State of deniers: GOP gubernatorial candidates

April 25, 2011 by Ken Ward Jr.

If you thought the Democratic gubernatorial candidates here in West Virginia were something else … check out the answers from the Republicans regarding a simple question about global warming … hard to know what to say about answers like these.

Do you accept the science that global warming is occurring, and is largely caused by the emissions from coal-fired power plants? If so, what specifically would you have our state do about it?

— Clark S. Barnes:

Scientists continue to debate the issue and I’m not in a position to determine the answer. Carbon-based fuels continue to be the efficient method of providing the nations needed energy. Recent disasters in Japan will fuel a resurgence in the importance of the energy provided by West Virginia.

— Mitch B. Carmichael:

NO. I do not adhere to the belief structure that purports that climate change is caused by man-made initiatives. As Delegate, I voted against the “cap and trade” bill that was passed in the Manchin administration.

— Ralph William “Bill” Clark:

Global warming does seem to be occurring, but solid scientific evidence is not yet available to show that it is largely caused by coal-fired power plants. The full extent of the cause and/or effect roles played by CO2 is not yet known. We must protect both our economy and the environment.

— Larry Faircloth:

I reject such science.

— Betty S. Ireland:

Our world would be better if all nations worked together to eliminate pollution of our environment, from all sources.

— Bill Maloney:

When I’m governor, West Virginia will mine coal. The EPA and the OSM are out of control. I’ll continue the fight and the lawsuits against the EPA, and I’ll also assert the primacy of West Virginia laws, so that our coal miners can make a living.

— Mark A. Sorsaia:

I do not accept the proposition that global warming is occurring as a direct result of coal-fired power plants. Good government is about maintaining a balance between a clean environment and a healthy economy. We can do both, without the radical approach taken by the EPA.

42 Responses to “State of deniers: GOP gubernatorial candidates”

  1. Taylor says:

    To me the most striking thing about those answers is some candidates’ apparent complete lack of understanding of, and lack of respect for, science.
    At all levels, our educational system does a poor job of educating students about science, with the exception of those students who choose to pursue science as a career.

  2. Seth says:

    Mr. Ken Ward Jr.-

    Four of the candidates stated that the environment was changing. They’re just not convinced of the ‘science’ that is telling the tale. The others just flat out deny the premise. What kind of response do YOU require?

  3. Brian says:

    Taylor, it has less to do with our educational system than out media system. When your income relies on you not understanding, then you will never understand. It is that simple.

  4. Thomas Rodd says:

    Here’s a summary from Wikipedia of the plot of the famous play by Ibsen, “An Enemy of the People.” The late, great West Virginia lawyer Larry Harless had this play as a favorite. The bottom line is that people can be easily led to deny the truth, en masse, if their pocketbooks feel threatened:

    “Dr. Thomas Stockmann is a popular citizen of a small coastal town in Norway. The town has recently invested a large amount of public and private money towards the development of baths, a project led by Dr. Stockmann and his brother, Peter Stockmann, the Mayor. The town is expecting a surge in tourism and prosperity from the new baths, said to be of great medicinal value, and as such, the baths are a source of great local pride. However, just as the baths are proving successful, Dr. Stockmann discovers that waste products from the town’s tannery are contaminating the waters, causing serious illness amongst the tourists. He expects this important discovery to be his greatest achievement, and promptly sends a detailed report to the Mayor, which includes a proposed solution which would come at a considerable cost to the town.

    “To his surprise, Dr. Stockmann finds it difficult to get through to the authorities. They seem unable to appreciate the seriousness of the issue and unwilling to publicly acknowledge and address the problem because it could mean financial ruin for the town. As the conflict develops, the Mayor warns his brother that he should “acquiesce in subordinating himself to the community.” Dr. Stockmann refuses to accept this, and holds a town meeting at Captain Horster’s house in order to persuade people that the baths must be closed.

