Archive for the 'Durango Herald' Category

We Have ALL Lost

Friday, March 2nd, 2018


Back in January, 2008 the Durango (Colorado) Herald published a unique challenge: “I offer a public wager of $5,000 that the Earth will be cooler in 10 years.” Dr. Roger Cohen, a physicist, proposed this wager.

I responded, and our bet started the next month. Cohen’s rules were reasonable, however, I am a Quaker. Members of the Religious Society of Friends are admonished to not bet, so I countered with a different structure. Each of us would donate $5000 to Durango Nature Studies, and the money would be held in escrow until the bet was over. We also agreed that the decision would be made by averaging the data for three years rather than by comparing 2007 with 2017.

After agreeing on the rules we each pulled out our checkbooks and wrote checks. We realized that neither of us would profit from the bet; we would just get “bragging rights”. The Herald ran an article that February: “I think part of Roger’s goal was to keep the issue of global warming in the public mind.…”

I was curious to know just what Dr. Cohen was thinking. I knew that he had been Manager of Strategic Planning at Exxon—which led me to believe that he must be quite intelligent. When we got together for an amiable lunch I asked him what he really felt about climate change. His answer surprised me: the true reason that he wrote the challenge was that he wanted people to really think about climate change and to question the media. I asked if he thought any of the climate change could be anthropogenic. His reply, as I remember, was that yes, maybe about a third was human caused. In private Cohen did not seem so sanguine about denying climate change.

The Herald printed an update in 2015. “We’ve all lost” ran the headline, accurately quoting me. It stated that Dr. Cohen had conceded that he had lost the bet because the climate was, indeed, warmer than in 2007. This implied that I had won the wager. My response: ‘Grossman, learning of the news, was not the least bit pleased or boastful. “I don’t think I’ve won,” he said. “I think I lost. I think we’ve all lost.”’ Indeed, climate change is probably the worst challenge that all life will face this century.

In correspondence with me after that 2015 article came out, Cohen clarified what he really said—that the climate’s temperature only appears to have increased because the deciding database had changed. We had agreed to use the British climate database, HadCRUT3, but it was replaced by HadCRUT4.

The HadCRUT data are available for public viewing on Internet, and they confirm what anyone who reads the news already knows. Climate is warming. The amount of warming is small in the ten years of our wager, but significant. The average of the 3 years at the end of the bet is +0.231° Celsius hotter than a decade earlier. This may not seem like much, but if this trend continues it means that the climate will be almost 2 degrees Celsius hotter in a person’s lifetime. That’s over 3° Fahrenheit!

Here we are at the beginning of 2018. A decade has passed since Cohen wrote his challenge, and sadly he is no longer with us. He died of a brain tumor in September, 2016. I would have loved to have asked him questions about the wager, but there are some things that we will never know.

Perhaps my biggest question is a seeming inconsistency between a document that Dr. Cohen wrote in 1981 and his wager that the climate was not heating up. Back then he was a scientist at Exxon and was asked to criticize a report another person had written. Cohen felt that the other person was too optimistic about climate change: “…it is distinctly possible that the CPD scenario will later produce effects which will indeed be catastrophic (at least for a substantial fraction of the earth’s population).” CPD probably meant “Continued Product Development”.

Later in this same document he wrote that future data gathering and science “…may provide strong evidence for a delayed CO2 effect of a truly substantial magnitude….”

With the temperature rising, we can consider Earth as having a fever. We have overwhelmed the planet’s ability to deal with our carbon waste emissions. Unfortunately, the fever is a symptom of the illness of overpopulation and over consumption. We must do what we can to limit these for the sake of our grandchildren.

© Richard Grossman MD, 2018

Subscribe to Population Matters!

Sunday, October 4th, 2015

Dear Reader,

If you would like to subscribe to Population Matters!, I promise you just one email a month–12 a year. As far as I am aware, it is the only newspaper column in the world that focuses on issues of human population. I have been writing Population Matters! for over 20 years and plan to continue!

