Guest Columns


McCain, Udall agree, but they’re still wrong

The hearing Sen. Mark Udall and Sen. John McCain conducted in Estes Park concerning climate change, Rocky Mountain National Park, and our other national parks was reported by some as a “proof” for global warming.

Having attended the hearing myself, I found that to not be the case.

Throughout the hearing, it was obvious that both senators assumed anthropogenic carbon dioxide is the primary reason for any changes that occur to our local climate. That assumption, however, was never substantiated or allowed to be challenged. Sen. Udall stated at the beginning of the meeting that they were not going to discuss or debate any of the merits of the global warming argument.

I can understand his desire for a focused discussion on the problems in the park, but I find it a bit troubling to intentionally steer away from discussing such a fundamental assumption.

The panelists scheduled for the hearing also talked as if they had no serious concerns with the global warming theory as the principle cause for changes in the ecological balance in Rocky Mountain National Park. However, again, no statistical, or other compelling evidence was mentioned that demonstrated a cause and effect relationship between global warming and the greatest immediate problem for the park today, the bark beetle infestation. The best case they made was to cite the stress of the recent drought and some mild winters.

The local drought — which no longer is with us — and some recent mild winters that favored the growth of bark beetle populations have very distant correlations to the theories that anthropomorphic carbon dioxide is warming our planet at a dangerous rate.

If global warming is the main reason for the bark beetle outbreak today, what explanation is there for the bark beetle problems Colorado had in the 1970s? Though not quite as widespread, I remember the bark beetle devastation southwest of Denver at that time. Back then, a drive down U.S. 285 showed the same tree kill as a trip along I-70 does today. How could that have been, as Colorado temperatures were, in the 1970s, at the lowest point we have seen in the past 80 years?

Additionally, to implement the course of action that global warming advocates urge, we must reduce carbon dioxide at virtually any cost. This will do little to help alleviate the bark beetle epidemic we are experiencing in Colorado today. The only direct effect would be to divert that much more of the money we could use to address the immediate ecological needs of our national parks.

In the brief moment I had with both of the senators, I encouraged them to push the federal government to be better stewards of our forests here in Colorado. We know how to develop healthy forests that are able to withstand bark beetles, but we have, instead, allowed dense monocultures of mature trees to grow. Such dense growths are the most vulnerable to disease and fire.

If this hearing was just another bully pulpit for the global warming advocates, it was not a step forward for the people of Colorado.

If the federal government ends up working harder to maintain healthy forests, then the hearing in Estes Park will have been a success. I trust that will ultimately be the case.

Republican Kevin Lundberg, of Berthoud, represents House District 49 in the Colorado Legislature.