    “The townspeople – eagerly anticipating the prosperity that the baths will bring – refuse to accept Dr. Stockmann’s claims, and his friends and allies, who had explicitly given support for his campaign, turn against him en masse. He is taunted and denounced as a lunatic, an “Enemy of the People.” In a scathing rebuttal of both the Victorian notion of community and the principles of democracy, Dr. Stockmann proclaims that in matters of right and wrong, the individual is superior to the multitude, which is easily led by self-advancing demagogues. Dr. Stockmann sums up Ibsen’s denunciation of the masses, with the memorable quote “…the strongest man in the world is the man who stands most alone.” He also says: “A minority may be right; a majority is always wrong.”

  5. Soyedina says:

    Seth rightly points out that the problem in Mr Ward’s analysis is this sticky squashy notion of “belief”.

    Does anyone here seriously consider that these politicians have the conceptual and methodological training, analytical toolkits and access to primary data in order to make a reasonable inference about the state of the science themselves?
    I don’t.

  6. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    Actually, if you read the QUESTION, it doesn’t being the idea of “belief” into play. It says:

    “Do you accept the science that global warming is occurring, and is largely caused by the emissions from coal-fired power plants?”

    The notion of what candidates “believe” was something that I — probably in-artfully — used in a headline in a blog post about the Democratic candidates,

    Now, perhaps you could make a good argument that this again is not important — whether they “accept” the science doesn’t invalidate the science. But whether they accept it is important in deciding what sort of public official they are and what sort of governor they might be — to me, it gets to the heart of whether they as an office holder would use science as a key tool in setting public policy.

    I’m sure that there was probably a better way to word the question. But it seems to me that the question(s) as worded also got to the bottom of the point that matters: Whether these folks would allow a well-established, widespread and worldwide scientific consensus to educate, inform and guide their policies on this issue.

    Does every political leader have a degree in physics? Have any of them published a dozen peer-reviewed journal articles about climate science? Probably not. And I don’t know that this should be the requirement.

    But one doesn’t have to be a scientist to read about climate change/global warming and develop an appreciation for what the science has found and to figure out where that science would lead a reasoned public policy. There are plenty of books on the subject, and there are easily accessible reports — written in plain English — by the National Academy of Sciences, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and even the IPCC publishes a version of its reports that are meant as summaries for policymakers.

    There is a “war on science” going on though, and these questions are aimed at finding out which side of that war our gubernatorial candidates are on … it seems pretty clear, doesn’t it?


  7. Ted says:

    Ken, I agree. I think it is even more striking that one of the candidates is chair of the philosophy department at WVU with little ties to the coal industry. Although Mr. Clark seems to be interested in libertarianiam – or what conservative Robert Locke aptly called Marxism of the Right – you would think an academic would have a little more appreciation for science and empirical evidence even if he sleeps with a copy of Anarchy, State and Utopia under his pillow.

    I think Naomi Klein hits the nail on the head here:

    “Climate change challenges everything conservatives believe in. So they’re choosing to disbelieve it, at our peril.”

  8. Forrest Roles says:

    The appropriate answer to your question to the candidates is “no” based upon the normal reading of the word “largely” Webster’s says it means in great or major part. Coal burning contributes 27% of the CO2 emitted in the US presently. a That does not qualify as coal burning largely causing global warming.
    There are arguments that coal’s emissions per btu are higher than other fuels and its burning’s contribution worldwide may be higher. It is certainly likely to get higher as recent problems with nuclear and oil discourage their use to meet the growing energy demands of developing economies. Moreover, some gases other than CO2 have far greater warming impact. However, even if you intended “largely” to mean significantly, the correct answer could still arguably be “no” because the problem is global and US coal use assuredly does not have the questioned impact.
    These candidates are running for offices that have no official influence on national, much less world, climate policy. That makes the question’s purpose suspicious. I know that the claims of some coal advocates that the scientific conclusions of the UN and other bodies are specious pique those who advocate for US action to reduce emissions, including the editorial writers on your paper and many contributors to this blog. However, that would not make a question about that science relevant to the candidacy for magistrate or surveyor. It is little more relevant to candidates for governor.
    Except to give those who wish to express that pique an opportunity to do so, this post has little use.

  9. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    You make a very valid point regarding the wording of the question. It should have been worded in a much more precise manner.

    To quote from the source you used for your 27 percent figure ( here’s the complete link, ) … The Pew Center says:

    — One of the most significant challenges in addressing global climate change is reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions resulting from the use of coal.

