Dear Group,

Demography: (from prefix demo- from Ancient Greek δῆμος dēmos meaning “the people”, and -graphy from γράφω graphō, implies “writing, description or measurement”[1]) is the statistical study of populations, especially human beings. …Demography encompasses the study of the size, structure, and distribution of these populations, and spatial or temporal changes in them in response to birth, migration, aging, and death.” [From Wikipedia

I consider our world, the ecosystem in which we live, to be finite. Finiteness is a bedrock concept, a concept shared by most people with any background in biological science. Our ecosystem is limited and intimately interconnected. That we are part of and dependent on that ecosystem is fundamental, a fact that runs counter to our tendency to think of ourselves as exceptional. The world can support only a limited population of any organism before the biological and physical systems upon which that organism depends begin to collapse. [It turns out there is a opposed thought stream dedicated to the idea that human ingenuity can and will triumph over these limits, but that is an topic for another day.]

I have long been interested in human population growth, human demographics, the details of how we as a species have “gone forth and multiplied.” I view our survival as a species as dependent on our peak numbers and our pattern of resource use, especially the burning of carbon fuels. 

Today allow me to introduce to you a remarkable man, a statistician, physician, public speaker and educator, Hans Rosling. I find his presentations fascinating. He offers demographic insight that is entertaining and accessible to non-mathmeticians, I encourage you to click on and watch his 13:20 minute TED talk, Religions and Babies. It will be time well spent. He makes a convincing argument that human population will stabilize at around ten billion. That leaves open the question as to whether 10 billion exceeds the carrying capacity of the planet, but his talk offers some welcome hope.

Sadly, Hans Rosling died in February 2017, age 68. His TED lectures live on. I have enjoyed and learned something new from each one I have spent the time to watch. I encourage you to explore this man’s insights. 

Keep to the high ground,


Tyndall, Trace Gas, and the Merchants of Doubt

Dear Group,

Science-based understanding of our world is based on reproducibility. A finding or conclusion is tested and tested again by both the original scientist and others in the same and related fields by repetition and exploration of other lines of evidence. (That is the primary difference between science and religion. Science is verifiable by repeated experiment.) When a commentator makes a statement of doubt that contests a fundamental fact of physics it is a sure sign we have entered a parallel universe. Such is the “trace gas” argument.

The argument goes: Carbon dioxide is a trace gas. Because it is a trace gas, comprising only 400 parts per million (PPM) of the atmosphere (0.04%), it cannot possibly be a major player in global warming. 

Sue Lani Madsen, a conservative guest columnist for the Spokesman Review, illustrates the “trace gas”  argument in her own Spokesman report of an NPR “On Point” Panel in which she participated on September 22, 2017. The topic was wildfires, but her fundamental denial of global warming became a glaring issue. In Ms. Madsen’s Spokesman report describing the event she wrote, “Carbon dioxide is 0.039 percent of Earth’s atmosphere, a trace gas from mostly natural sources.” A likely source of her denialist argument is the “Galileo Movement” in Australia (Galileo would be appalled). Visiting their website is eerily reminiscent of visiting the website of the Flat Earth Society. You can read a little about the Galileo Movement’s arguments and a point by point refutation in an article from Scientific American from August 16, 2011 entitled “Why Carbon Dioxide Is a Greenhouse Gas.” 

I was so riled by Ms. Madsen’s denial of basic physical fact I went looking for the original physics research. I found it in the story of the life and work of a British scientist named John Tyndall (1820-1893). Tyndall was a man from a time when men and women (See Eunice Newton Foote in wikipedia) of moderate wealth could advance basic science in home laboratories, a time when scientific discovery was the stuff of popular culture. 

