christy contributed the chapter “The Global Warming Fiasco” to a 2002 book called Global Warming and Other Eco-Myths, published by Competitive Enterprise Institute, a leading provider of disinformation on global warming that was funded by ExxonMobil.

In the Vermont case on the state’s effort to embrace California’s tailpipe GHG emissions standards, the car companies brought in Christy as an expert witness to rebut Hansen (see here). In one footnote on the sea level rise issue, the judge noted, “it appears that the bulk of scientific opinion opposes Christy’s position.”

But if the Tea Party crowd takes over at least one of the houses of Congress, you can be certain we’ll be hearing more from this discredited disinformer.

I was on the Friday conference call with reporters.  And I was actually in the original version of that article (which you can see if you click here):

“We know that if you double the number of these molecules, it’s the equivalent of putting a four-watt nightlight bulb on every square meter of the planet and leaving it on 24/7,” Denning said. “It’s possible that doing that wouldn’t warm the planet, but nobody has yet come up with any explanation for how that might work.”

Joseph Romm, a physicist who runs the website, said important policy decisions are tied to a candidate’s views on climate change.

He said “the biggest job creating sector of the national and global economy is going to be clean-energy jobs. The Chinese are outspending us now and basically took leadership from us in wind power and solar power and electric cars and batteries.”

Romm said a decision to reduce or stop government investment in emerging energy technology “would sort of be unilateral disarmament for the United States if we slashed our funding for clean energy when we’re already being outspent.”

That’s climate hawk talk, by the way.  Climate hawks oppose unilateral disarmament for the United States, we oppose slashing funding for clean energy when were already being outspent.  Climate ostriches like Buck, well, since they don’t understand that the future belongs to low carbon energy, they are willing to let other countries lead the way (see Tea Party fave Ken Buck, Senate candidate for CO, home of National Renewable Energy Lab: “I am opposed to government pushing forms of energy”).

This is an election and so I apparently got bumped so that Buck’s drop-in disinformer could offer up his disinformation.  The updated version of the piece reads:

“We know that if you double the number of these molecules, it’s the equivalent of putting a four-watt nightlight bulb on every square meter of the planet and leaving it on 24/7,” Denning said. “It’s possible that doing that wouldn’t warm the planet, but nobody has yet come up with any explanation for how that might work.”

Christy, a leading global warming skeptic, said his research shows human activity is increasing global temperature, though at a slower pace than found by much of the scientific data. He said the temperature increase caused by CO2 emissions is offset by other climate changes.

“Yes, CO2 will warm the planet, that’s a simple physical experiment, that is true,” he said. “But other things respond in the climate system that can mitigate that. For example, slight increases in cloud coverage, which have been measured, can completely counteract the extra CO2.”

Christy is certainly right that the climate debate is “filled with opinion” and stuff “just pulled out of the air.”  But he is mostly talking about the disinformer spin, like the nonsense that negative feedbacks completely counteract the extra CO2 and that cloud coverage is one of those negative feedbacks [see Science stunner: “Clouds Appear to Be Big, Bad Player in Global Warming” “” an amplifying feedback (sorry Lindzen and fellow deniers)].  In fact, virtually all of the feedbacks we are now seeing are positive or amplifying (see “An illustrated guide to the latest climate science“).

In case you were wondering what Buck’s opponent believes, The Hill has a great piece, “Bennet hammers Buck for ‘extreme’ position on climate change“:

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) is slamming Republican opponent Ken Buck for his comments in a news account in which he said global warming is a hoax.

Bennet “” locked in a tight race with the Tea Party favorite “” said through an aide Thursday that Buck’s view is at odds with the economic benefits that low-carbon energy brings Colorado.

“Ken Buck’s extreme stance on climate change is a threat to Colorado’s economy and could prove cataclysmic for our national security,” said Bennet spokesman Trevor Kincaid in a statement. Kincaid noted the Pentagon’s view that climate change is a security issue.

“Michael Bennet believes that climate change is real, and that we need to grow our economy by embracing clean energy alternatives, like solar, wind, and other renewable sources of energy. Michael believes that Colorado is uniquely positioned to lead the world in the new energy economy,” Bennet’s campaign said.

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37 Responses to Ken Buck would let climate change ruin Colorado and unilaterally disarm its clean energy leadership

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    It looks like another clearcut election choice to me- either you vote for the oil, gas, and coal companies, or you vote for the rest of us.

  2. Daniel Ives says:

    Joe, thank you for taking the time to write this piece about Ken Buck.

    @Mike #1, I agree, although there are a weath of reasons to choose Bennet over Buck. And your statement equally applies to our gubernatorial race as well. Glad to hear you’re voting. Cheers.