    — GHG emissions from coal-fired power are significant and growing rapidly.

    So, while I’d agree with you that the word “largely” is not the best or most accurate term … the source of your data characterizes coal’s role as “one of the most significant challenges” to deal with and as “significant and growing rapidly.”

    Most of the science I’ve seen that has studied ways to deal with global warming has listed reducing coal’s greenhouse emissions as if not critical at least very, very important … The National Academy of Sciences has said that, so has the IPCC, so has the Union of Concerned Scientists. (See this very helpful report from UCS, ).

    There’s lots of evidence that you’re wrong, though, about whether a governor in West Virginia could influence national and international policy about these things — and certainly whether a governor who embraced the future and tried to take concrete actions about climate change would do the state’s residents some good.

    A governor who didn’t try to dismiss the overwhelming science on this issue, and tried instead to move the state in the direction of leading the way in dealing with global warming might make some incredible progress … even in the eyes of one who wants to protect the coal industry.

    There’s really little doubt that the best path forward for the coal industry is to embrace CCS and try to make it work and to deploy it as quickly as possible — AEP says that. I believe the UMWA believes that. The Pew Center link you mention outlines the sorts of steps that could lead in that direction.

    Another Pew Center site, outlines the steps that many states have already taken to move forward in reducing greenhouse emissions within their borders. If West Virginia had adopted a very strong climate policy as part of its energy plan, it might have helped to push utilities to more quickly deploy CCS — that would put our state’s coal industry and our utilities a step ahead of other coal-producing regions in this regard.


  10. Thomas Rodd says:

    Forrest, you offer essentially quibbling critiques of the wording of questions, when the website you cite to is chock-full of abundant evidence irrefutably pointing to a terrible scientific truth — the world is headed for massive problems as the result of unrestrained coal (and oil and gas) burning; and the time to take action to try to avoid the worst consequences is now.

    That is the science that these aspiring political leaders who Ken quotes (repubs and Dems) are quite willing to deny, as they commit to fighting for the right to pump CO2 into the atmosphere, without cost or restriction.

    Look back at my post about Ibsen. The town leaders were willing to poison the people who used the spa, to keep their income stream up. These politicians are willing to fight for pro-CO2-emitting policies that will trash the lives of future generations.

    To call the sentiments of people who are trying to preserve those future lives some sort of “pique” is unfair. What we need most is facing these tough facts, and crafting solutions — not denial and delay.

  11. Forrest Roles says:

    Ken and Tom,
    No one doubts, I believe, that the global warming problem IS global, requiring a global solution and that any action West Virginia takes, including the banning of any coal burning or, more effective, the operation of any internal combustion engine, would have no discernible effect on the problem. That being the case, less drastic action would only be useful if it caused most of the rest of the world to follow suit. I cannot imagine that you believe that would be the case. Where is the evidence that West Virginia has any hope of leading the world by its example?
    The absence of any hope that the sort of action you propose would be of any help to anyone explains why none of WV’s gubernatorial candidates, or for that matter its congressional members, support such unilateral sacrifice. The continued urging of it only detracts from your efforts to secure governmental action promoting safety and local environmental protection. I claim no knowledge in those fields, but believe there could well be room for argument there. I see none here.

  12. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    It’s also possible that the absence of any serious discussion of climate change by any major political leaders in West Virginia is that the fear the money (political speech) that the industry will throw at anyone who tries to foster such discussion.

    Witness the advertising campaign your friends in the coal industry waged against Sen. Rockefeller for daring to propose only a two-year moratorium on EPA action, rather than a permanent block of EPA rules.

    Moreover, a huge part of what blocks national action in Congress is that same political speech (money) by the industry and the pressure it creates for coalfield elected officials to deny the existence of science.

    It’s important for West Virginia voters to know if those who want to lead us want to simply stick their heads in the sand or — as you seem to advocate — want to do nothing until the perfect global solution is found.


  13. Thomas Rodd says:

    Forrest, pretending that West Virginia’s leaders have not fought tooth and nail (and quite effectively) against national AND global efforts to rein in climate change is ridiculous. Moreover, “unilateral sacrifice” is nowhere in the discussion.

    The path that Ibsen identified — seeking any sort of rhetorical “reason” to do nothing, in the interests of business as usual — is no longer acceptable.

