FROM READERS: Mid-Missouri Citizens Climate Lobby to launch Monday

Saturday, October 26, 2013 | 7:05 p.m. CDT

Johann N. Bruhn, Ph.D., is a longtime Columbia resident.  He has studied forest ecology and forest health professionally for more than 40 years.  He can be contacted at

On Monday, October 28, a local group of citizens will launch the mid-Missouri chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby with a 3-hour workshop beginning at 6:00 p.m. at Stoney Creek Inn, in Columbia.  CCL's national director of field development, Lynate Pettengill, will lead the workshop.  If you're concerned about climate change, and want to join with thousands of like-minded citizens to help make a real difference, read on and then attend this CCL workshop. 

As a citizen who has been observing the gradually building effects of human-induced climate change, this event is both symbolically and actually timely. This Tuesday is the first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the effects of which all of us will be paying for the rest of our lives in missed opportunities as well as direct costs. One of the effects of our society's short attention span is that we fail to effectively link initial events with the costly long-term ripple effects: homelessness, loss of livelihood, loss of life, loss of infrastructure, and even hopelessness. 

In trying to grasp the totality of the devastation wreaked by superstorm Sandy, let's expand our vision beyond that to encompass as well the total devastation caused by recent firestorms in Australia, Arizona, California, Colorado and elsewhere, which also includes loss of life and property as well as the consequences of the ensuing flooding in Colorado. These aren't the last storms, fires and floods that we will experience, and they probably aren't the worst, thanks to climate change. As the old movie adverts advised, "Coming to your town soon!" You don't have to be a climatologist to see what's happening in our ecosystems and draw the link to human-caused carbon pollution. Outstanding climate scientists, like James Hansen (Columbia University, formerly with NASA) have made the situation plenty clear. Watch his TED lecture at: For more information, consider reading his book, "Storms of My Grandchildren."

In Professor Hansen's TED talk, he concludes that the principal objective of CCL, a carbon fee and dividend, is the best political and economic mechanism to avert climate catastrophe. Hansen doesn't need to be an economist (and neither do you) to understand the economic and political wisdom of a carbon fee (a tax on carbon fuels at their sources) coupled with dividends totaling 100 percent of these revenues distributed equally to all citizens. These dividends will help each of us off-set the increased costs of fossil-fuel dependent goods and services that will be passed on to us as a result of the tax. The political wisdom of this tax is that it is revenue-neutral, meaning that the government will not keep the funds collected. This is possible because it will cost the federal government very little to use existing data and infrastructure to collect and distribute the tax revenues. Even some conservative Republicans are finding this approach appealing. Because this approach makes heavily subsidized fossil-fuel energy more expensive (reflecting its total cost to society) it provides a more level playing field for non-fossil fuel forms of energy, while permitting citizens to vote with their dollars. Come learn more Monday evening as we inaugurate the newest chapter of CCL here in mid-Mo!

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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Mark Foecking October 27, 2013 | 1:25 p.m.

Let me preface this by saying I believe human caused climate change is the greatest problem of the 21st century. I simply don't think we have owned up to what we need to do to stop it.

European nations have been taxing carbon (as motor fuel) for decades. They have efficient transportation systems, relative to ours, because of that. No politician in the US will get reelected by advocating any tax that makes gasoline more expensive. We're a nation of hopeless petroleum addicts, and we'll never get over our addiction without some sort of major supply shock that will get us to think beyond our windshields. Tax? Forget it.

Gasoline should have been taxed to $10/gallon in 1980, just like every other oil-importing nation has done. But we continued in denial, and now still import half our petroleum and waste it shamefully (dragging around 2 tons of steel to move 150 pounds of person is shamefully wasteful). China and India are getting ready to do the same thing, and they have 7 times our population. Until we get past the idea that we can be freely mobile, warm, cool, and have whatever we want to eat and drink, whenever, we might as well forget about fixing climate change. Hopefully we can adapt well enough to save most people.


(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith October 28, 2013 | 8:28 a.m.

@ Mark Foecking:

Some of us are betting that water (not taken from the oceans) will do us in before we succumb to global warming.

In China today only half the water available to cities is considered fit for human consumption, while more than half the groundwater in the North China plain can no longer be used for industrial purposes (due to pollution), and while seven tenths of that groundwater is unfit for human consumption or even "human contact," such as washing clothes, bathing, etc.

Yet China has planned to build about 450 new coal fired power plants, burning 1.2 billion metric tons of coal a year. These stations, as with existing ones, will have water cooling.

These stations alone will consume 9 billion metric tons of water.

According to some estimates, China doesn't have that much water to spare.

Part of the industrial water use problem is that China presently recycles only 40% of the water used in similar situations in Europe. For each cubic meter of water used, China gets $8 worth of output; for each cubic meter of water used, European countries receive $58 worth of output.

[Data source: "The Economist," October 12th, 2013]

Availability of clean (or at least "cleanable") fresh water is not confined to China. Several highly populated countries (India and Pakistan, for example) are also in trouble, and we are experiencing groundwater depletion and contamination here in the United States.

Probably many don't realize it, but the largest source of fresh water reserve in the world is tied up in glaciers (mostly Greenland and Antartica), but global warming will cause this source to melt directly into the ocean.

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders October 29, 2013 | 3:51 p.m.

The greatest problem of the 21st Century is named Fukushima.

The Pacific Ocean is dying, as will everyone who depends upon it as a food source.

Yet since government cannot solve this problem, it remains hidden in plain sight. Meanwhile, TEPCO just announced that it will not pay for cleanup.

But sure, go ahead and talk about controlling the weather by political mandate...

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith October 29, 2013 | 5:18 p.m.

Richard Saunders:

Good point. It seems odd that Japan would rely so heavily on nuclear power reactors, given they are the only country to date bombed with nuclear weapons, but Japan is woefully lacking in fossil fuel sources and must import both fossil fuel and most of the industrial minerals it needs.

Obviously (and their government admits it) the problems of earthquakes and tsumanis were well known before the decision was made to build nuclear power reactors.

Japan has some geothermal power potential, but does so because it is geologically capable of volcanism. Earthquakes and volcanism can and sometimes do occur in the same place*. Mount Fuji was obviously once an active volcano.

I would not want to live in Japan.

*-Other examples would include New Zealand, Philippines, Mexico and several Central American countries.

PS: In the 1960s we shipped rail carloads of a clay from Callaway County (just south of Fulton) to port for shipment to Japan. It was a grade we no longer used in products, and we had no idea what the Japanese did with it (I can make an educated guess), but they paid a good price for it. If Frank Christian were currently posting here he'd remind us that before World War II the Japanese bought tons of scrap iron and scrap steel from us; we KNOW where that went!

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