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Steamboat Magazine

Talking Green: Simple, Serious, Solvable

01/22/2018 04:46PM ● By Alesha Damerville

Image from Visual Hunt

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS-Colorado State University Professor Scott Denning devotes hundreds of hours each semester researching and teaching about a serious global issue, yet he works to translate the topic into simple and solvable terms. 

"Colorado is extremely vulnerable to climate change," Denning said. "Unless we stop burning carbon, there will come a sad day when there’s neither snowpack nor forest in the Rockies."

Denning earned a master’s degree and doctorate in atmospheric science from CSU in Fort Collins and joined the atmospheric science faculty in 1998. The professor has served on advisory panels for NASA, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Energy, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

“Preventing catastrophic climate change will require abundant and affordable energy to be made available to people everywhere without emitting any CO2 to the atmosphere,” Denning said. “This will require both the development of energy efficient infrastructure and very rapid deployment of non-fossil fuel energy systems, especially in the developing world. From an engineering perspective, both objectives are eminently feasible with mature technologies.”

NOAA tracked $306 billion in weather and climate disasters in the U.S. in 2017, the costliest year on record. NOAA also reports that 2017 was the third warmest year on record in the U.S.

“Climate disruptions could not be more serious,” Denning said, “so that is why all Coloradans should learn about the simple science and focus on working together on effective solutions on the community level across the state.”

"Modern human history is the story of old ways of doing things being rapidly replaced by new and better ways, over and over again. Progress is prosperity."

Denning’s talk will focus on three Ss of climate change – simple, serious and solvable.

“When the Earth absorbs more heat than it emits, the climate warms. This simple principal explains why day is warmer than night, and summer is warmer than winter,” Denning said. “It also explains why adding CO2 to the air causes global warming. The absorption of thermal infrared radiation by CO2 was first measured 150 years ago, has since been confirmed thousands of times by labs all over the world and is extremely well understood. There is no doubt at all that adding CO2 reduces the Earth’s heat emission and therefore causes global warming.”

For the past dozen years Denning has served as director of education for the Center for Multiscale Modeling of Atmospheric Processes (CMMAP), a National Science Foundation Science & Technology Center headquartered at the university. CMMAP is developing a new approach to climate modeling that will help better understand the roles that clouds play as the Earth’s climate changes. CMMAP has more than 140 members spanning organizations from NASA to the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder.

“The tone is less hopeless and more hopeful," said Anne Mudgett, communications and development director for the YVSC. "If we all work together and use the knowledge in the world, we can do this." 

The Yampa Valley Sustainability Council’s Talking Green starts Tuesday Jan. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at Library Hall in Steamboat Springs. This year including speakers from Snowmass-based Rocky Mountain Institute on March 27 as well as from Protect Our Winters and the Climate Reality Project later in 2018.

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