  14. Taylor says:

    A good discussion, much to comment on:
    1) The Ibsen play is a very apt comparison, Mr. Rodd. Know what other piece from the world of drama came to mind as I was reading it? The movie “Jaws:” remember, the mayor refused to close the beaches because that would’ve had dire effects on the tourist town’s revenues. Disastrous results.
    2) Soyedina reinforces my original point. It is painfully obvious that at least some of these politicians do *not* have the means “to make a reasonable inference about the state of the science themselves.” But IMO, they would if the educational system–and parents, by modeling respect for science–were doing their jobs.
    3) W/r/t Forrest’s assertion that “some gases other than CO2 have far greater warming impact,” it’s important to point out that that’s true on a *molecule-to-molecule* basis: molecule-to-molecule, methane has more than 20x the global warming impact of CO2. But because of its much greater volume, CO2 is still the gas that is the greatest contributor to climate change, by far.

  15. yogipsk says:

    I think its interesting that comments are on for this topic of Republican candidates, but is off on the discussion of Democratic candidates…

  16. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    My apologies … I turned the comments off on that post, because I was going to be out of pocket for more than 24 hours and not able to take part in the discussion … When I returned, I simply forgot to turn the comments back on.

    Again, my apologies.


  17. Dave Bassage says:

    I find it interesting that while no candidate from either party took the optimal stance of acknowledging climate science and pledging to help steer WV toward a leadership role in clean coal technology during the transition period to a renewable energy future, with WV potentially transitioning to geo-thermal or some other low to no-carbon alternatives, the two respondents who seemed most attuned to the need for sustainable options are the two women in the race, Betty Ireland and Natalie Tennant.

    While they didn’t address the issue head on, their answers didn’t duck the importance of environmental responsibility as the others seemed to.

    I have to confess I’m not as up to speed as I’d like to be on the various candidates, but if I had to cast my vote today I’d be voting for a woman!

  18. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    But Dave … neither Betty Ireland nor Natalie Tennant answered the questions that were asked …

    Remember, the questions were:

    Do you accept the science that global warming is occurring, and is largely caused by the emissions from coal-fired power plants?


    If so, what specifically would you have our state do about it?

    Betty Ireland did not say if she accepted the science, and she didn’t say what she would have West Virginia do about greenhouse emissions.

    Natalie Tennant didn’t say if she accepted the science on climate change, and also did not say what she would have West Virginia do about greenhouse emissions.

    To me, their very general answers about — to quote Natalie Tennant “responsible development of our natural resources” and “protecting the environment” indicate that they either don’t want to discuss climate change or don’t understand the issue, or they have such little interest in such matters that they simply lump them in and offer a general environmental answer.


  19. Soyedina says:

    Ken, you nailed it: “belief” isn’t part of the question on this post. That must have been still stuck in my head from the post that, as yogipsk points out, had comments off.

    Whether it’s tagged as “belief” or not, science denial is a huge problem across the world, particularly in western countries that maintain repeated assaults on science by an intersection of well-organized religious and industry lobbyists. It’s not unique to climate change science, we see this with the “preach the controversy” creationism bills that get introduced into one state legislature after another year after year.

    One one hand, I just don’t know what else we should expect from politicians. They are likely only interested in science when it can be construed to support some platform that those politicians are already committed to a priori.

    On the other, we cannot (or at least do not) derive our values and mores from science (no “oughts” can come from “is”) so looking for science to instruct us about what we should value as individuals or collective groups is equally fallacious. Science, for example, cannot say “We should reduce greenhouse gases”. But what can be said is that “If process X and patterns Y and Z are to be protected, then consider limiting factors A,B and C”.

    Expecting politicians, whose sole purpose to existence is catering their personal decisions to the whim of majorities or deep pockets, to express nuanced and informed views about the value of scientific knowledge or for that matter *anything* of objective value oris (to my jaded old cynical eye) a fool’s errand.

    For example our friend who does not “adhere to the belief structure that purports that climate change is caused by man-made initiatives.” He is claiming that AGW is about “belief structures”.

