Tom Ross: Sandy calls out absence of climate change from debates

Tom Ross

Tom Ross

Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or

Find more columns by Tom here.

See related story

Feb. 2, 2012: Survey shows pine beetle epidemic slowing

— Even as Hurricane Sandy bore down on the Eastern Seaboard on Monday, the presidential candidates were loath to utter the words “climate change.”

Ironically, the hurricane has the potential to shift the outcome of the election as people who planned to cast their ballots during early voting are forced to turn their attention to picking up the pieces of their lives in the aftermath of the imperfect storm.

I know some of you think I’m a fool for believing that isolated storms and other weather catastrophes equate to human-caused climate change.

Try telling that to my sister, Sara, who huddled with her husband and three young children Monday night in the living room of their home in a Connecticut college town. They’ve learned from recent experience that they need one generator for the refrigerator and another for the freezer when power goes down in the Nutmeg State.

I can barely keep track of all of the extreme weather events that have plagued Connecticut since March 2010, when the state endured heavy flooding.

The Hartford area, not far from my sister’s home, saw a record one-day snowfall of 22.5 inches in January 2011 on the way to a monthly total of 59.8 inches.

June of 2011 brought rains and floods that damaged property and even isolated some little towns throughout New England. And just a year ago, on Oct. 30, 2011, they saw a freak October snowstorm that paralyzed the region.

Closer to home, Colorado suffered a significant drought in 2012 and the warmest summer on record 12 months after an all-time record snowpack was recorded on Buffalo Pass.

It’s climate change alright.

Steamboat Today reported Feb. 2 there are signs that the pine beetle epidemic that has ravaged Colorado forests is easing after laying waste to 3.3 million of the 24.5 million acres of forest across the state. That article by my colleague Matt Stensland resulted in some of the most thoughtful and informative discussion I’ve ever seen on our online forums.

This month, there is news that the Rocky Mountain region may be unintentionally exporting the beetle epidemic. The Salt Lake Tribune reported Sunday that the pine beetles now inhabit a band of pine trees in northern Canada where scientists once thought severe cold would stop their spread. Now, they think milder winters could allow the bugs to use that band of forest like a highway to the Eastern Seaboard, where they could spread south to the Georgia pines.

The article in the Tribune also reports what some of our readers said in reaction to Stensland’s article — that quick response fire-fighting in reaction to blazes burning in lodgepole pines that evolved around fire allowed the forests to grow to dense, making them susceptible to the insects.

It isn’t my intention today to make the case that we should abandon fossil fuels any time soon — that would be preposterous. However, it is my goal to point out the irony that a presidential election that ignored climate change could be compromised by an unusually large hurricane, almost as if it were an avenging angel.

A more productive national debate about climate change and energy policy — one driven by more than just unemployment statistics — is a must for the 2016 presidential race.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email

Community comments

Note: The Steamboat Pilot & Today doesn’t necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy.

(maynard short) maynardshort says...

Ross, please write a 700 word essay describing planet earth without climate change.

Posted 29 October 2012, 5:51 p.m. Suggest removal

(Zac Brennan) zacman says...

It's all Al Gore's fault. After he finished inventing the internet he changed the global climate. Then he made that movie about global climate change which he now markets over his internet machine. Thanks a lot, Al.......

Posted 29 October 2012, 7:21 p.m. Suggest removal

(Brian Kotowski) Sep says...

You couldn't be more wrong, Zac. It's Bush's fault. EVERYTHING is Bush's fault.

Posted 29 October 2012, 7:44 p.m. Suggest removal

(mark hartless) markhartless says...

Once again Maynard said it quite succinctly.

I'll take a bit longer route:
There was a great stock operator at a cocktail party who had made millions in the market. Someone asked him if he knew what the stock market would do. A hush fell over the entire room as he began to speak. With great authority he said "Yes, I know exactly what the market will do... it will continue to fluctuate."

So too will the climate on Planet Earth; with or without man and all his technology.

There has not been a period in human history where the climate has not fluctuated, and there has seldom been a generation or culture that has not foolishly imagined they could change or influence it.