The detailing of carbon dioxide as a major greenhouse gas (even when present in “trace” quantities) was simple in concept but challenging in execution. John Tyndall developed an apparatus consisting of a source of heat energy of known intensity, a tube to contain whatever gas or gas mixture Tyndall wished to study, and a device to measure the energy that passed through the gas without being absorbed. Tyndall published his experiments and results in a paper with the distinctly un-sexy name, “On the Absorption and Radiation of Heat by Gases and Vapours, and on the Physical Connexion of Radiation, Absorption, and Conduction.” You can read the actual paper here.  (See P.P.S below.) A great summary article on Tyndall’s painstaking work, courtesy of the BBC (on the occasion of the publication’s 150th anniversary) can be read here [highly recommended]. Carbon dioxide was only one of many gases Tyndall studied with his apparatus. This is physics. The results are reproducible, totally independent of denialist claims. 

I “know” Tyndall’s results are true not just because I trust the story of Tyndall’s life and work, but because I trust scientists who tried to prove Tyndall wrong…and instead got the same results. (That does not keep modern day denialists from offering nonsensical polemic to cast doubt.)

Had I been brought up to believe that truth emanates only from one holy book, had I not spent much of my youth reading stories of the lives and discoveries of great scientists, I suppose I might consider a 19th century researcher untrustworthy, his experiments somehow motivated by a political or pecuniary agenda and therefor suspect, his results inconsistent with my worldview.

We learn from stories. We “know” what we know because we trust the people who tell those stories. In the case of scientific knowledge we trust not just the people, like Tyndall, who did the foundational physics experiments of atmospheric gases, we trust him because countless others since Tyndall have reproduced and refined his work. 

Whenever the “trace gas” argument surfaces it is a marker for ignorance of physical fact.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Those who popularize anti-science narratives may be sincere, smug, and confident, motivated and bolstered by the accolades received from their tribe and followers. Projecting nefarious motivations (“Climate Change is a Chinese hoax.”) or delusional thinking on scientists and verified scientific fact is for these folks a satisfying enterprise…and so much easier than actually engaging in scientific endeavor.

P.P.S  Scientific papers of Tyndall’s time were presented as narrative stories of the experiments performed. Reading Tyndall’s paper reminds me of the stories that introduced me to the scientific method in my youth. Comparing Tyndall’s paper to modern, dry scientific papers reminds me of the power of narrative to engage the reader. Visit the actual paper here


Smelters, Silicon, and Solar Panels


HHiTest Sand of Alberta, Canada would send high quality quartz ore from their mine to:

the proposed PACWest Silicon smelter in Newport, WA.  PAC West would use low cost electrical energy to smelt the quartz ore into silicon metal and would sell it to: 

Manufacturers like REC Silicon (a Norwegian company) of Moses Lake and Hemlock Semiconductor (? of Ohio) who produce polysilicon crystals they are currently selling to: 

Manufacturers of solar panels and semiconductors.  (worldwide?)


Dear Group,

On December 27 a tiny article appeared in the Spokesman entitled “‘Suspicious device’ found near Moses Lake manufacturing facility.” The manufacturing facility is REC Silicon, an enormous, brightly lit plant you see from I-90 just east of Moses Lake about a mile north of the highway. The bomb in the car apparently wasn’t intended for REC Silicon, but that was not the part of the article I found interesting. From Chad Sokol’s Spokesman article:

REC Silicon, one of the largest employers in Grant County, was spun off from a larger Norwegian corporation, REC Group, which makes solar panels.

REC Silicon, which also has a manufacturing facility in Butte, said earlier this year its business was damaged by the United States’ trade war with China and retaliatory Chinese tariffs on polysilicon materials.

In July, the company laid off about 40 percent of its Moses Lake workforce, impacting about 100 employees, according to news outlet iFiber One. At the time, the company warned that it could be forced to close the Moses Lake plant if the trade dispute was not alleviated.

Apparently, McMorris Rodgers’ “positive disruptor”’s tariff war with China isn’t just disrupting agricultural markets for our region, but is also costing the region jobs in the silicon industry related to manufacturing solar panels. Loss of 100 jobs and possible closure of a major plant with the potential loss of 150 more is a big deal in Grant County. In Grant County Moses Lake (pop. 20,366) is the biggest town and agriculture is already under siege. 