    And it some ways it is, for example we believe that we are not brains in a vat and that sensory data operationalized into mechanical measurements actually do correlate to patterns and processes of real material phenomena. Apparently he does not believe that empirical data are a reliable source of information about the world. I don’t consider scientific realism much of a belief structure but perhaps for some people it is.

    “I reject such science” is a fairly accurate assessment of that “belief structure” but it necessarily entails “I reject science, period”.

    What is sticky (and squarshy!) is the question “What constitutes a legitimate criticism [denial] of scientific knowledge?” Most scientists and philosophers of science I am familiar with would hold that all of what counts as knowledge is derived from science, thus criticising knowledge with knowledge is inherently a scientific conflict and not a political one. Denialism circumvents the knowledge requirement and proceeds directly to the political arena. For those who wish politics to be an enlightened informed social process, this constitutes a major problem.

  20. Forrest Roles says:

    Ken and Tom,
    You fail to respond to the thrust of the argument – unilateral state or federal action is useless sacrifice of good jobs and economic production because only global action has a chance of being effective. Rather you attack the coal industry for spending money to promote politicians who rightly conclude that harming their constituents for no reason is foolish policy and idiotic politics.
    The actions you promote are more akin to those found in a book by Anne Rand than a play by Ibsen. Useless regulation based on political correctness rather than logic is the suggested path. A good argument can be made that global action should be sought; there is no logic in imposing economic harm in the hope the sacrifice may motivate others who have shown no inclination in even talking about truly effective binding treaties.

  21. Soyedina says:

    Forrest, I don’t see your point. You are talking about “What do we to resolve this problem.” It appears to me that Ken’s post offers evidence that these folks deny there is a problem to begin with. That’s a bird of a whole ‘nother feather.

  22. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    First, please refrain from calling people or policies you disagree with foolish or idiotic. We don’t call names on this blog, and you know that.

    There are a broad range of groups — including scientists, citizens, environmentalists, political leaders and business groups — who believe that action by the United States will have great impact, by setting an example for the rest of the world, helping to jump-start new technologies, and helping to pave the way for the international action you say is necessary.

    That’s one very clear logic to taking action now — and it’s logic that was supported by, among others, American Electric Power, and the U.S. House of Representatives (and the president).

    Another logic to it is that the risks and the potential costs of not getting the world moving in the right direction are so great that wise people don’t want to waste another day in trying to combat the climate crisis.

    Part of the reason international efforts have failed is the failure of the United States to lead … as the only superpower remaining, many very smart people — from those on the National Academy of Sciences to those in the IPCC to those who voted for Waxman-Markey — believe we should act.

    I would be interested to see a list of say five groups of scientists who are not controlled by the fossil fuel industry who oppose passage of a strong climate bill by our Congress, or who would oppose passage of a similar bill by the West Virginia Legislature. Can you provide that list?


  23. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    Here’s one interesting discussion of the situation, from Joe Romm at Climate Progress, … Among other things, this piece argues that movement by the United States is necessary to get the global community of nations moving on the problem.

    The Union of Concerned Scientists had this to say:

    “Our country is at a crossroads: the United States can act responsibly and seize the opportunity to lead by developing new, innovative solutions, as well as immediately putting to use the many practical solutions we have at our disposal today; or we can choose to do nothing and deal with severe consequences later. At UCS we believe the choice is clear. It is time to push forward toward a brighter, cleaner future.”

    Further, they point out:
    The United States has [ALREADY] agreed in principle to work with more than 180 other nations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to bring about the “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic [human-caused] interference with the climate system.”

    Scientists clearly are saying that your approach — wait and see if the rest of the world will go along with it before the U.S. does anything — could spell doom for future generations.


  24. Forrest Roles says:

    The pejorative adjectives related to the policies, not the people. Your and others’s condemnation of the deniers’ position has been equally strong.
    The difficulty with getting world agreement to real emission reduction is that it requires the agreement of China, India, and a number of other developing countries whose emissions and use of coal are rapidly growing. They do not look to the US for leadership here. They instead believe that their ability to raise the vast numbers of their people who live in abject poverty depends on affordable energy and that means burning fossil fuels, including coal. There is no evidence to support the notion that they will more likely agree to devastate their economies merely because the US or the rest of the developed world does. That was made clear in Copenhagen and since.
    The US can abide by its promise to work toward an effective treaty and has done so in the last administration, without useless self inflicted harm. It can and should work on solutions other than simple reduction in coal use. Until the developing world agrees, however, all that a US unilateral reduction and limitation on domestic coal use would do is increase the sale of our coal to Asia and South America, where its burning would have the same effect as if burned here, and the loss of many jobs because our energy prices would skyrocket. If that sort of policy does not deserve the names assigned it, I do not know how to accurately characterize it.

