Denial and Loathing in Colorado

by

Climate disruption is not a political issue; it’s a moral issue.

– Anne Jane Joyner

Massive flooding, mudslides in Western Colorado, and earthquakes in Greeley are all top news stories in Colorado, except human-driven climate change is never mentioned.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced on May 10, 2013, that the daily mean of concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere exceeded 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time since measurements began in 1958.  It is estimated by scientists that 350 ppm is the range earth needs to be in to maintain environmental balance.  Regarding human-driven climate change from burning coal, oil, and natural gas the NOAA reported, “Before the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, global average CO2 was about 280 ppm. During the last 800,000 years, CO2 fluctuated between about 180 ppm during ice ages and 280 ppm during interglacial warm periods. Today’s rate of increase is more than 100 times faster than the increase that occurred when the last ice age ended.”

Along with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which stated that greenhouse gases have caused temperatures to rise, sparking extreme weather, the White House’s “National Climate Assessment” recently reported that climate change is causing dramatic rainfall, droughts, fires, and rising sea levels in the US.  The report detailed how Colorado and the southwest will see increased heat, insect outbreaks, drought conditions, declining water supply, a reduction in agriculture, and “health impacts in cities due to heat.”  Dr. John Holdren explained that climate change is not a distant threat but affecting American people already.  Despite the recent reports of the devastating amount of emissions according to Democracy Now, “House lawmakers passed an amendment to a major military spending bill, which bars the Pentagon from using funds to address climate change and its potential impact on national security.”

Dramatic evidence of climate change was seen in September 2013, when it rained in 17 Colorado counties for more then a week, dumping more than 21 inches of rain in Colorado severely crippling Boulder and the Lyons region.  Eight people died in the flooding, thousands of homes were destroyed and tens of thousands of houses were damaged.  Cliff Wilming who is part of East Boulder County United reported that during the flood multiple fracking wells were flooded, damaged, and pipelines were broken as well.  In spite of the scientific evidence of human-driven climate change, the flood was often referred to as mysterious and biblical, rarely intertwined with talk of climate change.

On May 25, 2014, a four-mile long mudslide left three missing near Palisade, Colorado.  Although geologist Jon White indicated he did not think the mudslide was caused by fracking, there is a great deal of fracking wells and oil and gas pits near the area.  Regarding increased rainfall, White suggested that waterfall entering the canyon may have sparked the mudslide and that the mudslide might move again.  No talk of increased rainfall tied to climate change was mentioned by mainstream news outlets.

On May 31, 2014, a 3.4 magnitude earthquake shook northeast Greeley, Colorado, where many fracking wells are located in the Niobara shale formation.  According to the US Geological Survey (USGS) National Earthquake Information Center, “Activities that have induced felt earthquakes in some geologic environments have included impoundment of water behind dams, injection of fluid into the earth’s crust, extraction of fluid or gas, and removal of rock in mining or quarrying operations.” A study conducted by William Ellsworth published in the journal Science, found that the “injection of fluids into underground formations are capable of inducing earthquakes.” As reported by Colorado’s Phillip Doe, “… Scott Denning, the Monfort chair of Atmospheric Sciences at Colorado State University [who is] a former field geologist and fracker, said in an open forum that fracking is a heavy industrial activity that should not be allowed in any city. ”

The Associated Press recently stated that four in 10 new oil and gas wells in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming near national forests and fragile watersheds aren’t being inspected properly.  Dennis Willis, former Bureau of Land Management officer explained it was “a disaster waiting to happen.”

At a recent talk at Auraria Campus in Denver, Colorado, founder and director of Alternative Radio, David Barsamian explained that there is a full-scale assault on the environment in Colorado.  Calling the “corporate media a health hazard,” Barsamian emphasized how pipeline leaks are routinely ignored on news stations and how June. 5, 2014, was World Environment Day and no discussion or coverage was seen on any news stations.  Another example of climate denial in Colorado is the Denver Post, which is still publishing climate hoax/denial opinion pieces, which pushes environmental dialogue in the wrong direction.  Publications like Reddit and the Los Angeles Times recently banned climate hoax/denial op-eds, defending their decision by stating, “Saying ‘there’s no sign humans have caused climate change’ is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.”

As long as meaningful action on climate change will hurt the short-term profits of the fossil fuel industries, the media conglomerates and Wall Street, we can’t expect the media blackout to end. ‘It’s called capitalism,’ as Google’s Eric Schmidt said last week trying to explain the Internet giant’s evasions of billions of dollars in taxes. – Craig Brown, Founder of Common Dreams

As stated in an article by Stenhouse et al. in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, “Meteorologists and other atmospheric science experts are playing important roles in helping society respond to climate change.”  World Meteorological Organization Secretary General Michel Jarraud stated last month, “This should serve as yet another wakeup call about the constantly rising levels of greenhouse gases which are driving climate change. If we are to preserve our planet for future generations, we need urgent action to curb new emissions of these heat trapping gases … Time is running out.”

However, in Colorado, mainstream news meteorologists rarely mention climate change and often refer to increased flooding or severe or deadly weather as strange, unpredictable, or mysterious.  By not framing Hurricane Sandy, Typhoon Haiyan that killed more than 1,000 in the Philippines, the 2013 Colorado floods, and other extreme weather as being spawned from human-driven climate change, the public discussion on climate change will be quarantined in the shadowy corner while pop culture talk and Bieber mug shots will flourish.

As trained scientists, meteorologists, who have been Certified Broadcast Meteorologists and approved by the National Weather Association have the responsibility to tell the truth about climate change and should not lie by omission.  Investigative reporter Mike De Souza recently uncovered that weather forecasters in Canada are forbidden from discussing climate change.  Silence can be deadly, silence can be violent, and as stated by Martin Luther King Jr., “there comes a time when silence is betrayal.”

Chris Steele is a journalist.  He can be reached at: csteele@regis.edu.  

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 02, 2015
Paul Street
Strange Words From St. Bernard and the Sandernistas
Jose Martinez
Houston, We Have a Problem: False Equivalencies on Police Violence
Henry Giroux
Global Capitalism and the Culture of Mad Violence
Ajamu Baraka
Making Black Lives Matter in Riohacha, Colombia
William Edstrom
Wall Street and the Military are Draining Americans High and Dry
David Altheide
The Media Syndrome Between a Glock and a GoPro
Ruth Fowler
Ask Not: Lost in the Crowd with Amanda Palmer
Yves Engler
Canada vs. Africa
Ron Jacobs
The League of Empire
Andrew Smolski
Democracy and Privatization in Neoliberal Mexico
Stephen Lendman
Gaza: a Socioeconomic Dead Zone
Norman Pollack
Obama, Flim-Flam Artist: Alaska Offshore Drilling
Binoy Kampmark
Australian Border Force Gore
Kim Nicolini
Remembering Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?