Does it matter if global warming is man’s fault?

Published 8:00 am Thursday, March 11, 2010

Getting involved in urgent environmental issues becomes more intriguing after participating in the Minnesota Audubon Society at the state level. Leo, my husband, and I are decade-plus local members of the Albert Lea Audubon Society.

This past November we volunteered to be messengers of succinct information and activities at an end of year state conference held in St. Paul at the Wilder Institute. The modern and open architectural structure with inspiring historical sayings set the stage well for a large representative gathering of nature lovers from rural and urban areas. The environmental theme was carried out in the booths displayed outside the main meeting area, and extended to the healthy lunch provided that included utensils made from recycled corn products and available containers to recycle or compost all waste products.

I found the Audubon chapter updates and projects idea-producing. I also enjoyed meeting leaders from all over Minnesota. In my verbal report about our local Audubon activities, I summarized our transition of the closing of the Audubon Science Center to our plans to participate in a log cabin renovation Albert Lea Community Education Project. I also gave an overview of the AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project.

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Minnesota Audubon policy director John Curry reviewed “Legislative Issue Priorities for 2010” as ranked by Minnesota members as most critical. They include minimizing off-highway vehicle damage, creating forest monitoring networks, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating pollution safeguards for mining precious stones, land acquisition best practices and eliminating the county veto of conservation lands. Individual speakers also addressed the need for a lead ammunition initiative and the funding for wildlife habitat through the 2010 state bonding bill.

The keynote speaker, well-known independent weatherman, Paul Douglas, again is writing a regular weather column for the Star Tribune. He called his topic “Climate Change in Minnesota: Separating Hype from Science.” He says “global warming is a polarizing (pun intended?) issue and a big deal.” Throughout his talk, he emphasized there is a big difference between weather and climate.

He presented what he called five myths concerning global warming.

1. Our atmosphere is so big that people can’t have an effect on it. His response is that the ozone hole is made by human productions.

2. It is anti-American to believe in global warming. He thinks this is a giant “We” problem — a global problem.

3. It will cripple our economy if we believe global warming exists. He says he thinks it actually will do that if we don’t do something about it.

4. It is a new religion.

5. It’s a bunch of tree-hugging hippies promoting it. Douglas responded to the last two statements by saying that scientific research backs the existence of global warming.

He notes that we’ve released more warming gases in the last 50 years than in the total of last 250 years and says that bipartisan scientific research review of 928 papers supports the global warming theory. He sees networks and journalists wanting balance, so they present both sides of issue. He said to me before his presentation that “opposition to the theory comes from professionally paid skeptics backed by the energy companies and lobbyists.”

He shared that “birds are spending winters on average of 35 miles farther north and the purple finch is 400 miles farther north. Smoking guns have wings. He calls this as an accumulation of coincidences where we’re tracking a creeping slow motion issue.” He quoted James Lovelock’s “Beyond the Tipping Point” in referring to glacier reduction and warmer temperatures.

Attending the conference leads me to increase my interest in researching facts, not mainly opinions or beliefs, while being very aware of weather versus climate issues. As a result, I have asked more questions of others in the science field. My crop consultant cousin tells me the data researched for global warming doesn’t go back far enough or cover enough years to be in the climate category. His concern is the present damage done to our habitat. Another fact-seeker friend shared with me a report concern about global warming that looked recent, but dated 1922.

Douglas’s keynote gave me no doubt global warming exists. He concludes we need a new vision to address it. He ended his presentation in asking a thought-provoking question.

“Does it matter if global warming is permanent earth changes by climate or man-made changes as far as our response or what we do to improve the situation?”

I encourage you to pursue any pertinent issue by attending a “big picture” state or national conference to increase your enthusiasm. I also invite nature enthusiasts to join our local Audubon Society. Our meetings are held first Tuesdays monthly at 7 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church. See you April 6 for a state program by Bonnie Sample, Audubon’s Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas coordinator.

Sara Aeikens is an Albert Lea resident.