  3. marcia shimamoto says:

    If Ken Buck defeats Michael Bennet, I’ll have to move out of the state! What a joke that someone so ignorant is considered a viable candidate in Colorado. Send all the Texan transplants back to Texas so they’ll stop damaging our political system.

    Seriously, Buck is citing as his expert a guy from the University of Alabama in Huntsville? Isn’t that just down the road from Scottsboro–that realm of sound judgment that convicted nine black boys of raping two white women on the basis of no evidence back in 1932? It doesn’t sound like the area’s critical thinking skills have improved much since then.

  4. Michael Tucker says:

    It is WONDERFUL to see that climate scientists did respond “en force” to Buck’s and Christy’s comments. We need the reputable climate scientists to respond anytime a lawmaker or candidate makes the claim that the science is a hoax.

  5. Mark S says:

    As a Coloradan and Climate Hawk, I’ve been telling those around me (who will listen) about Buck and climate for months. A clear cut choice in the senate race in Colorado. Joe, thanks for posting to a wider audience than I can reach.

  6. Chris Winter says:

    It seems fairly clear to me what’s been happening with ken Buck: The Denialists have been feeding him papers and such; he’s listened to their experts (maybe from SPPI) at conferences; and Inhofe has been mentoring him.

    OK, he said in that recent interview, “I haven’t done a whole lot of research on this area, and I will,” So here’s an opportunity to feed him some straight information, suitably condensed for a layman’s quick perusal. And maybe a couple of phone numbers for followup questions with willing scientists.

  7. caerbannog says:

    Q: Mr. Buck, how many peer-reviewed scientific papers about climate-change have you read?

    A: All of them!

  8. Theodore says:

    The best first solution to the climate change problem is renewable energy. There are plenty of good reasons to build renewable energy without even considering climate change. There is no reason to base energy policy solely on proof or lack of proof of global warming.

    Solar energy is the big workhorse that can comfortably replace coal. Maybe we should focus more on other reasons for building solar power.

    I seriously believe that in the very long term, solar thermal power could beat coal on price. What’s needed is to build it on a large scale with modular construction such that it does not ever need to be decommissioned. It is also important to build at least a few examples with plenty of thermal storage. Many people may not have the imagination to understand that solar power plants could keep running right through a few cloudy days. They need a real-world example of this, even if it is not the most economical way to do it at this time.

  9. Peter M says:

    Buck echoes the same Stale GOP message of the last 30 years; deregulation; no reforms; and now climate change & Science denial-

    If they are elected-lets see what these people can do to change the economy and stop the increasing obvious deleterious effects of a warming climate.

    Seems like they will achieve nothing. The American people sadly will learn to late- and we all will pay.

  10. davidgswanger says:

    marcia#3: I understand you’re upset at what’s going on in Colorado, but I happen to live in Alabama, and am less than appreciative of your displacing your anger on my state. I was at a conference two years ago when someone from Germany saw my nametag and said, “Ah, Alabama–the segregation state.” It took all my self-control not to say, “Ah, Germany–home of the Holocaust.” None of us hail from Utopia last I checked, and we could all play tu quoque all night; wouldn’t it be more productive to focus our wrath on deniers, disinformers and climate ostriches wherever they come from?

    I know you didn’t mean to insult me personally, and I’m probably overreacting. But aside from creating unnecessary tensions with people on the same side as you (and I never used to give a damn about my state’s “honor” till I traveled outside it and got constant comments implying I must be a racist idiot because I live here), what you said about Huntsville is demonstrably untrue. Christy may be our state climatologist (*shudder*), but there’s a bunch of NASA scientists in Huntsville, and I can assure you every scientist I’ve spoken to believes in and is frantically worried about climate change. And they also don’t appreciate someone taking 20 points off their estimated IQ every time they speak because they’ve got an accent.

    (Except for the one who said he enjoyed being underestimated; it made it all the sweeter when he lowered the boom on them. So be prudent and fair-minded, OK? Thanks.)

  11. Michael T says:

    World’s largest solar plant gets U.S. OK
    $6 billion project in Calif. aims to power at least 300,000 homes

    WASHINGTON — Calling it a major milestone, the Obama administration on Monday approved what investors say will be the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant and one that more than doubles all of U.S. solar output and can power at least 300,000 homes.

    The project in the Mojave Desert near Blythe, Calif., is the sixth solar venture authorized on federal lands within the last month. All are in desert areas.

  12. David B. Benson says:

    Wello, the wildfires will clear out the bark beetle killed stands, if that’s any consolation.