One thing leads to another: REC Silicon in Moses Lake supposedly would be a major buyer of the silicon produced by the proposed PACWest silicon smelter in Newport WA. From the PACWest website:

The majority of the silicon metal produced by PacWest Silicon will be converted to a high-purity form of silicon by polysilicon producers, such as REC Silicon in Moses Lake.

How much will decreased demand from the Moses Lake REC Silicon plant due to the Trump tariff war dampen the enthusiasm for PACWest Silicon (part of HiTestSand of Edmonton, Alberta) to build a silicon smelter in Newport, Washington? Trucking raw material (quartz rock) from Canada to Newport was supposed to make sense due to proximity to inexpensive hydropower, but proximity to and demand for much of its output of silicon metal must also factor in.

Well, here’s where things get a bit murky. Companies producing polysilicon (mostly for solar panels and semiconductors) in the United States have been struggling since 2011. That year the U.S. government imposed tariffs on Chinese solar panels, arguing the Chinese were engaging in dumping product on the U.S. market. (“Dumping” suggests selling goods below the cost of producing them [temporarily] in order to undercut competitors.)  The Chinese retaliated with tariffs on polysilicon from the U.S. That counter-tariff produced collateral damage to companies producing polysilicon in the U.S. like the REC Silicon plant in Moses Lake and Hemlock back east. Those two are generally recognized (in a web search) as the major producers of polysilicon crystal in the U.S. Since then the Chinese have worked hard to ramp up their own polysilicon production.

It is the recent Trump tariff war, though, that is precipitating the job loss and potential closure of the Moses Lake REC Silicon plant on account of even greater retaliatory tariffs against U.S. polysilicon, a tariff war that seems bound up in Trump’s wish to “bring back coal.” So where does PACWest plan to sell its pure silicon metal for use in the solar panels and semiconductors if the U.S. polysilicon industry is in the toilet thanks to tariffs? Will the Newport plant produce silicon from trucked in Canadian quartz and then export the product back to Canada and, through Canada, to the rest of the world, e.g. China (and avoid the tariffs)? I asked this of a contact in PACWest. He reassured me I had overlooked “other larger polysilicon producers in the U.S.” whose names he could not reveal due to non-disclosure agreements. Furthermore, “You will see in Q1 or Q2 [first and second quarters of 2019] several very large expansion announcements in the South East US that will increase US Poly demand.” I presume by this he means expansion of companies manufacturing solar panels, since solar panel production is now the main destination of polysilicon.

Interesting how all this interlocks and how much of it happens outside the consciousness of the 99% of the population, while jobs in Moses Lake are lost, jobs are dangled as bait in Newport, and multinational companies shuffle money in their endless pursuit of profit. I wonder if McMorris Rodgers has all this in mind as she praises her “positive disruptor,” the instigator of the trade war? 

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Silicon is an element (Si). In its highly purified crystalline form (polycrystalline silicon, also called polysilicon or poly-Si) silicon is used in solar cells and electronics.  Silicone is polymer, a synthetic compound with a repeating sequence of silicon, oxygen, carbon, and sometimes other elements. Silicone compounds are used in sealants (like caulking compound), adhesives, lubricants, medicine, breast implants, cooking utensils, and thermal and electrical insulation. The output from the Moses Lake REC Silicon plant looks to be mostly destined for solar cells and other electronics. In contrast the processed silicon metal from the proposed Newport plant could go to electronics (e.g. via REC Silicon) but might also find its way into more prosaic things like silicone polymer products. (PACWest indicates its metal will be so pure it will mostly go to solar panels and semi-conductors “and a small amount to the Aluminum market.”)

From Dominionism to the Pale Blue Dot

Dear Group,

I want to close out this week with a thought along a different vein, sparked by article I read in the New York Times, an article that came to my attention labelled “Most Emailed.” It appeared on November 27 in the Times Magazine, “The Insect Apocalypse Is Here.” It was competing for everyone’s attention from the froth of human social and political concerns, the latest offensive Trump tweet, Nancy Pelosi’s likelihood of keeping her position in the House of Representatives, what Paul Manafort’s lawyers are saying to Trump’s lawyers, the price of oil, and whether the stock market and the economy are going up or down. Yet here it was, an article on the natural world featured as “Most Emailed.” 

