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  • Pine Beetles Not a Good Reason for Climate Change Legislation

    Last week Senator Max Baucus joined several mainstream environmentalists in adding pine beetle outbreaks to a long list of things that can be blamed on climate change. As Baucus said in a Congress Quarterly report,

    Running on the trails by my home in Helena, seeing the red forests destroyed by pine beetles or seeing sustained drought and increased wildfires, we feel the impacts of climate change.”

    Baucus is referring to the recent breakout of pine beetles in Montana. These insects bore their way into pine tress and lay their eggs inside the tree; the larvae of the beetles feed off the bark and this eventually kills the trees. The beetles thrive in climates that are dryer and warmer than usual for that region, and this has led environmentalists to link the outbreaks in the Western United States and Canada to climate change; many have called it a climate change catastrophe.

    However if we look at the history of outbreaks in the western mountain states, the climate change argument is on very shaky ground. Montana has been hit by pine beetle outbreaks on and off since the 1920s so this is nothing new for the state. An even earlier outbreak is documented from 1894 to 1908 in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Since Co2 concentrations were considerably lower around the turn of the century, it does not follow that a reduction in Co2 will eliminate the pine beetle problem.

    According to a recent study done by the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute, these outbreaks should not be regarded as a crisis: “There is no evidence to support the idea that current levels of bark beetle or defoliator activity in Colorado’s lodgepole pine and spruce-fir forests are unnaturally high” and that “Historic photos and tree-ring evidence also document extensive insect outbreaks prior to the 20th century.”

    Furthermore, there are more factors than just temperature which cause outbreaks of pine beetles. According to Dave Thom, a natural resources specialist with the Black Hills National Forest, the density of the forest is a major contributor,

    “As the trees get more dense, they are less able to resist bark-beetle infestations. When you take increasingly dense trees and add the drought, the intersection causes weakened trees that are more susceptible to beetle attack. That phenomenon can happen regardless of a few degrees of change in climate, measured on a global scale.”

    These experts reveal that current outbreaks are neither unusual nor preventable by a few degrees of global cooling.

    So cap and trade legislation won’t kill the beetles but it will kill the economy of the Western states. According to Ben Lieberman, a Senior Analyst at the Heritage Foundation, many Western states will be hit the hard by cap and trade legislation because their economies rely heavily on energy production and agriculture—two industries that climate change legislation attacks:

    Since farming is energy-intensive, that sector will be particularly hard-hit. Higher gasoline and diesel fuel costs, higher electricity costs, and higher natural gas-derived fertilizer costs all erode farm profits, which are expected to drop by 28 percent in 2012 and average 57 percent lower through 2035. […] The disproportionate burdens affect the West. Coal mining will be very hard-hit, so Montana and Wyoming and other coal-producing states will see this important sector of their economies shrink significantly. Western oil and natural gas producers will face higher costs as well. The promise of oil shale in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming will never be realized under Waxman-Markey. As I mentioned, agriculture is hard-hit, and that particularly includes things common in parts of the West that are not well positioned to partially defray their costs by availing themselves of offsets, like ranching on federal lands, fruits and vegetables, and potatoes. And of course the long distances rural Westerners have to drive in the course of each day means that gasoline and diesel price increases hurt them more than other Americans.”

    In light of this, let’s hope that the Obama Administration does not move forward with their plans to introduce the “pine beetle” of the American economy.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to Pine Beetles Not a Good Reason for Climate Change Legislation

    1. Freedom of Speech, T says:

      Baucus cannot be serious. Pine Beetles?

      With the ever-present nuclear, chem, and bio threat from abroad? With an existing national debt that can never be paid off except for 1) accounting gimmicks or 2) default? With a country that basically just spends? With politicians who will not tell the truth? With politicians who act indignant when called liars yet engage in ommission, deception, lack of ethics, bait and switch?

      AND, Baucus is concerned about Pine Beetles?

      It's called nature – Mr. Baucus. Species, by the millions, have come and gone throughout the history of this planet.

      But what you politicians have done and are doing to this country is not natural. Your endless spending, accumulated debt, lack of accountability, and unrealistic vision of what we can afford is NOT natural.

      The Rise of the Pine Beetles is the least of our worries.

