Harford council president says he's a human climate change denier

The president of the Harford County Council says changes in climate occur naturally and are not directly a result of human activity and arguments for the latter are “bogus.”

Speaking during the business from the president portion of Tuesday night’s council meeting in Bel Air, Council President Richard Slutzky blamed the United Nations in particular for stoking the worldwide concerns about climate in order to effect the transfer of wealth from richer countries like the United States to poorer ones.

Slutzky said he has done research online, where he found consensus from some of the top climate scientists and astrophysicists in the world, people who are affiliated with top universities, who say climate change is part of a naturally-occuring cycle of changes that have happened over millions of years, and is not caused by human activity.

A Republican, Slutzky has previously railed against “fake news” and spoken out about other national issues. He has served on the council since late 2002 and has been council president since late 2014.

He stood by his remarks and his research in an interview with The Aegis Wednesday night. Slutzky said he was “not set in stone” about whether humans cause climate change, but he was “being bounced around so much” by arguments coming from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on one side and counter-arguments from scientists at institutions around the world.

“I’m tending to lean to the side of the people that are doing this research in the most [prestigious] academic environments with some of the greatest minds that we have,” he said.

Slutzky is a retired teacher and coach with about 39 years of coaching and teaching health, physical education, history, biology and Earth science at colleges, high schools and middle schools around the country. He spent 31 years as a faculty member at Aberdeen High School, serving as the department chair for health and physical education.

His remarks were made as the county government administration is developing a green infrastructure plan, part of the HarfordNEXT master plan of 2016. The green infrastructure would be a network of spaces meant to protect local natural resources and promote community health, according to a recent news release inviting public input on the program at a workshop held Feb. 8.

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman has not yet been able to review Slutzky’s comments, because he was in Annapolis Wednesday, administration spokesperson Cindy Mumby said Thursday.

She said climate change is “not an area of expertise” for county government. She also said Harford is committed to measures to protect natural resources such as stormwater management and building a green infrastructure network.

Sixty people participated in the workshop at Harford Community College Feb. 8, “and the reaction overall was favorable,” Mumby said. "We plan to keep the community engaged as this moves forward.”

Slutzky has announced his retirement from the council and politics with the end of his term in December and has taken the opportunity in the remaining months “to try to bring issues before the public that are sometimes floating out there at the national and local level without a lot of input,” he said.

“The biggest problem we see in a lot of these things is that people have heard the comments of fake news and other issues like that,” he said, according to a review of the video of Tuesday’s council meeting.

All council meetings are streamed live on the internet and taped for rebroadcast on the county-funded Harford Cable Network, whose annual budget is under County Council control. The archived video of Tuesday’s council meeting can be viewed at http://harfordcountymd.swagit.com/play/02132018-1339.

Slutzky said climate change is an issue “that has been before everybody’s radar,” but that “few people are invested in the effort to actually investigate what the research is on climate change.”

“Quite frankly, there’s a lot of concern about the motive for what the UN is,” he continued, saying the climate change issue is being used “actually to generate an equilibrium of financing across the world for countries that don’t have the same advantages of others.”

He said efforts like international Paris Climate Accord, from which President Donald Trump controversially withdrew the United States from last year, would have required the U.S. “to donate millions of dollars” that would go “to substantiate other processes in poorer parts of the world.” As a candidate, Trump famously called the Paris Accord a “Chinese hoax.”

Slutzky said he went online to find the “top 10 scientists” on climate change and found a group that has “signed off” that pollution caused by methane and carbon dioxide and other hydrocarbons released into the earth’s atmosphere from human activity “is a pretty bogus argument.”

“First of all, carbon dioxide, if you look outside today at everything that is green, is used by all plants, trees, grass, bushes, they actually absorb the carbon dioxide and produce oxygen for our atmosphere,” he says in a review of his remarks on the video.

“Even if you doubled the amount of carbon dioxide,” these scientists are “telling us that in 100 years it might increase the temperature by half a degree or a degree and a half, which is not the cause of climate change,” he said.

“This is a natural process of the earth depending on whether we have had volcano eruptions, whether we’ve had small meteors hit the earth and put dust and pollution in the air,” he said.

Slutzky said the scientists he researched “profess that the real change in the climate is the sunspots on the sun,” and then explained in layman’s terms how the phenomenon affects the warming of water in the oceans, giving an example of Scotland, which is farther north in latitude than the state of Maine, “but is warm all year round” because of ocean currents.

He also talked about the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s across the U.S. prairie states as a situation caused by winds, not human settlement and farming activities that many researchers blamed for wind erosion of topsoil over millions of acres.

“So, you really have to take a look at it. If you want to get interested in it, you can research a lot of this online; you can go to the scientists that have actually spent their lives in institutions, because there’s a big difference in the research done by a company or association that pays for the research,” Slutzky said.

Slutzky spoke for approximately nine minutes and 50 seconds.

He presides over a council that has six other members, all men and all Republicans.

One of them, Councilman Mike Perrone, who has often been odds with Slutzky and some other council members during their three-plus years together, provided a mild pushback to Slutzky’s remarks, talking for about four minutes during which he warned against jumping “to one extreme or the other.”

“No doubt there are natural processes, but just because there are natural processes doesn’t mean there are not human processes,” Perrone said regarding the cause and effect relationships of climate change, citing a few examples of his own.

“So, I guess the only direction I am going with this is like with many issues, I don’t think anyone should jump to one extreme or the other,” he said. “When it comes to climate change in particular we shouldn’t operate as if we know it’s happening and we shouldn’t operate as if we know it’s not. We should tread carefully.”

Councilman Joe Woods said, “I like my water clean, the trees green, the grass green, too, so I will always do my part to make sure it stays that way.”

“I need to do some more research,” Councilman James McMahan said.

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