We humans are singularly self-absorbed and short-sighted, thoroughly pre-occupied with the activities of other members of our species, the children we try to raise, the stories we tell, the games we play, the wars we wage.

Step back. At the base of it all is the biosphere and the planet on which we depend for food, water, and a place to raise our young. The worldview each of us takes on during our lifetime conditions how we see and understand this ball of rock with its thin layer of life.

As I see it, worldview (at least in U.S.) lays out broadly on a spectrum. Stark Dominionism underpins one end, whereas on the other end is the sense that humanity is a particularly conceited and self-centered manifestation of natural life, thoroughly integrated into the biosphere.

For me, Dominionism is based on [From wikipedia]: “a reference to the King James Bible’s rendering of Genesis 1:28, the passage in which God grants humanity ‘dominion’ over the Earth.”

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Dominionism often includes a sense this human domination over the earth is carefully guided and nurtured by God, that is, that humanity is an instrument of God’s will and, as such, humanity is incapable of despoiling the earth. For some (many?) in this thought pattern, there is also an “end time” that somehow leads to God’s Kingdom, a glorious hereafter. I was brought up with one foot in this tradition. 

At the other end my spectrum of worldview is Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot, the photograph taken in a look back from the Voyager 1 Space Probe in 1990, showing the earth as an tiny speck, a speck containing all of us, a speck nearly vanished in space, a speck which say to some “we are completely on our own and we’d better figure it out fast.” 

These ends of the worldview spectrum have been a source of tension in humanity’s understanding of itself for hundreds of years. Everyone who ever took a class in science in public school remembers or ought to remember the controversy between the Roman Catholic hierarchy’s geocentric view of the solar system and the heliocentrism of Galileo Galilei (and other scientists and astronomers) that came to a head around 1600. The underlying tension has never gone away.

This spectrum of worldview I postulate here, stretching from Dominionism to the Pale Blue Dot is a spectrum of orientation, it is not two well-defined buckets into which people’s mindsets sort simply. For folks who put some thought to it, there are many points along the spectrum where one’s views might lie.

But I digress.

The Insect Apocalypse Is Here” for me was at the end of a string of disquieting articles for anyone on the Pale Blue Dot end of the spectrum.

U.S. Climate Report Warns of Damaged Environment and Shrinking Economy

The World Needs to Quit Coal. Why Is It So Hard?

What’s Happening to the Price of Oil? (which might make some rejoice, but for me heralds greater demand for gas-guzzling vehicles and ever more burning of carbon)

Palm Oil Was Supposed to Help Save the Planet. Instead It Unleashed a Catastrophe. (the sad story of one of the last bipartisan efforts to cut back on the burning of fossil carbon)

I end the week with much to contemplate. Enjoy the weekend. 

Keep to the high ground,


How Old is the Earth and Why is the Answer Important?

Dear Group,

Only the first hour of the debate at the Bing in Spokane on Wednesday, September 19th, was televised. That hour is available to watch here. Another half hour of audience questions followed, questions and answers KHQ did not post. Parts of that half hour I’ve transcribed from recordings made by members of the audience.

Thanks to Bob Gilles for the following question, which he posed in a very jolly, upbeat fashion I cannot express in print.

Bob Gilles: “What is your take on evolution and science? Do you believe the earth is more like 6000 years old or four and a half billion years old?”

