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Colorado legislator fails to persuade committee that the vast majority of climate scientists have it all wrong about CO2


by Allen Best

Despite an exhaustive effort, a Colorado legislator last week failed to upend the global scientific consensus about the risks of elevated concentrations of carbon dioxide.

State Rep. Ken DeGraaf, who is from El Paso County, proposed to delist carbon dioxide as a pollutant and had an extensive explanation why. For this, he had shared with other members of the House Energy and Environment Committee a paper detailing his thinking about why nearly all of the world’s climate scientists have it all wrong.

“None of you did your homework,” DeGraaf, a former calculus teacher at the U.S. Air Force Academy, of which he is also a graduate, chided fellow committee members as he prepared to launch into his tutorial. “Not a surprise.”

After telling the child’s story of Chicken Little, he proceeded to offer an explanation about why climate change models falsely lead to the conclusion that elevated levels of carbon dioxide caused by burning fossil fuels have started warming global temperatures.

“Carbon dioxide is a bit player,” he said.

“The total energy that we use in a year globally from hydrocarbons is removed from the Earth by evaporation in less than 30 seconds,” he said.

In that, he is correct – although that is nothing new. Clouds constitute the most common greenhouse gas.

DeGraaf’s main contention was that the Earth has great capacity to shed energy. The Earth’s current warming, he said, began about the time the Little Ice Age ended (he put it at 1900, although the more common bookend is the 1850s).

Plants need carbon dioxide, he said, and pointed out that greenhouses, such as are used to grow orchids, have high levels of carbon dioxide. (As do airplanes full of passengers, by the way). Carbon dioxide does not become a direct health threat until much, much higher levels than the current 420 parts per million.

Other, very smart people have challenged the theory of global warming. But so far, their arguments have always been shown to be missing. If there are great uncertainties remaining, the theory largely explains what is being observed, the same way as the theory of gravity explains why apples fall from trees and astronauts float in space. This is a theory, not a simple hypothesis.

In his roughly 30-minute explanation to committee members last week, DeGraaf frequently invoked a physicist from Princeton, William Happer. “The frenzy over climate resembles the medieval crusades against foreign infidels and home-grown heretics,” said Happer and a co-author in an essay published in 2021 in the National Review. DeGraaf’s presentation was in many aspects an echo of that essay, “Climate Emergency? Not So Fast,” if more detailed in its science.

DeGraaf wrapped up his case by proclaiming  that Colorado’s greenhouse gas reduction goals are misguided. ”We are spending hundreds of millions of dollars if not billions and trillions of dollars in order to achieve what? We’re not achieving anything.”

Then came the witnesses, both those for and against.

One bill supporter, with an Ph.D. in agriculture economics, advised one way to reduce carbon. “If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, I urge you to breathe in but not breathe out.”

There were a lot of questions and discussion about correlation vs. causation and, related to that, whether climate scientists had falsely blamed increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases with causing what was in fact happening naturally, as has occurred over the many ages. (This has been answered many, many years ago).

The most interesting back-and-forth was with energy transition activist Leslie Glustrom, who has a master’s degree in biochemistry. Opening her comments by observing that she “just loves democracy,” she reported agreement with DeGraaf on some elements. For example, he had expressed distrust of underground carbon injections. She called it “very risky, very expensive, not the right way to go.”

Glustrom also credited DeGraaf with getting parts of his scientific story correct. “It’s part of the story, but not the full story,” she said before launching into an explanation of the role of water vapor in climate. “It is one of those part-trues, but really misses the point.”

Without the increases in C02 and other atmospheric gases, she pointed out, the climate was already predicted to start cooling. Instead, temperatures are rapidly rising.

Glustrom also explained how climate models can parcel out individual “forcing” agents to isolate the role of C02 and other greenhouse gases.

She suggested that if committee members really wanted to drill down on the science of climate change, that Colorado has hundreds and hundreds of world-class climate scientists, “and they would love to be able to speak to everyone on these points.”

DeGraaf made an urgent appeal for votes, resorting to the argument that voting no was in practice truth suppression.

“We are not deciding whether this is true, we are deciding whether to suppress the truth,” he said. “I would like to see this energy committee do something constructive instead of throwing it down a literal hole.”

The bill was killed on a party-line vote, 8-3, with DeGraaf and his two fellow Republicans on the short end.

Allen Best
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