Posted 29 October 2012, 8:55 p.m. Suggest removal

(maynard short) maynardshort says...

Posted 30 October 2012, 4:34 a.m. Suggest removal

(Sam Jones) Livnlarge says...

Is this really even debatable anymore? Good call Tom in calling out the obvious (omission). Climate will fluctuate over time? Yes but 2012 being the hottest year on record? Are you speaking in geologic time? Corn fields bursting into flames in the mid west? Pine beetle consuming the Rockies in NORTH AMERICA? And this morning 2' of snow in West Virginia? Gosh almost makes Gore look clairvoyant.

Seriously, I was unaware that some were still in denial on this subject after years of painfully obvious science and physical observation. What evidence would really convince you? When food costs increase another 15%? 25? How about something more local? like when tourists decide that skiing on dirt isn't that much fun. Will you wait until its too late like someone who plans to save for retirement ... But never does.

Ignore truth at your own peril

Posted 30 October 2012, 6:05 a.m. Suggest removal

(Bob Smith) bsmith_steamboat says...

I wonder what Bastiat would think of climate change and the issue of "freedom" in this context?

Posted 30 October 2012, 6:13 a.m. Suggest removal

(Bob Smith) bsmith_steamboat says...

Here's a starter: "My argument is that the same general principles that lead libertarians and conservatives to call for greater protection of property rights should lead them to call for greater attention to the most likely effects of climate change. It is a well recognized principle of common law that if company A is flooding the land of person B, it is irrelevant whether company A generates lots of economic prosperity for the local community (including B). A's action would still violate B's property rights, and B would be entitled to relief of some sort. By the same token, if the land of a farmer in Bangladesh is flooded, due in measurable and provable part to human-induced climate change, why would he be any less entitled to redress than a farmer who has his land flooded by his neighbor's land-use changes? Property rights should not be sacrificed as part of some utilitarian calculus. Libertarians readily accept this principle when government planners violate property rights in the name of economic development (see e.g., Kelo v. New London). Yet they seem to abandon their commitment to property rights when it comes to global warming." -Adler

Posted 30 October 2012, 6:18 a.m. Suggest removal

(mark hartless) markhartless says...

Whether you want to accept it or not the climate of Earth has been changing for thousands of years and it will continue to do so long after government "fixes" it.

West Virginia has been getting 2' snowstorms since long before internal combustion engines.
The year before the "hottest year on record" (if it was) was the worst winter on record and THAT was touted as proof of global warming.

Pine beetles are consuming our forests because they were "managed" by tree-huggers. Go to other parts of the rocky mountains that handle pine beetles differently and you will see differnet results; greener forests AND LOG TRUCKS.

It is SOP to say "it isn't even debatable..." That gets you off the hook from taking into account and addressing my statements above.

Did you read "The Law" yet?
Although, for you, reading it is probably akin to satan trying to shower with Holy Water.

There is one word/phrase in your statement that causes every other word/phrase in your statement to crumble into pieces. That word/phrase is "due... to human-induced..."

There is simply not one damn thing you can do to prove that conclusively. Nothing.

Furthermore, there is ample evidence that climate changes many orders of magnitude greater than anything experienced in the last 3 centuries have occurred with REGULARITY back through history.
The argument for compensation also tends to be diluted, if not outrightly negated, by the idea of compensating every person on planet earth, since, by your claim, every person is negatively effected and, therefore every person should be "made whole".

I find that notion silly, but if you think every person on earth should line up and pay a dollar in compensation and then proceede to line up and recieve a dollar in compensation I suppose you can go on believing that.
And don't get started on how the developed nations did all the polluting, bla, blas, bla... The develop(ING) nations are putting their share of pollution into the air NOW, and thus, are recieving their "compensation" by developing their economies free of pollution controls similar to those we have imposed on ourselves.

Posted 30 October 2012, 8:30 a.m. Suggest removal

(John St Pierre) fishcreek says...

