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Garden City lawmaker sends group's book on global warming denial to governor

1/18/2008

By SARAH KESSINGER

Harris News Service

TOPEKA -- Kansas House member Larry Powell, R-Garden City, autographed a book that seeks to cast doubt on scientific evidence of global warming and sent it to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius this week.

The gift went to the governor on the day she delivered her annual State of the State speech, in which she called on lawmakers to start planning ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Powell has no concerns about a significant greenhouse gas -- carbon dioxide emissions put out by power plants.

The paperback he sent, "Unstoppable Global Warming -- Every 1,500 Years" by S. Fred Singer and Dennis T. Avery, came compliments of the Heartland Institute, which promotes a variety of literature denying the manmade emissions are to blame for climate change.

"They called me one day and asked me if I'd do this," Powell said about the book.

Speaker of the House Melvin Neufeld, who also says climate change is not a problem, suggested Powell, instead of handing them out on the House floor, send the books via Statehouse mail to all legislators' offices.

Powell had not heard of the author but figured it would prove interesting.

"Whether they like the book or not, I think it presents a side people haven't been looking at."

Powell disagrees with the Sebelius administration's denial of a permit for two large coal-fired power plants in his home county in southwest Kansas.

He said he didn't want the governor to be left out of the book's loop in light of that controversy.

The plants' construction permit was denied by state Health and Environment Secretary Rod Bremby in October. Among his reasons for denial, he cited scientific evidence compiled by hundreds of scientists who served on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The panel's conclusion: There is at least a 90-percent chance global warming is caused by humans, particularly their coal-burning electricity plants and auto emissions.

Anticipating a debate about carbon emissions this legislative session, Powell sent copies of the book as requested.

The book is a "great service," says Sen. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, who sits on Heartland's board and, like Powell and Neufeld, has no concerns about potential carbon emissions from new coal plants in his part of the state.

The book suggests the earth warms every 1,500 years, as it is now, and global warming simply is part of a natural cycle.

The writings of Singer, however, are listed as "pseudo science" by scientists who consider such authors part of a campaign to deny the evidence of manmade climate change.

Their books, they note, often are funded by organizations funded by the nation's leading carbon emitters -- oil and coal companies.

"I don't think there's anybody in the scientific community who takes Fred Singer seriously," said Joseph Romm, a Washington scientist and author.

Romm said the 1,500-year cycle theory isn't possible considering the earth wasn't in a warming trend 1,500 years ago.

If legislators want to inform themselves about global warming, Romm said, they should start by reading the U.N. panel's reports, which have been written specifically for legislators.

He also suggests they talk with peer-reviewed climate scientists.

"There is no escape from global warming, so even in the middle of the country in places like Kansas, it's important for people to take the time to become informed," Romm said. "Because in 10 to 20 years, as consequences become more obvious, it will become a top issue."

As for Sebelius, she probably hasn't had time to read the book, her spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran said. But she does want lawmakers to start reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

"Governor Sebelius believes climate change is a very real and serious problem facing our planet," Corcoran said. "Kansans that she and Lieutenant Governor Parkinson have talked with understand this and are eager to play a role in reducing our greenhouse gases through energy conservation and the development of renewable sources of power."