  13. Michael T says:

    $4.1M To Be Awarded For Charlotte-To-Atlanta High-Speed Rail

    ATLANTA, GA — A high-speed rail between Atlanta and Charlotte could become reality as the federal government is getting ready to award $4.1 million to Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, according to the office of U.S. Rep. David Scott, an Atlanta Democrat.

    The Atlanta Journal of Constitution reported on their website Monday that Georgia is taking the lead on the project with the two northern states.

    Charlotte’s light rail service began operation of its South Corridor Blue Line on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2007. The Blue Line currently runs from Interstate 485 at South Boulevard in Pineville to uptown servicing 15 stations. The Obama administration has put a lot of focus on high-speed rails throughout the country and has funded $8 billion nationwide.

  14. Prokaryotes says:

    Number 1 discussion @ digg

    BP Caught Funding Tea Party Climate Change Deniers

  15. paulm says:

    “Politicians who ignore the best information from the most eminent scientists are guilty of criminal neglect. They should be held to account, too.”

    “I’m currently working with a group in Europe interested in finding out whether there is a legal basis for prosecuting corporations for crimes against future generations. Fossil fuel industries need to be held to account for spreading misinformation and promoting their own “scientists” who, for example, deny that climate change is caused by human activity.

    “So there are companies like Exxon who have been able to get away with policies of deliberate deception about their practices, and to confuse the public in the name of profit, while they do untold harm to the environment.

  16. Colorado Bob says:

    ” why those are wrong and how the ocean produces the CO2 and not humans, ”

    Every denier turns the world on it’s head, because they’re too lazy, too ignorant, or to stupid to look.

  17. BBHY says:

    You would think the pine bark beetle would be enough already to make every person in Colorado dedicated to fighting global warming. Last time I went skiing there, it was near 80 degrees in Denver in mid-January. I joked that next time we should visit during the winter!

    The scenery on the drive to Vail was heartbreaking. Mile after mile, thousands upon thousands of acres of ugly brown dead trees. It used to be so beautiful. How can the people there not care about what has happened to their state?

  18. Colorado Bob says:

    October sizzles, breaks records

    Perth is on track to having experienced its warmest October in more than four decades.

    With just six days to go until the end of the month, the average maximum temperature for October looks set to be a balmy 25 degrees – two degrees higher than the long-term average.

    This will make it the warmest October since 1969 and the second warmest in more than 100 years of records.

  19. Displaced Canuck says:

    Another group in the western US is begining to understand the dangers of relying on a fossil fuel economy.

  20. fj2 says:

    Will the Oil Oligarchy attempt to subvert US DoT emissions standards like Prop 23?

  21. peter whitehead says:

    I like the term ‘climate hawk’ – seen it on Mother Jones as well.

    We need to call deniers, especially the agressive ones, CLIMATE VAMPIRES. They are sucking the life out of the planet.

  22. Raul M. says:

    Years ago, I got holt of a used copy of “Earth in the Balance”,
    and it seems over the years the North Pole is warmer than
    projected way back when. I can understand that people
    don’t want to hurt their friends feelings about the way we
    have behaved about making things even warmer than
    projected. But it’s only supposed to last badly for seven
    thousand years.

  23. fj2 says:

    Climate Vampires is a seriously good metaphor for the Oil Oligarchy.

  24. fj2 says:

    Heroic Climate Hawks, Oil Oligarchy as Climate Vampires, Tea Partiers as Climate Zombies and evil puppets are a Halloween parade cast of characters.

  25. fj2 says:

    From Lester R. Brown and the

    EarthPolicy EarthPolicyInstitute
    New EPI #Blog on our upcoming new #book, World On the Edge – #green

  26. fj2 says:

    “We are liquidating the earth’s natural assets to fuel our consumption.”

    — Lester R. Brown, World on Edge, 2010

  27. Mike says:

    Anyone know who the “Harvard Professor” might be?

  28. darth says:

    What’s this bit about CO2 is being produced by the oceans? I haven’t heard that one before. Can anyone provide a link explaining this what this argument is and where it comes from?

  29. Chris Winter says:

    He (Ken Buck) meant released by the oceans. This argument is based on the fact that as water gets warmer, it can’t hold as much CO2, so the stored gas comes out and enters the atmosphere.

    Measurements, however, show that’s not what’s happening now. The oceans are becoming less alkaline because they are absorbing more CO2. It’s a little like a race going to the faster runner. We are adding CO2 to the atmosphere faster than the oceans could, so they take up some of the extra.

    The full story is here:

  30. darth says:

    Thanks Chris for the answer and link!

  31. Prokaryotes says:

    Climate Zombie beats Climate Vampire, because not all Vampires are stupid or evil.