  25. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    Perhaps you missed my question —

    I would be interested to see a list of say five groups of scientists who are not controlled by the fossil fuel industry who oppose passage of a strong climate bill by our Congress, or who would oppose passage of a similar bill by the West Virginia Legislature. Can you provide that list?

    If it is such a wrong-headed thing for the U.S. to take the lead here, you shouldn’t have any trouble providing some examples of organizations not tied to the industries involved that support your position.

    I look forward to seeing what you can provide on this … Ken.

  26. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    One other thing that I should have mentioned … what’s your view on policies intended to advance and deploy CCS? AEP, the UMWA and others support climate change legislation for this reason … are you opposed to this?


  27. Forrest Roles says:

    I do not think scientists have any higher degree of understanding what can be done politically than others do. Can you provide me with the names of any group of political scientists or politicians who assert that China or India will reduce fossil fuel use if the US does? There is no evidence that they would. Why would they? That use is critical to their stability and the well being of their people.
    At any rate, it not as simple as mere emissions. See the Economists take on carbon emissions as represented by the use of products produced by their burning. Would you suggest the US and Europe embargo products made by energy resulting from emissions? That might work, but I bet no group remotely familiar with how governments work predicts anything like its adoption.

  28. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Ah Forrest …

    It’s hard to not just come to the conclusion that you’re just a denier at heart, and will throw up anything you can to argue against government regulations that might be the only chance to curtail the climate crisis…if that’s not your view — that exactly what is you formula for dealing with this? What political leader do you support who proposes any sort of action by anyone? You also adhere to a strict notion that any effort to reduce emissions is death to the economy — there’s plenty of evidence that’s simply not the case … the IPCC, for example, believes that further deployment of CCS can be very beneficial to coal and to the communities where it is mined — and to the climate. But without a price on carbon, the chances of that happening are not very great, according to most experts.

    Seriously — what would you have our society do? If you don’t believe this is a problem, well, you’re entitled to that view — however in opposition to the overwhelming scientific evidence that view is … but if you believe it’s a problem, how can you simply argue for doing nothing about it?


  29. Thomas Rodd says:

    To get an agreement, it is necessary for all sides to tell each other that they will agree to limit GHG emissions — if the other side does. The US has been unwilling to say that, at Copenhagen or anyplace else –so it’s hard to blame others if they take the same position.

    Since we Americans emit far more GHGs per person than most nations, it stands to reason that we have farther to go to get to where we should be, and any agreement must reflect that fact.

    It is false to suggest that anyone is calling for “unilateral” US emissions reductions as a strategy that will prevent dangerous climate change; and arguments based on that false assumption are incorrect.

    It is also false to think that thousands of professional public policy people, world-class scientists, etc. are all engaged in a pointless attempt to injure people who own and mine and burn coal.

    The truth is that per capita, Americans are doing more than anyone else to change the atmosphere in a way that risks — and if continued ensures — a terrible future for humanity; and that until we start getting our house in order, the chances of a global deal are minimal. Moreover, the longer we delay, the greater the costs.

  30. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    It’s also important to note that the U.S. is falling farther and farther behind on clean energy investments:

    Here, Harvard economist Robert Stavins discusses the importance of the U.S. taking a lead role in dealing with climate change,

    And here, Stavins discusses the economic importance for many countries in addressing global warming,

    Another issue your theories ignore is the important role the U.S. commitment to funding green energy around the world plays in all of this,

    “The vital national interests of the United States require our nation to forge a global partnership with developing nations to accelerate their climate actions through new international investments in clean energy technologies, energy efficiency, tropical forest conservation and climate adaptation.”