CMR: “I get to go first, huh? [laughter] Well. OK. Ummm. The account that I believe is the one in the Bible that God created the world in seven days. [clapping] …made by His creation… [noise] I’m not here…I can’t say how old the earth is. I believe this is an exciting time for us to be living. I’m proud of the innovation and ingenuity of the American people. I’m proud to be an American. It’s the greatest country [loud clapping]…liberty and human rights and religious tolerance and self-determination. So this is a [murmuring] …and science. And I do believe that we need to…ah…know what the science is, respect the science…I’m battling right now to make sure we use science when it comes to making decisions around the Lower Snake River dams and the Snake River system…[trails off]”

It is a free country. Everyone is entitled to their point of view. The point of view McMorris Rodgers publicly endorsed in her answer (a little reluctantly) is consistent with her education. She has never been exposed to the foundations of geology and biology, except, perhaps, to discount the evidence. Her undergraduate degree was taken at the Pensacola Christian College where, among the Articles of Faith, one finds:

We believe that God created the heavens and the earth in six literal days, and that God created all life (Gen. 1). We reject the man-made theory of evolution occurring over millions of years and believe that the earth is approximately 6,000 years old.

No instructor at such an institution would dare offer an unbiased presentation of the physical evidence for a planet that is three and a half billion years old. (The evidence is not only fossils in layers of rock but also the physics of the decay of radioactive isotopes, the stuff of basic science.) 

If everything one is taught begins with the unshakable belief the earth is around 6000 years old (a number calculated based on the “begats” in the Book of Genesis) one must intentionally disregard the bases of nearly all modern science, especially modern geology, continental drift, and, importantly, the geological understanding of the history of climate. (If all ice ages and past documented changes in climate all occurred over 6000 years then everything has to have happened fast. In that mindset modern day concerns over the speed at which climate is changing can be glossed over as unremarkable. McMorris Rodgers analysis, “We’ve been through times when the earth warmed and then also we’ve been through times when the Earth…there’s been more ice on…in the world” is a case in point.)

It is important to recognize adherence to the idea of a 6000 year old earth is not a majority view in America, probably not even among self-described Christians. Much of Christianity, including United Methodism, the tradition in which I was brought up, considers the biblical creation story to be allegorical: “We find that science’s descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with theology.”  It is worth noting there have been recent (and un-successful) efforts to change Methodist doctrine to an anti-science view. Christianity is not monolithic, and McMorris Rodgers’ views represent only some of those who call themselves Christian. That realization is at the core of her hesitation to directly answer the question Mr. Gilles posed. 

Look at McMorris Rodgers’ answer again. She performed all almost immediate hard pivot to the only “scientific” refuge she knows, her claim of a scientific basis for preserving the Snake River dams, the same pivot she employs every time climate change comes up as a question.

In contrast, Lisa Brown used her time to address the broader issue of climate change:

Dr. Brown: I believe in science [applause] I believe there’s a scientific consensus that human activity and carbon being released into the atmosphere is contributing to climate change and that it is a major, major challenge facing our planet and that instead of withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords like the Trump administration we should progressively work with other countries to come up with an agreement that will help us transition to a clean energy economy. And I also agree with the Congresswoman that we need to not put our head in the sand about science, but utilize science and our best technological practices as we address the issues related to declining fish populations and other important uses of the Columbia and Snake River system and get stake holders together looking at that science and coming up with solutions in a collaborative process.

McMorris Rodgers is entitled to her belief system, but at least in her case that belief system prevents her from comprehending scientific issues of the utmost importance. Lisa Brown was brought up in Roman Catholicism, a faith tradition that, like United Methodism, does not reject scientific consensus. Lisa has the intellectual tools to grapple with scientific issues.

Keep to the high ground,


Nature Roars. Does CMR hear?

Dear Group,

I am taking this day off from writing. For those who may have missed this piece in the very successful New York Times published September 16th. Consider my copying it as an unsolicited advertisement for the NYTimes. I have subscribed to the online version since shortly after the Trump election. Here is the article:

Nature Roars. Washington Hears Nothing.

The elements offer a rebuke as President Trump rolls back policies designed to address global warming.

By The Editorial Board

As if this past summer of merciless heat waves, droughts and megafires were not warning enough, in the past several days the elements sounded another alarm about the state of a world made warmer by the burning of fossil fuels. It came in the form of a one-two punch of wind and rainfall from Hurricane Florence, which like Hurricane Harvey a year ago, has derived much of its wallop from unusually warm ocean waters and stalled weather systems linked to climate change. “Supercharged” is the word one prominent climate scientist, Michael Mann, used to describe Florence, echoing the findings of the federal Global Change report in 2014 that, along with a rise in other extreme weather events, “hurricane intensity and rainfall are projected to increase as the climate continues to warm.”