In light of the devastation from Hurricane SAndy one should now consider Romneys response during the debate of 6/14/12:

Asked about federal disaster relief for recent tornado and flood victims at last night’s GOP debate, candidate Mitt Romney called the spending “immoral” and said the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be privatized. With greenhouse pollution on the rise, the United States has been struck by a “punishing series of billion-dollar disasters.” Romney said that the victims in Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and other communities hit by tornadoes and flooding should not receive governmental assistance. He argued it is “simply immoral” for there to be deficit spending that could harm future generations:

Posted 30 October 2012, 9:14 a.m. Suggest removal

(Brian Kotowski) Sep says...

Yes, one should consider the Romney response. Here's the the complete question & answer in context, minus John's "greenhouse pollution" proselytizing and his "punishing series of billion-dollar disasters" fabrication (who were you "quoting", John - some liberal blog, or did you just make it up?):

Posted 30 October 2012, 9:39 a.m. Suggest removal

(maynard short) maynardshort says...

For those of you who are not hung up on Al Gore's, "An Inconvenient Truth", or Rachel Carson's, "Silent Spring", and would like an intelligent treatise on what this is all about, I recommend, "Heaven and Earth", by Ian Plimer. Sub titled, "Global Warming and the Missing Science", 2009. Ian Plimer is professsor in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Adelaide, Aust.
A quote from his book, on the back cover: "We live in a time when the methodology of science is suspended. Reactions to himan-induced global warming based on incomplete science can only be extraordinarily costly, will distort energy policy, and will make the poor poorer...In the case of the effect of CO2 on climate, the correct solution to the non-problem of CO2 is to have the courage to thoughtfully do nothing."

Posted 30 October 2012, 10:37 a.m. Suggest removal

(John St Pierre) fishcreek says...

Brian.... did you watch it??? Romney was quite specific in saying "should not receive governmental assistance and that it was immoral to add this debt to his Grandchildren"..... "give the money to the states and even better give it to private enterprise"... so in NYC right now he would be giving cjecks to private business's to repair the damage?? I'm confused is that not what FEMA does?????
Katrina was a disaster because Bush & Cheney were more focused on their great religious crusade in Iraq.

Posted 30 October 2012, 10:49 a.m. Suggest removal

(John St Pierre) fishcreek says...

Actual Transcript... please read itand not cherrypick what you want to hear...


KING: Governor Romney? You’ve been a chief executive of a state. I was just in Joplin, Missouri. I’ve been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with whether it’s the tornadoes, the flooding, and worse. FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?

ROMNEY: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.

Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut — we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do? And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in. We cannot…

KING: Including disaster relief, though?

ROMNEY: We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.

Posted 30 October 2012, 10:51 a.m. Suggest removal

(mark hartless) markhartless says...

None of this should be happening.
Obama promised to fix all this 4 years ago
"This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal."
--B. Obama, 2008

Posted 30 October 2012, 11:02 a.m. Suggest removal

(rhys jones) highwaystar says...

Sure, Mitt, the States can handle their own problems, but they can't make their own laws.

Posted 30 October 2012, 11:04 a.m. Suggest removal

(Brian Kotowski) Sep says...

You're the only one dribbling cherry juice on his shirt, John. Romney, in true political fashion, avoided the specifics of the question posed and pivoted onto the role of Big Govt, and which of its roles & functions could be better served at the state level or by the private sector. Quite a reasonable discussion to have in light of the historic deficits we've racked up.

Here's BHO making the same argument not too long ago:

So: you disagree with Romney's characterization of unbridled deficits as “immoral.” Do you agree with the President's assertion that deficits are “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic”? If not, why?

Posted 30 October 2012, 11:10 a.m. Suggest removal

(John Weibel) jweibel says...

On climate change, maybe the air force's paper predicting that weather modification being the ultimate weapon by 2025 shortchanged their progress at weather modifications.

By 2025, paper predicts it will be the ultimate weapon

The microwave heating effect of AquariusRadar changes the initial conditions of the cloud developement. A cumulonimbus raincell is a dynamic non-linear system whose growth is impacted by the initial starting conditions.

