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Global warming hits Fort Hays

10/16/2007

By KALEY LYON

Hays Daily News

More than 150 people gathered in the Fort Hays State University Robbins Alumni Center on Monday evening for a presentation by Chris Mooney, author of "Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics and the Battle over Global Warming."

"I would never have bet this many people would come out to hear a hurricane talk in Kansas," Mooney said. "Thank you all."

Mooney, a Washington correspondent for Seed magazine and senior correspondent for the American Prospect, discussed a variety of topics from Storm World and his other book, "The Republican War on Science."

An over-arching theme, however, was the relationship between science, politics and the media and the role each should play in American democracy.

"What happens when you add together a fraught, very real scientific debate between two groups of scientists who are both field experts ... and you add that together with a media feeding frenzy of the sort that occurred after Katrina?" Mooney said.

The result has not always been pretty, he said.

The issue of global warming and hurricanes exploded into the national spotlight following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Since then, hurricanes have become the "poster child" of global warming, he said.

"Storm World" explores the idea that global warming could be causing hurricanes across the globe to become more intense and frequent. The issue has fueled a debate among the scientific community.

Some credit global warming for an increase in recorded hurricanes, while others credit improved technology or challenges in data collecting, he said.

In addition to the scientific conflict, media interaction also has been a conflict, because many scientists aren't accustomed to publicly sharing and discussing their research, Mooney said.

Furthermore, the mass media hasn't handled the information in the best way, he said.

While this debate and research is important, it's more important to implement precautionary measures and prepare the nation's borders for future storms, he said.

Preparation is essentia. About 50 percent of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of the coast, Mooney said.

"The real reason hurricanes are hurting us is not global warming changes, although that may be happening. But rather it's about so many people right in harm's way," he said. "So let's get ready for the hurricanes of today, because we're not ready.

"Let's look at building codes, let's look at evacuation plans, let's rethink insurance policies."

Several in attendance, including Jenny Thayer-Wood of Stockton, long have been fans of Mooney's writing, but never expected the opportunity to meet him in western Kansas. She said she often reads Seed magazine, watches Mooney's videos on YouTube and follows his online blog.

"When Cheryl Shepherd-Adams told me he was going to be here, I was like, 'Chris Mooney, Chris Mooney. Oh my gosh, I love his writing,' " Thayer-Wood said. "I think it's profound that he is willing to speak up on an issue ... even traveling to a notoriously republican portion of the country and to see that he has people who are willing to think a different way.

"I think even Republicans and Democrats alike are more willing to look at the issues now rather than dedicate to just a single party," she said.

Shepherd-Adams, who helped organize the night's event, said the night's turnout exceeded even her expectations.

"Look how many people were here," she said. "We're very happy with the turnout."

Reporter Kaley Lyon can be reached at (785) 628-1081, Ext. 138, or by e-mail at klyon@dailynews.net.