To no one’s surprise, this linkage went unacknowledged in President Trump’s Washington. Quite the contrary. On Tuesday, in a further retreat from President Barack Obama’s ambitious promises to reduce America’s emissions of the greenhouse gases deemed largely responsible for global warming, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed weakening rules aimed at reducing leaks of methane from oil and gas operations. Methane, a principal component of natural gas, is a short-lived but potent greenhouse gas that represents about 9 percent of this country’s total greenhouse gas emissions; one-third of it comes from oil and gas operations.

Though the changes seem small — reducing the frequency of inspections and fixes to wells and pipelines, for instance — they may well presage an administration decision to get out of the business of regulating methane altogether. (The Interior Department, in a companion move, is soon expected to release its own proposal to roll back Obama-era rules regulating the venting and flaring of methane from drilling operations on the millions of acres under its control.)

The change in the methane rule is just plain dumb. The savings to industry would be trivial, $75 million a year by the Environmental Protection Agency’s estimates, a rounding error for the powerful oil industry. The industry could in fact end up a loser, since captured methane can be sold at a profit. Moreover, leaking methane undercuts the industry’s claim that natural gas can be a bridge fuel to a cleaner energy future. Though the burning of natural gas emits only about half the carbon dioxide of coal, the leak rate — as high as 2.3 percent, according to studies organized by the Environmental Defense Fund — erodes much of that advantage.

Finally, and most sadly, the change pretty much completes the demolition job on Mr. Obama’s climate strategy: the rollback of automobile fuel efficiency standards announced in August; the planned repeal, also announced last month, of Mr. Obama’s Clean Power Plan aimed at reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants; and now the methane pullback. These three programs, plus an effort to regulate climate-forcing gases used in refrigerants, formed the basis for Mr. Obama’s pledge at the 2015 climate summit in Paris to reduce America’s greenhouse gas output by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.

To redeem that pledge — and to reassure the other signatories of the Paris agreement that much of America still cares about climate change — was the purpose of the Global Climate Action Summit, an extraordinary gathering last week of 4,000 or so climate advocates, foreign dignitaries, investors and state and local officials. The meeting, co-hosted by Gov. Jerry Brown of California and Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, was a bright spot in a week dominated by atmospheric fury in the Carolinas and political fecklessness in Washington.

Unlike the Paris summit, the meeting had no power to set goals or to legally commit anyone to do anything to reduce emissions. What it did have was messaging power. And the message was one of defiance as well as concern.

According to a report prepared for the conference, the states, cities and businesses that have joined the cause — what Mr. Brown and Mr. Bloomberg call the “coalition of the willing” — now represent over half the population of the United States, over half the American economy and more than a third of its nationwide greenhouse gas emissions. Thanks partly to their efforts (plus, of course, market forces, not least the declining cost of renewable energy sources and the switch in the power sector from coal generation to natural gas), the United States is almost halfway to meeting Mr. Obama’s Paris pledge. Simply honoring existing commitments and policies at the state and local level will get the country two-thirds of the way there.

The tough part is the rest of the journey, and to that end, the report offers strategies that it believes state and local governments can undertake without any help from Mr. Trump. Most are familiar: tougher ordinances to encourage more energy-efficient buildings, stronger state mandates for renewable energy sources like wind and solar power, more rapid deployment of electric vehicles (as California requires) and efforts to begin phasing out the super-polluting compounds used in commercial and residential cooling systems. And, as if in direct rebuke to Mr. Trump, the group called for new and tougher state and local regulations to stop methane leaks from oil and gas wells and municipal distribution systems.

Uniting these leaders is a belief that human ingenuity can lead us out of a predicament that humans have helped create and a faith in collective action that is almost impossible to find on the Potomac.


