Harford County Council President Richard Slutzky’s claims of a week earlier that research indicating human activity is causing global warming and other climate change is “bogus” came under sharp attack from a number of county residents Tuesday evening.
On a day in mid-winter when the high temperature in Bel Air reached 70 degrees, more than a dozen people spent 45 minutes during the public comment period of the council meeting rebutting Slutzky’s comments at the previous council meeting that organizations such as the United Nations have pushed a climate change agenda as a guise to redistribute wealth from richer nations like the United States to poorer ones.
“Denying global warming at this point is man-made is equivalent to saying that the sun revolves around the earth,” Henry Gibbons, a Bel Air resident, who said he has a doctorate in biochemistry from Duke University and a degree in chemistry from Amherst College, told Slutzky.
Another speaker said if the rise in sea level continues at the rate predicted by reputable scientists, the water along the shoreline of Havre de Grace could rise by as much as 4.2 feet.
“That’s 50 inches of vertical rise — that would pretty much take out a lot of this county,” said Fawn Palmer, one of several members of Harford County Climate Action, who took Slutzky to task for his prior comments.
Harford County Climate Action was organized to inspire discussions and provide education to the community about the causes and impacts of climate change, according to its leaders. Last year, the group persuaded Bel Air town officials to take a formal stand against off-shore drilling for oil and gas, and its members have spoken out about other climate-change related issues in a number of public forums.
Several of Tuesday’s speakers carried signs and marched outside the council building prior to the meeting.
Gibbons said he has performed and replicated a 100-year old experiment that measured the absorbent spectrum of carbon dioxide, which showed “unambiguously that carbon dioxide absorbs infrared light coming from the sun.”
When the original experiment was done a century ago, Gibbons said, the scientist who did it predicted that increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would lead to warming of the planet.
‘Not old, not fake’
“So this is not old, this is not fake,” he said, referring to Slutzky’s increasing use of the “fake news” sobriquet.
Slutzky had talked for about 10 minutes at the previous council meeting about climate change/global warning, saying he had done extensive internet research, leading him to conclude that naturally occurring phenomena, such as volcanic activity, meteorites striking the earth and sunspots, are responsible for ice ages, periods of warming and other changes in climate and atmospheric conditions that have taken place over millions of years, and are not caused by activities that result in pollutants being discharged into the air and water.
He said he went online to find the “top 10 scientists” on climate change, people affiliated with major universities and research institutions in the U.S. and worldwide, who as a group concluded that climate change caused by methane and carbon dioxide, and other hydrocarbons released into the earth’s atmosphere from human activity “is a pretty bogus argument.”
He also cautioned that people should check and see who is paying for climate research.
He did not have any comments Tuesday after the speakers finished.
To deny global warming and not prepare for climate change, or take steps to reverse it “puts our lives and fortunes at risk,” Gibbons said. “I would encourage the council to take that and the perspective of 100 years of climate scientists into consideration.”
Slutzky also is wrong about the United Nations intentions, Harford Climate Change member Aravinda Pillalamarri, of Bel Air, told the council.
“It a mistake to [say] something like the Paris Accord is something that’s harming an advanced country to help another country,” Pillalamarri said. “If we believe more equitable growth with a sustainable energy policy is in the interest of every country, then actually this is not helping one country at the expense of another, it’s helping the planet as a whole.”
Break fossil fuel ‘addiction’
She said she supports two bills under consideration by the Maryland General Assembly this session to “help us break our addiction to fossil fuels,” she said.
“They would help take to 100 percent clean renewable energy, a realistic plan to take us there in the next 20 years,” Pillalamarri said. “I would love to see Harford County also be part of that, to be supportive of that and be ready to take advantage of that, to take advantage of the jobs that would bring.”
She said an investment of $1 million in renewable energy creates 17 jobs, while a $1 million investment in fossil fuels creates five, citing Robert Pollin, of the University of Massachusetts’ Political Economy Research Institute.
“Those are the kinds of jobs we need,” she said.
Her daughter, Khiyali Pillalamarri, rebutted Slutzky’s earlier statement that even if the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere doubles, the global temperature will only rise 1 to 1.5 percent.
The Aberdeen High School freshman, who is taking an environmental class, shared some of what she has learned.
Depending on the growth of carbon dioxide emissions, global temperatures on average are predicted to rise 1.8 to 4 degrees Celsius, she said.
Also over the next 70 years, the temperature of the Arctic Ocean is expected to rise 4 to 7 degrees Celsius.
“Why is that a problem? Because the Arctic ice will melt. That’s a problem because sea level will rise, which will submerge land humans can live on and other species can live on, too,” Khiyali Pillalamarri said.
Excessive CO2 is ‘lethal’
Hannah Hazeltine, of Bel Air, questioned Slutzky’s statement that carbon dioxide is used by plants and all things green and therefore not polluting.
To say that “carbon dioxide is used by all plants, which absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, here we fall trapped to the myth that because carbon dioxide is often harmless and is in fact an essential building block of life that it cannot be a form of pollution,” Hazeltine said.
She likened it to hyponeutremia, when levels of sodium in a person’s body drop quickly and their water level rises.
“Carbon dioxide is essential for life in the right amounts ... but it is lethal if there is too much because of its heat-trapping properties,” Hazeltine said.
“Few people are really invested in efforts to investigate climate change,” Tracey Waite, president of Harford County Climate Action, said in rebuttal to Slutzky’s similar words last week.
She pointed to a stack of books she brought with her, just some she has read on the subject.
“Our members are invested in learning about the subject and what we can to do combat the problem,” Waite said.
About 97 percent of experts in the field support the theory that climate change and global warming are created by humans, she said, from activities such as deforestation, not properly managing refrigerants, burning fossil fuels and a diet that relies too heavily on meats raised in confined animal feeding operations.
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“What kind of arrogance does it take to think that conclusions drawn from a Google search are equal to those of individuals who have earned higher degrees and spent careers in climate science? What kind of arrogance allows anyone to say that they know more than 97 percent of current specialists in this field?” Waite asked.
If the shoreline of Harford County changes because of a permanent rise in sea level, it would send residents of those areas to live elsewhere, said Palmer, who has four children and nine grandchildren, with a 10th on the way
“I want them to enjoy America, not be in a turmoil,” she said. “Do you think you want refugees like that coming to Darlington saying they have to live there because their home is underwater? That’s my point. You are responsible. The county has the responsibility — do your thing. Stop fiddling around with fake news.”