Meteorologist, professor say use of fossil fuels is creating a warmer atmosphere

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By Sandy Barnes

Chief meteorologist Mike Nelson of KMGH-TV 7 News says he gets a lot of e-mails from viewers criticizing him for talking about climate change.

A percentage of people don’t believe that excess carbon dioxide produced by oil and gas usage is affecting the Earth’s atmosphere, Nelson said during his presentation on Monday night at The Place in Evergreen.

Critics of climate change say it’s a myth, he remarked. But Nelson said there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

“I wish we could get beyond the notion that it’s not happening,” he said.

“We’re seeing a tremendous amount of above-normal temperatures,” he said.

The melting of the polar ice cap, rising sea levels and documented warming trends validate the reality of climate change, Nelson said.

To a certain extent, the greenhouse effect on the Earth is beneficial, he said. Greenhouse gases act as a blanket to keep the Earth’s atmosphere warm. Without them, the Earth would be cold and uninhabitable, he said. However, excessive carbon dioxide and other gases are causing harm, he added.

Each molecule of carbon dioxide is like a feather in a down comforter that helps trap heat in the atmosphere, he explained.

“With too much carbon dioxide, we start to have some problems.”

“What we’re seeing in the atmosphere is the steroid effect,” Nelson said.

Excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is analogous to an athlete on steroids who can perform beyond normal limits.

While discussing skepticism of scientific data on climate change, Nelson said he grew up in the 1960s during the space race — a time when science was revered.

“The biggest thing I hate now is the denigration of scientists,” he said.

 “It seems prudent, patriotic and reverent that we do everything we can to conserve and protect the fragile envelope that allows us to live on this planet,” he said.

To reduce his personal carbon footprint, Nelson said he has installed solar panels on his home to generate electricity and that he drives an electrically powered car that gets 85 miles per gallon.

A professor’s point of view

Jim White, a climate scientist and professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, also presented information supporting the validity of climate change during the program.

“We are not doing ourselves any favor by saying science is bad,” White said.

“Climate change is real, and actually really simple,” he remarked. “If we add lots of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, it will warm up.”

When the planet warms, the sea level rises, an effect caused by thermal expansion of water and land ice melting, White said.

“Arctic sea ice is thinning, with consequences to us,” he remarked.

By the end of this century, the ocean will be 3 feet higher than it is now, he said.

In the coming years, the coast of Miami will be under water, along with the Florida Everglades, White said. With inflowing sea water, people could take a boat to Disney World in Orlando, he joked.

According to predictions, the central portion of California will also be under water because of rising sea levels, White said.

The process will be slow because the Earth is a water-based planet, and water takes a long time to heat up, he said.

“The ocean is absorbing a lot of heat,” he explained.

The United States is no longer in the driver’s seat when it comes to regulating climate change, White said. The industrialization of China, India and Indonesia has led to increased carbon dioxide production in those countries.

Not only is carbon dioxide a problem, but also methane and nitrous dioxide being released into the atmosphere, White said.

“It’s a hard problem because it’s political,” he remarked. “There is a lot of money at stake.”

While discussing the ethical aspect of climate change, White said that future generations will have to deal with the problem.

“Until we start thinking about our kids, we’re passing on to them a huge problem,” he said.

To help solve the problem of climate change, the value of education needs to be respected and supported with government funding, and the world population must be controlled, he said. The Earth is reaching its carrying capacity for people, which is impacting the health of the planet, White said.

Another challenge is to create equity among men and women in countries where females have little consideration, he said. The poor also need to be treated better, he added.

“It’s as much about ethics as it is science,” White said about addressing climate change.

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com or call 303-350-1042.









Author to present haunting glimpse of ghost towns in the Rockies


By Sandy Barnes

Staff Writer

The tale of a ghost named Annabelle Stark who haunts the deserted town of St. Elmo in Chaffee County will be among stories that author Preethi Burkholder will tell during her presentation at the Timbervale Barn in Evergreen on April 27.

“Rocky Mountain ghost towns are filled with chilling but captivating stories,” she said.

While relating stories from her book “Ghost Towns of the Rockies,” Burkholder will discuss the former mining economy, which established them and later led to their demise. 

Some of the mining towns, such as Aspen, experienced a rebirth, Burkholder said. However, the devaluation of silver and related economic influences caused many towns to shrink and perish, she said.

Some towns had a natural death such as through flood, fire or drought, Burkholder noted. Others experienced a death that was typically related to massive layoffs in jobs, she added.

“In 1880, silver attracted people in the thousands to St. Elmo,” Burkholder said.

However, when the price of silver crashed in 1893, the town was hit with a depression, along with many others in the Rocky Mountain states, she said.

“The Silver Panic put millions out of work. Banks across the country closed. People

walked out of their brand-new homes because they could not afford to keep

paying their mortgages,” said Burkholder.

A few of the towns described in Burkholder’s book still linger in faded glory.

“Leadville is only a shadow of its past,” said Burkholder.

Burkholder’s book includes a colorful account of Victor, Colo., which was established near the mining center at Cripple Creek.

“The streets of Victor were paved with gold during the heyday of the 1890s Gold Rush. In fact some people dug gold out of their backyards,” said Burkholder. “Gold seekers jammed into town, paying as much as a dollar a night to sleep on a cot in a tent. … Saloons were open day and night, and murder and suicide were common in Victor.

“Victor was a lusty gold camp. Its buildings were elegant. Its saloons and whorehouses, wicked; its fires, disastrous,” she observed.

Burkholder said she became intrigued with the ghost towns she came across while doing volunteer work for the U.S. Forest Service in Utah.

“It was fascinating to see these abandoned cabins,” she said.

Along with descriptions of Colorado ghost towns, Burkholder’s book features towns in Utah, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and Arizona.

Burkholder said that when she was working on her book, she discovered a parallel between economic issues of former and present times.

“The more I researched the root causes that turned many successful mining communities into ghost towns, the more I came to learn that we are reliving history,” she said.

“Even today, many towns across America are becoming ghost towns because the jobs are vanishing. Post offices are closing across the country — the ‘official’ signal that the population in a town is dwindling."

Among nearby towns that are losing a local post office is Silver Plume in Clear Creek County, she added.

The Ghost Towns of the Rockies presentation begins at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at the Timbervale Barn, 4132 S. Timbervale Drive, which is near the Hiwan Homestead Museum.

Along with stories from her book, Burkholder will also present photos of ghost towns in the Rocky Mountains. Copies of "Ghost Towns of the Rockies" will be available for sale at the program.

Suggested donations of $7 for members of the Jefferson County Historical Society and $10 for non-members are requested for the program, and registration is required. For more information, or to register, call 720-497-7680.


Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com or call 303-350-1042.