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DENVER — Nearly 97 percent of publishing scientists agree: not only is climate change happening, but humans are also to blame.
But, try getting 97 percent of people to agree on anything, much less how we're supposed to go about saving our blue planet - or how long we have to do it, and you’d be hard-pressed to get a consensus.
“Somehow, the world has to make room for raising the standard of living for billions and billions of people who are currently dirt poor,” said Dr. Scott Denning, professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University. "And we need to do it without setting stuff on fire."
A complex solution
Denning points out the problem is simple, but the solution is much more complex.
“The rate of heat loss from the Earth has been slowed by the CO2 and so the Earth warms up. It’s really amazingly simple,” Denning said. “We put CO2 in the air. CO2 actually absorbs that outgoing radiation, therefore there’s less going out into space.”
Denning says the Earth has warmed only 2 degrees since the industrial revolution. But, the problem is a skyrocketing number of countries moving toward industrialization where populations are already in the billions and economies are starting to boom.
"We expect the number of people like us - the rich people - the people who burn a lot of coal - to quadruple,” Denning said. “China, and then India and then Africa. And if they all start burning even half the coal, oil and gas that we're burning - holy mackerel - that's a lot of CO2."
Is the 'Green New Deal' a pipe dream?
And that brings us to Greg Brophy, a Colorado farmer, former Republican senator and leading conservative voice on global warming.
"You'd be foolish to think that human beings could not have at least some impact on the climate as many of us as there are," Brophy said.
The question for Brophy is - how do you stop it? Or, at the very least, how do you slow down global warming? Brophy sees the much talked about Green New Deal and the idea of eliminating all carbon emissions as a pipe dream.
"If you want me to take you seriously, why don't you start advocating for some things that will actually work?” Brophy said. “Like nuclear power plants which have zero carbon footprint. 70 percent of France’s power comes from nuclear.”
Brophy also suggests more reservoirs for combating drought in Colorado and the U.S. and for providing hydroelectric power.
"That's actually the most effective battery storage for wind or solar that you can come up with," Brophy said. “You push the water up when you have an abundance of wind and let it roll down through turbines when you need power.”
'We need to stop burning stuff'
There are other outspoken climate change scientists who agree.
Katharine Hayhoe is not only the director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, but she's also an evangelist who brings climate change and faith together.
"In the atmosphere, we already have this amazing natural blanket that God has designed for our planet,” Hayhoe recently said in an interview. “It keeps us about 60 degrees warmer than we would be otherwise."
Hayhoe argues carbon emissions are adding another layer to that blanket.
"We're overheating,” Hayhoe said. “That's what we're doing to our planet."
Denning says the solution is simple.
"We need to stop burning stuff,” he said. “Right now, about one billion of the seven-and-a-half million people on the planet are burning all the fuel. If that number rises to four billion people, instead of a two-degree rise in global temperature – it will be more like 10 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s about the difference in temperature from Denver to El Paso. What do you think that would do to farmers in Colorado? What do you think that would do to our snow?”
Denning says it just takes political will to do it.
"We didn't go broke putting in indoor plumbing,” Denning said. "We didn't go broke with interstate highways or the internet or cell phones or pc's, and we're not going to go broke with this. It's totally doable."