    2. Roger S., Ma. says:

      The following will happen:

      >That ugly little bug will get its silly antennae "kicked off" almost every pine tree in Montana. — With Gov. Help

      >When "Godzilla -in spe" is nearly exterminated, some Sierra Club freak will call him "endangered". — With Gov. Help

      >69 research projects and impact studies will employ 357 prof.'s and grad students to investigate. — With Gov. Help

      >3 of the above will conclude that some Warbler's food supply is endangered due to the missing bugs and something should be done about it lest the birds also become endangered!

      > Hundreds of undergrads will do papers and chase around the woods for half a dozen summers to fix the "problem" for the birds and the beetles. — With Gov. Help

      >The logging companies then complain that their newly reforested acreage will be decimated by the new beetles newly settled to feed the old birds. — They'll get a Gov. subsidy

      When all is said and done the taxpayer will be out 1$ per bug for a billion dead beetles, plus 1000$ per to bring 1 Million of them back to feed 10,000 birds of which 9,000 will die anyway before the remaining 1,000 find some other creature to dine on and recover (in 6 years time) their original 10.000 bird-strength population. Total cost to taxpayer: 2 Billion dollars for the birds and the beetles, plus 1 Billion for the loggers, makes together 3 Billion.

      Maybe if this and other such programs together finally do bankrupt us, we'll be able to get a "loan" from the UN, just to "tide us over" until we can find more "paying" projects.

      Oh, I forgot, the only money THEY had to lend us was ours in the first place, which they gave to some tribal chiefs in Zambia to fund "low carbon footprint campfires". Guess the beetles and birds will have to perish anyway, because we'll have to eat both, but this time uncooked!

      Sometimes I find myself wishing for "climate change" a thousand times more rapid and intensive than what has been falsely predicted. Even at the cost of sealing my own fate it would prove a pleasure to watch certain stupid senators and other public officials have to share it. I'd somehow enjoy that in my last days!

      Is there a chance we can scramble GPS signals just long enough to get "Mad Max" "lost in the woods" for good? Intellectually, he already is. Now what was the name of that silly lady from Michigan(?) who months ago told reporters she can "feel climate change" in the "bumps" of turbulence each time she flies? Maybe Max and her could share a ride … or a jog?

    3. Nicolai Alatzas says:

      Pine Beetles devastate large area's of many different species of pine. It's not a joke nor should it be taken very lightly for what ever cause the consequence of loosing vast area's of mountain woodlands to an invasive pests like these.

    4. Freedom of Speech, T says:

      Dear Nicolai,

      Pardon the pun but we have more important "fish to fry".

      These critters will be around long after humans have departed, no matter what we do.

      The point is, don't we have more important things to worry about? Or should we just throw more money we don't have at something else?

      The first time we get with a wmd all of this nonsense will pale in comparison to the cost in lives and the economy. That's just a fact.

      By Saturday night there is a real good chance the Senate will push the monstrous health bill through and then eventual passage. Like in the House, the odds are that many so-called moderate senators will be intimidated and bought off with some concesions for their state. Have a nice weekend my friend.

    5. arctos. victoria bc says:

      "According to a recent study done by the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute, these outbreaks should not be regarded as a crisis: “There is no evidence to support the idea that current levels of bark beetle or defoliator activity in Colorado’s lodgepole pine and spruce-fir forests are unnaturally high” and that “Historic photos and tree-ring evidence also document extensive insect outbreaks prior to the 20th century.”

      Your right this is probably not unusual for Colorado, BUT when you take into account the concurrent mountain pine beetle infestations from northern BC and Alberta all the way down to Arizona and Nevada, then add to that the other bark beetle outbreaks ( Spruce beetle , Douglas Fir beetle, Westerns, RTB, IPS and more) . This “thing” is unprecedented. Something very big is going on in the Rockies and it’s not well understood. Admittedly its complex and there are many contributing factors. Climate change will be near or at the top of every respectable scientists list.

    6. Nicolai Alatzas says:

      All I am is saying is pay attention to the signs. Don't you think we should look into events like these?

      I mean it doesn't take a genius to figure out that this is not good.

    7. Dave, Colorado says:

      The article and the many of the comments that follow are not aware of how wide spread and devastating this problem is. The article fails to mention that the mountain pine beetle was restricted to British Columbia in Canada and that the population and spread was kept in check by prolong periods of extreme cold each winter. A documented warming trend has allowed the the beetle to spread. It is a trend which some are choosing to ignore like people who choose to live on a flat earth.

    8. KB, Washington says:

      This article does provide full information. There have always been mountain pine beetles and other bark beetles. But there have not been outbreaks this widespread or long lasting.

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