  32. Mike says:

    @Chris & darth: If the oceans warm to the point that they start expelling CO2 we are in even bigger trouble!

  33. peter whitehead says:

    I like Climate Zombie as well.

    I suggest Climate Vampires are the Big Oil (and Big Log) drivers of climate denial. Climate Zombies are the bloggers and Teabags who regurgitate the nonsense of the Climate Vampires.

  34. Richard Brenne says:

    In Boulder, Colorado we can tell when it’s about to snow because the prevailing westlerlies switch to upsloping winds from the east and first we smell the cow excrement coming from the feedlots in Weld County where Ken Buck’s the DA.

    Boulder is home to the National Center for Atmospheric Research and its parent, the University Center for Atmospheric Research, a pooling of 73 of the largest atmospheric science departments at many of the U.S. largest and most prestigious universities with a comparable number of national and international affiliated universities and institutions.

    Thanks to founding director Sandy MacDonald, just down the hill from NCAR in Boulder is the Earth Science Research Laboratory, NOAA’s largest climate change research facility.

    Across Broadway from that is the University of Colorado that publishes more in the Earth Sciences than any other university (if oceanography is included, it’s third) in the world. At the university is the Cooperative Institute for Research in Earth Sciences (CIRES) an affiliation of CU and NOAA focusing on climate change and related issues.

    On the east campus the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) is right next to the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR).

    The estimates of total scientists with PhDs at all these institutions working in areas related to climate change total 3000 and include Kevin Trenberth, Gerald Meehl, Susan Solomon, Conrad Steffen, Mark Serreze and countless other world-class scientists. An hour away Colorado State also has an excellent atmospheric science department, and a half-hour away the Colorado School of Mines is excellent with energy, and it’s next to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

    Virtually every scientist at each of these institutions would vehemently disagree with Ken Buck and the anonymous “Harvard professor” and the Alabama state shark-jumping champion John Christie. The exceptions might be social scientist Roger Pielke, Jr and his scientist father Roger Pielke, Sr (both at CU/CIRES) and William Gray at CSU (emeritus, and never studying climate change but instead a hurricane forecaster, something Kerry Emanuel told me was a “dark art”), a notoriously cantankerous, crotchety, curmudgeonly contrarian crank.

    So in summary we have thousands of experts in Colorado who could educate Buck if he were a willing, sincere and honest student who wanted to learn in good faith. We don’t need an Alabama shark-jumper known mostly for perpetuating the dissemination of chronically bad data that was only corrected by others.

    And the last thing we need is more uneducated cow, or in this case bull, excrement coming from Weld County or anyplace else.

  35. fj2 says:

    #31 Prokaryotes, Yes and Climate Zombies have bad hygiene.

  36. Deborah Stark says:

    Re: BBHY | Post #17

    “…..You would think the pine bark beetle would be enough already to make every person in Colorado dedicated to fighting global warming. Last time I went skiing there, it was near 80 degrees in Denver in mid-January. I joked that next time we should visit during the winter!

    The scenery on the drive to Vail was heartbreaking. Mile after mile, thousands upon thousands of acres of ugly brown dead trees. It used to be so beautiful. How can the people there not care about what has happened to their state?…..”

    Your comment really got to me. I’m back in Boston now but I took advantage of a chance to live out in Flagstaff, AZ for three years between 2002 and 2005. Mars Hill (home of Lowell Observatory) was a part of my neighborhood and I watched during those years as more and more of the beautiful Ponderosa pines covering the hill turned brown until almost a third of the hill was populated by large groups of dead trees. It broke my heart to see this happening. And Flagstaff is a relatively progressive city in the climate change-awareness department.

    The U.S. southwest and much of the west are indeed going to burn up in our lifetimes. The intensity and duration of the forest fires out there have greatly increased over the last ten years. Also, fire seasons are now significantly longer than they used to be.

    The Schultz fire in the northwest Flagstaff area (last summer) left a horribly ravaged swath that is now eroding when it rains and causing serious flooding problems for the contingent residential area. People are extremely distressed by this situation as you can well imagine.

    I miss the west very much and find it very difficult to believe that the unfortunately high percentage of idiot politicians out there can be so breathtakingly callous regarding the obvious potential for destruction of such a magnificent part of OUR country should they continue to obstruct concrete progress toward a transition to clean energy.

  37. Joe Earth says:

    The argument against climate change legislation isn’t based on the belief that the Earth isn’t warming, but on the belief that we have no proof that this warming is primarily caused by human activity (note the use of the word “primarily”) and that therefore any benefits that would come from changing human actions would not outweigh the costs in terms of hindered economic development, job losses, etc.