Posted 30 October 2012, 11:25 a.m. Suggest removal

(John Weibel) jweibel says...

What is AquariusRadar?..AquariusRadar is a radar with high power and pencil beam pattern resulting in high ERP that is dedicated to tempering excess rainfall from existing rain clouds in an area without a storage mechanism and later allowing that precipitation to fall into a nearby area with high storage capability. It is a water transport methodology.

Posted 30 October 2012, 11:28 a.m. Suggest removal

(John St Pierre) fishcreek says...

I knew it!!!!!! Obama is using top secret weather modification to alter the election...

time to go down into my Doomsday Bunker !!!!!!

by the way the Red Cross has asked that Romney stop collecting cans and food.... AS is tthe RED CROSS stated policy they need Cash & Blood..... how does Romney plan to get his "campaign relief" to where its needed.... the roads are closed/destroyed or impassable..... stupid stunt!!!

Posted 30 October 2012, 11:34 a.m. Suggest removal

(George Danellis) fairlysure says...

Yes, climate change has been remarkably absent from the presidential election discourse. Thanks Tom for pointing this out. This omission is due mostly to the voluntary ignorance of peer reviewed science of a large part of our populace, as well as more recent climate data that unequivocally shows the climate is warming and at much faster rates than was projected. And then political leadership whoa re being, well.... political.
As a colleague of mine who works in corporate sustainability says: "Show me peer-reviewed science that says otherwise, and I would love to admit I am wrong". There is not another developed country in the world with anywhere near the rates of denialism of here in the US. Is it possible that we in fact have it right?

And while we debate how to regain our position in the global economy it seems more than a little odd to me that we are mostly ignoring the opportunities that exist from more effectively addressing all of the impacts of climate change, as well as ways to slow and lessen it. Much of this is about resource efficiency and productivity, and isn't this what our economy has been using to eek out economic growth over recent history?

So while we debate its existence, and whether it is is anthropogenic, the costs mount. And the potential benefits lessen from shifting our approach to economy and people's well-being.

That just doesn't make sense to me.

[Here is the (only) comment by one of the two main candidates on climate change in a long time. ]

Posted 30 October 2012, 11:35 a.m. Suggest removal

(maynard short) maynardshort says...

George D, please send your colleague a copy of Ian Plimers book, "Heaven and Earth", so he can admit how wrong he is. No sense allowing him to wallow in his ignorance.

Posted 30 October 2012, 6:19 p.m. Suggest removal

(George Danellis) fairlysure says...

Maynard, You answered the test right there: none of Professor Plimer's work, nor the work he refers to, is peer-reviewed science. While it could be accurate (anything is possible), it can bear little to no merit from a scientific perspective.

Posted 30 October 2012, 8:54 p.m. Suggest removal

(maynard short) maynardshort says...

George, Is this the same Peer Review group that corrupted the science of climate change in the IPPC? The Hockey Stick fiasco by the IPPC and psuedo scientists Mann, Bradley and Hughes has set back the peer review process for decades. The corruption of science over the hockey stick is the most offensive scandal the scientific world has seen for several hundred years. It took the perserverance of a Canadian, Steve McIntyre ten yrs of bulldoging the IPPC and the coverup, before the truth came out about the changing of the data, the hiding of the data, and the creation of false data when none was there. No Goerge, the peer review process has been seriously tainted in the field of Climate Science. I no longer trust it and neither should you.

Posted 31 October 2012, 11:26 a.m. Suggest removal

(Bob Smith) bsmith_steamboat says...

So Maynard, it it all about Intelligent Design then?

Also, here's a telling photo:

Posted 31 October 2012, 1:43 p.m. Suggest removal

(Rob Douglas) RobDouglas says...

For those who value facts and reason, here is a good resource just released today.
That announcement leads to this extensive report.
Now, if you're a fear monger and hysteria pimp, ignore the Cato report. If you're an openminded, thinking American, dig into a thorough analysis that may just expose you to the truth.

Posted 31 October 2012, 3:06 p.m. Suggest removal

Post a comment (Requires free registration)

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.