  31. Dave Bassage says:

    Nobody on either side answered this question well, or even adequately. I’d have been amazed if any did, as that would unfortunately be political suicide in this state, sad to say.

    But of all the avoidance answers, Betty and Natalie at least dodged in the direction of supporting the environment in general, so I found that less discouraging than the other responses which I believe all directly pledged support to the coal industry. (but I could be wrong)

    We all know what candidates say is carefully worded to garner votes, and we often have to read between the lines in order to get some sense of how they might actually govern.

    I don’t expect our new Governor, whoever that might be, to charge into office endorsing the sort of climate perspective Ken, Tom, and I and many others here express whenever the topic comes up. That would create a massive backlash that might well be counterproductive in the long term.

    But I’d sure prefer a Governor who at least won’t dig in their heels as deep or might actually be open to progressive energy and environmental strategies in the years to come.

    As stated earlier, I’m woefully behind educating myself on the platforms and leadership capability of the broad slate of candidates. I spent the last month on a delightfully low carbon 225 mile river trip rowing down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in a boat I made using a lot of sustainably harvested wood, and the weeks before that scrambling to get the boat ready in time. I’m now trying to re-adjust to this version of reality (I much prefer that one) and may well have to make my best guess in the primary, then educate myself more thoroughly before the general election.

    My point, which I still support, is that Betty and Natalie had the ‘least worst’ responses, and that gives me at least some glimmer of hope, as whether successful in this election or not both are likely to continue in leadership roles in the state.

    We have to start somewhere, even if we’re way behind where we need to be.

  32. Thomas Rodd says:

    Dave Bassage: “Our world would be better if all nations worked together to eliminate pollution of our environment, from all sources.”

    From a response like this, you would confer a preferential status?

    Rodney King for Governor!

  33. Taylor says:

    Forrest, did you mean AYN Rand?
    I disagree with Soyedina’s assertion that “we cannot (or at least do not) derive our values and mores from science . . . so looking for science to instruct us about what we should value as individuals or collective groups is equally fallacious.”
    I won’t argue that science can dictate ALL our values and mores; but it can in some cases, e.g.
    –>Science, properly done, can tell us much about the results, or the probable outcome, of our actions, like using coal to generate electricity . . . so if we’re smart we’ll therefore *value* methods of electricity generation that have fewer impacts on living organisms and the environment.
    –>It is science (second law of thermodynamics) that tells us that eating meat is an inefficient way to appropriate the sun’s energy for ourselves, therefore our planet can support more vegetarians than meat eaters. That’s part of the reason why I eschew meat.
    –>It is science that tells us which living organisms can experience pain and trauma, and when they can do so. That information informs my personal ethics pertaining to other living things.

  34. Soyedina says:

    Taylor who says we should value “fewer impacts on living organisms and the environment.”? not science, that is a socially determined desired end.

    Neither does science “tell us that eating meat is an inefficient way to appropriate the sun’s energy for ourselves”. Compared to what? Why should we value “efficient” over “inefficient” ways of appropriating the suns energy for food? Science doesn’t have an answer, but socially constructed value systems do.

    You don’t have to be a scientist to understand that animals feel pain. But it is a mistake to claim that this fact implies anything about what you should or should not do.

    Pragmatically, I’m with Dave Bassage. Bad is better than worse. But I still think if you expect politicians to side with facts and reason then you are expecting too much. only by holding their feet to the fire with full public accountability can you even begin the process of forcing public policy to be a deterministic function of scientific knowledge under social consensus

  35. Thomas Rodd says:


    When you say “if you expect politicians to side with facts and reason then you are expecting too much,” you are indeed making a statement that comports with the data.


