Local citizens tend to view climate change through the lens of their political viewpoint, with progressives accepting it as a fact and conservatives regarding it with skepticism or downright scorn.
Curtis Heeter, co-chair of the Southwest Colorado Greens, said he has been convinced for years that climate change is occurring.
“I first heard of it about 1972. I read some stuff by Roger Revelle of Harvard, the professor that Al Gore was associated with. I firmly believed it then and I believe everything he said back in the late ’60s and ’70s is true. He predicted what would happen and it’s happening.”
Heeter said while critics argue that warming isn’t happening everywhere or all the time, “just because it gets colder in a certain area doesn’t mean that’s not part of the phenomenon.” “It’s not a year-to-year change, it’s a trend, and the trend has been going on quite clearly for years,” Heeter said.
Bud Garner, former emcee of the local 9-12 Project, disagrees. “They’re wrong,” he said of Gore and climate-change believers. “They have been caught in their lies. It is political and it is a money-maker for them.”
Garner said it’s absurd to say the world is “hotter now than it’s ever been” when records only date back to the 1870s. “These are the same people who believe in a 14-billionyear- old planet, so we’re taking 140 years of record-keeping and saying it’s the worst of all time. I find that a stretch.”
Garner discussed the inherent problems involved in extrapolating global trends from local observations. For instance, old-timers say the Four Corners used to have heavier snowfalls and longer winters. “Those stories can be true and not have any relationship to the global weather system,” he said. “For every place where less snow is falling, I can find you a place where they never had snow and now they’re getting two-foot drifts. They had a record winter in Europe last year.”
Garner said he doesn’t trust the accuracy of weather data and that computer modeling doesn’t account for clouds and water vapor, which are cooling agents. But if the earth is warming, he said, the main issue is whether it’s human-caused, and “it absolutely is not.”
Anyway, he added, “What’s wrong with a longer growing season?”
The two victors in the county’s Republican primary commission races fall somewhere in the middle. Dewayne Findley, winner of the primary in District 3 (Mancos), said the climate is changing locally at least, but he isn’t convinced that human-caused global warming is a fact.
“There’s obviously climate change on a smaller scale,” Findley said. “All you have to do is look 10 years back and we had much heavier snows. There’s a lot more wind now and a lot less moisture this year. It’s climate change but I’m not sure it’s man-caused.
“It’s an interesting discussion to have, because I don’t think anyone would deny we’re seeing a substantially different climate than anybody’s been used to. When the loggers are praying for rain you know it’s dry.”
Keenan Ertel, the victory in District 2 (Cortez), said he does believe humanity can affect the weather. “I know that mankind is having a continuing and ongoing effect on our globe,” he said. “Things have to be affected just by the sheer volume of people on this planet and the things we consume and the things we produce. I do think some of the science that backs that is very valid.
“Watching the polar ice cap shrink is one of the things that has made me know the climate is changing, although it may not be something we’re directly causing.”
However, he said many things are cyclical. “Look back a thousand years or so,” he said. “Weather change forced the Anasazi people to leave this country. I’m a believer in the cyclical nature of things. This may be part of a hundred-year or two-hundred-year cycle that may have come about regardless, but I do believe the human population has a definite effect on this planet.”