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Reader: Debate our core values 

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Regarding the Jan. 16 letter "Climate stance" from Mary J. Talbott and the Jan. 23 response by Trevor Thomas: Believing that human activities contribute to changes in the atmosphere is quite different than accepting a specific policy to address climate change. It's absurd to put climate change as the deciding issue in a municipal election because nothing we do here will have the slightest measurable impact on what gets pumped into the atmosphere on a global scale. Our 465,000 local residents cannot impact the CO2 pollution emitted by the other 7,530,000,000 planetary residents.

It is time for the climate debate to move out of its fanatical pretensions, on both sides. We need to have a policy debate about how and how much we reduce the amount of CO2 that humans pump into the atmosphere at the least cost. It's patently regressive to advocate for policies that require extreme expense and hardship at the local level without any appreciable benefit to reduce climate change's effects. Springs' residents, try as they might, cannot hinder global climate change. Worse, the poorest in our community pay the largest share of their monthly incomes to heat their homes, power their gadgets and travel to work. That becomes more true as we raise energy prices to favor non carbon-based fuels. Meanwhile, the richest buy $100,000 electric cars with a heavy subsidy from the government.

It's a scam when climate change believers seek to clean up our atmosphere at the expense of those struggling the most to live without any realistic chance of making a difference. Which hints at a fact often omitted when believers advocate for regressive policies: A rich society can afford more green technology than a poor one. Show me how you are going to stop the levels of CO2 from increasing at a price we can afford and you'll have my vote for your policy. Until then, my fear is you're just trying to enhance your power, sell your product, or make yourself feel good with somebody else's money.

Serious advocates realize that we talk past each other at times because we do not express and debate our core values. Do we want to reduce CO2 for its own sake or to minimize some of the likely effects ever higher CO2 levels may have on our economy? Who are we trying to help avoid the effects of climate change? First world citizens? Everyone, third world included? We get to different answers, even when we agree on the facts, when we don't share the same values. Which means more debate, not less, would be helpful. Reasonable minds can disagree about how much climate change is coming, how much impact it will have on our livelihoods, how to address its negative effects, and how much wealth to devote to the cause.

There are a few dozen issues on which to rate our local candidates before we get to climate change. Ms. Talbott, Mr. Thomas and their like-minded true-believers argue that any policy that calls itself green is good. While we can applaud their desire to save us from ourselves, we can also demand that climate change advocates express what they're trying to do, who they're trying to help, how they intend to do it, whether it will work, and what it might cost. The litmus test they propose guarantees no one with nuanced thoughts on climate change might get elected. This debate distracts from the real work of our city. Count me as one who's never so sure of my conclusions about the world that I wouldn't welcome vigorous debate.

— Matt Werner

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