  36. edward says:

    Dear Forest,
    When Sen Rockefeller had Sec. Chou to Charleston the secretary quoted China’s Prime Minister as saying he had three main concerns for his country. First, civil unrest; second, the impact on his country of global warming and pollution; three, the economy. He went on to say that solving the environmental question would go a long way to solving the other two. First, because it would alleviate growing serious health problems and natural disasters of weather and, pollution and water; second, the research his country was going full steam ahead on would provide many manufacturing jobs and saleable research. So, unrest and the economy would both be addressed.
    Anyone who travels to developed and undeveloped countries sees ample evidence that the problems of global warming are accepted and are being addressed.
    It’s just not a good argument to say that addressing these issues in our State would not benefit US and the WORLD

  37. Forrest Roles says:

    My first thought was to respond that simply identifying that the proposed solution to a problem would do far more harm than good could not logically be confused with denial of the problem existence. However, since all the solutions proposed on your blog seem to me uselessly harmful, my position appears akin to that of one who thinks the problem unreal. The fact is, I do not know. The science seems to me logical but so does some of the opposition. Because the movement of research is toward confirmation and the harms from warming, while very speculative, sufficient to warrant action, your question about what that should be is worth the time to answer.
    The problem with the solutions focusing on reduction of CO2 emissions is both the economic harm caused and the likely failure of the proposed efforts. The problem is global and the response, if effective, must also be. There is no reason to believe that the US’s sacrifice, while perhaps necessary to the momentum of reductions necessary to persuade others to reduce, will do so. To me, the lesson form Copenhagen and since is that anything like the necessary global reductions will not be agreed to by the developing world because it will not go backwards in economic development. It points to American and other failures to act only for propaganda.
    More significantly, the science is simply uncertain that the sort of world wide reductions even our environmentalists propose would do any real good. The level of CO2 concentrations now existing is sufficient to bring about serious warming. The natural processes which reduce those concentrations are slow. Thus, even a reduction of CO2 emissions from electricity production to near zero would be ineffective for a long time. See David Victor, GLOBAL WARMING GRIDLOCK : EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES FOR PROTECTING THE PLANET Cambridge Univ, 2011
    There are steps which can be of use. First technologies for reducing greenhouse gases other than CO2 need to be perused. Those gases are amenable to rapid reduction by stopping emissions and they contribute substantially to the warming effect. Second, technologies to remove CO2 by new processes, like CCG and the development of new plants by genetic modification whose rapid growth can reduce the concentrations. Third is technology to block solar radiation in the atmosphere with reflectors and clouds. None of these actions have sufficient government is proven, but they are not subject to the argument that even if they work, they will do little or no good.
    Finally, there needs to be more effort to adapt to the changes which will the science finds likely even with adoption of effective strategies. Again, there is no progress here. Warming will do good in some places. Its harms can be ameliorated in others.
    The bottom line is that a strategy based on unilateral reduction in emissions of CO2 is near certainly useless self sacrifice; and, even global commitments to CO2 reductions are likely of little use and impossible to secure. Other, potentially useful actions are posed and if the scientists predicting severe harm from warming are right, we’d better explore them.

  38. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    I’m not sure I followed this sentence:

    “There is no reason to believe that the US’s sacrifice, while perhaps necessary to the momentum of reductions necessary to persuade others to reduce, will do so.”

    Perhaps you would explain.

    In addition, I wonder if you have read the IPCC chapter which describes that group’s proposals for action, … and I also wondered if you had read Victor/Heller book you cited, or if that was just a citation from some other document. I have not read that particular work and if you had was hoping you would summarize more for us.

    Thanks, Ken.

  39. Forrest Roles says:

    The sentence is hard to understand. What I meant to say is that while there is a defensible argument that the refusal of the US to take stronger steps to reduce CO2 emissions prevents developing nations from doing so, there is no evidence that its doing so will cause China and others to take effective steps.
    I have read the summary and a couple of the chapters in the IPCC’s action description. I find it tough slogging, probably because the authors wish to avoid criticism for deviation from the scientific method when writing about what are ultimately political issues.
    That is not the case with Dr. Victor’s book, which I have not finished but scanned in toto.. I read him elsewhere . See When I’m finished, (including his suggestions for possibly effective actions), I’ll let you know.

  40. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Thanks, Forrest.

  41. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    That Q and A you provided a link for has some interesting things in it …

    For example, David Victor seems to support the notion of the U.S. moving ahead and trying to take the lead in dealing with reduction of greenhouse gases:

    “We really need to be in the lead. The United States, for example, emits about five times the CO2 per capita as China.”


  42. Taylor says:

    I just became aware of this YouTube discussion called “Who Says Science Has Nothing to Say About Morality?” featuring Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. I haven’t gotten through the whole thing yet, but Sam Harris makes good points, imo.

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