McMorris Rodgers carefully avoids saying in so many words that climate change is a hoax. Instead, whenever climate change/global warming is mentioned she quickly pivots to her defense of the Snake River damns and the renewable hydropower they provide. When confronted with a direct question as to her understanding of global warming she wanly notes the earth has been colder sometimes. Then last summer she and her Republican cronies in the House took time out from their busy schedule to declare in a resolution that a carbon tax would hurt the economy

McMorris Rodgers’ ideology prevents her from acknowledging the basic science of global warming. There is no amount of climate disruption sufficient to shake her conviction. It is time to vote her out.

Keep to the high ground,


McMorris Rodgers’ Answer to Summer Smoke

Dear Group,

Yesterday morning I tried to run…no, not really, heavy exertion was dangerous. The surrounding hills were nearly lost in the haze. The particulates clung to my tongue.  Each summer for years now we have spent weeks breathing smoke and experiencing a vague feeling of dread. When will the smoke herald a fire whipped by dry wind that will race through town? How many more summers before people like McMorris Rodgers are forced to acknowledge this is more than a problem of forest cleanup? How much more time is there?

The local climate trend and the reason for it are clear. Water and fire are the main players in the global warming story in the Inland Northwest. Climate models all point to longer drier summers with earlier runoff. Drier summers produce drought-stressed trees with less resistance to disease and beetles. Warmer winters fail to kill bark beetle larvae. Wet springs with earlier runoff combine with drier summers to add to the load of dry fuel on the ground. 

Seventeen of the eighteen hottest years (globally) since modern record-keeping began have occurred since 2001. (See a particularly striking animation of the data here at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s website.) The evidence for both correlation with and causation from the burning of carbon fuels and release of other greenhouse gases is overwhelming…and either incomprehensible to McMorris Rodgers or simply denied.

In the midst of the smoke and worry what has McMorris Rodgers been up to in Congress? Are she and her handlers studying the science, looking into the future, proposing solutions, paying attention? Are they leaders? Are they intellectually equipped to lead?

Here’s the answer: On July 19 the U.S. House passed H.Con.Res.119Expressing the sense of Congress that a carbon tax would be detrimental to the United States economy. 

McMorris Rodgers joined with all but six other Republicans in the House to make this declaration and send it off to U.S. Senate (where it will surely be ignored…at least until after the November election).

If the United States (and the world) is ever going to curb its addiction to burning carbon and begin to address the global warming that is already happening it will require government action. The only free market friendly government action available to us is some form of tax or fee that predictably raises the cost of carbon-based fuels. (My hands-down favorite is the “carbon fee and dividend” scheme put forward by the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.) Otherwise we are condemned to ever increasing mop up operations to deal with the consequences of the accelerating climate change: manual reduction of forest fuels, sea walls, hurricane and tornado recovery efforts, and addressing global migration and conflicts precipitated by climate disaster.

All but thirteen Republicans (seven did not vote) in the U.S. House took the time out of their busy schedules to state an article of their faith: H.Con.Res.119 effectively confirms Trump’s dismissal of the whole of climate science as a Chinese hoax. If that were not so, why would they bother, unbidden, to take off the table the only free market-based mechanism to encourage renewable energy and energy conservation?  

Their are two choices. With this Resolution the Republicans are either declaring a race to the bottom or they are expressing science denial. Either one is a disqualification for public office. Supposedly we elect officials with intelligence and foresight to represent us in government. We elect them with the conviction they are smarter than we, that they engage in the due diligence necessary to reasonably look into the future and act in our best interest, the best interest of the country, and the best interest of the world. 

By casting a vote for this uncalled for declaration of faith, McMorris Rodgers and her Republican/Libertarian brethren have demonstrated their miserable failure to understand and protect that interest. 

No amount of forest cleanup or defense of Snake River dams (McMorris Rodgers’ two favorite responses to any question about climate change) offer the slightest likelihood of slowing the climate change that is already upon us. McMorris Rodgers gratuitous vote for H.Con.Res.119 is a declaration of her short-sightedness.

McMorris Rodgers does not represent me. Send her packing in November.

Keep to the high ground,