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Sue Lani Madsen: City Council’s focus on climate change ignores real Spokane issues

UPDATED: Fri., July 14, 2017, 11:34 p.m.

FILE - Steam billows from the Waste-to-Energy Plant in Spokane on Tuesday, Dec.13, 2016. Workers at the facility earned $1.2 million in overtime pay last year, part of what officials said was a worrying upward trend. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE - Steam billows from the Waste-to-Energy Plant in Spokane on Tuesday, Dec.13, 2016. Workers at the facility earned $1.2 million in overtime pay last year, part of what officials said was a worrying upward trend. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

On Monday night, the Spokane City Council will take up a topic of vital interest to every citizen. Not effective pothole repair. Not timely snow removal. Not how to pay for more police on the beat. Not even weighing in on whether to cover the Pavilion in Riverfront Park.

The summary for Ordinance No. C35519 says it “will acknowledge the fact of anthropogenic climate change.” Except human-caused climate change is not a fact, it’s a theory. A scientific theory offers a systematic explanation for facts. Observable and measured data are facts.

There are at least two anthropogenic climate change theories. One is focused on industrialization and greenhouse gas production, including carbon dioxide. Its structure is defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and made famous by Michael Mann’s now discredited “hockey stick” graph and Al Gore’s inconveniently wrong predictions.

The second major anthropogenic climate change theory is less well known because it evolved out of Africa. Western culture regularly undervalues ideas from outside the European-North American bubble. Allan Savory, 2010 winner of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, has spent a lifetime focused on fighting human caused desertification to reverse climate change. The Savory model identifies loss of soil organic matter (carbon) through unsustainable agricultural practices as the primary human contribution to catastrophic climate change. His solution is regenerative agriculture and healthy rural ecosystems.

The council resolution is referring to the more widely held urban greenhouse gas theory. Pointing out places where the theory doesn’t account for the facts gets you called a denier.

Author and science-trained skeptic Dr. Michael Crichton undertook his own study of the evidence, first published in “State of Fear” in 2004. He concluded the science had been twisted to fit rather than inform the policy narrative.

At this point, popular culture jumps up and waves its arms, yelling “but, but, there’s consensus!” Crichton responded bluntly in a speech given at the California Institute of Technology. “Consensus is the business of politics. … In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus. There is no such thing as consensus science …. Consensus is only invoked where the science is not solid enough.”

Other skeptics prefer the title agnostic. They don’t really care whether climate is being impacted significantly by humans or primarily driven by natural sun spot rhythms. It’s changing, because that’s what climate does. Either way humans have to adapt as they always have. There are plenty of good reasons to use energy and water conservatively. Telling scary stories isn’t necessary.

Joel Salatin, a hero of the sustainable agriculture and slow food crowd, was recently slammed by a blog labeling him a classic climate change denier for not being on board with the fact of anthropogenic climate change. Or as Salatin put it in his rebuttal, because he didn’t “join the shrieking sky is falling because of human activity camp.”

He pointed out scientists have been wrong as often as right, and that orthodox science always has “included a minority view of heretics who were eventually exonerated in the process of time.” He counsels patience and resilience. He also points out that if the camp on full alert over humans causing climate change were really serious about impact, they’d be pressing for sacrificial cultural change and not mere tweaks. Cancel the youth soccer leagues and get those families outside converting their lawns into vegetable gardens.

Harold Ambler, a journalist and self-identified liberal, readily repeated the mainstream narrative until he ran across the work of an obscure solar physicist in 2008. He started asking questions that resulted in the publication of “Don’t Sell Your Coat: Surprising Truths About Climate Change.” He’s a proponent of non-anthropogenic theories of climate change, which points back to adaptability rather than prevention as the appropriate response.

Where were we? Oh yes, an ideologically driven City Council agenda addressing one of two theories of anthropogenic climate change and ignoring natural climate variability. And at least on Monday, not addressing the fact that constituents’ top concerns are streets, utilities and public safety.