The idea started as a book (which has never been written). I went to the Durango (Colorado) Herald to ask for help in getting the book published. Instead, I was offered the opportunity to have a chapter at a time published in the Herald–a much better arrangement, as it turns out. I am forever grateful to the Herald for its continuing support.

Unfortunately, not everyone reads the Herald. For the last few years I have been making Population Matters! available to people all over the USA, and a few outside, who are concerned about population issues. Please contact me if you would like to read every essay shortly after it is written at: Please remember the hyphen; if you don’t use it, you will end up on the other side of the Atlantic with the excellent British non-profit organization, Population Matters.

Thank you!


Celebrate 20 Years of Population Matters!

Sunday, May 24th, 2015


Twenty years ago this spring Morley Ballantine (then the Herald’s editor) gave me the responsibility of writing a column on human population issues. I want to take this opportunity to give an update on population and to thank some of the people who have been involved.

I believe that this is the only regularly appearing newspaper column about issues of human population. Indeed, it is probably the only regularly appearing treatment of this most important subject in any medium. It started as an idea for a book with short chapters, each with a verb in the title, and with a positive message about what individuals can do about population. Gail, my wife, and I were able to think of just 17 chapters initially and we worried that there might not be enough content for a whole book. About 240 essays later I have a long list of possible future topics!

Bill Roberts has been my editor and friend throughout these two decades. We seldom see each other, but have mutual respect. Bill has been great in keeping me in line: “stick to the subject” read one of his emails. Richard Ballantine has taken over his mother’s concern for population. He has provided support not only for these columns but also financial support through the Ballantine Family Fund for relevant events in our community.

For several years a group observed World Population Awareness Week in Durango. We brought in speakers and had events—but too often they competed with the wonderful Lifelong Learning series at Fort Lewis College. Fortunately Rich Hoehlein, organizer of this series, has agreed to have occasional talks on topics related to population rather than splitting the audience.

Gail is my first sounding board. I trust her reaction to an idea or draft article more than my own. She finds mistakes in drafts that I’ve been over many times, and comes up with solutions to writing problems. I am lucky to have such a talented writing partner.

When Population Matters! first hit the press, world population was about 5.7 billion; it has increased by a billion and a half to 7.2 billion in the past 20 years. This rapid increase is partially due to the International Conference on Population and Development, which shifted the focus away from population. The word “population” was tinged by a past history of coercion; instead the Conference focused on “reproductive health”.

Now we can measure the consequences of population and consumption using the “Ecological Footprint” concept, and have discovered that we are using resources much faster that the planet can provide. We also know that climate change is a repercussion of population growth, as are the decreasing numbers of wildlife and loss of species.

We have made many improvements in family planning since 1995. Emergency Contraception has helped prevent unplanned pregnancies. EC was rarely prescribed 20 years ago, but now EC pills are available in over 50 countries, in many without prescription. We have recognized Long Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) as being much better than methods that require daily or weekly usage. Another LARC, a new IUD, will soon be available.

The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) has taken a positive step to lower our high unintended pregnancy rate. It provides contraception without co-pay for any enrollee. (Unfortunately it does not pay for vasectomies!) An experiment in Colorado showed that it is possible to lower the teen pregnancy rate (and to decrease the number of abortions) by providing LARCs without charge to uninsured women. Unfortunately, a Colorado legislature killed funding to continue this program.

Even before EC pills were available without prescription it was possible to get them over the Internet. This same model is being used to provide birth control pills. But isn’t “the pill” dangerous? There are some risks with hormonal contraception, but a study in England has shown that women who used oral contraceptives, on average, lived longer than women who did not. Planned Parenthood has been providing pills safely for years to women without an exam—just a blood pressure reading. This miracle medicine is now available at: for just $20 per month. This fee also helps to pay for birth control for women in the developing world, thanks to PRJKT RUBY.

My sense is that people are becoming more aware of population issues. FP2020, the program to provide quality family planning services for many of the world’s poorest countries, is a barometer of this change. My hope is that the USA will continue to see programs that will lower our high unintended pregnancy rate.

© Richard Grossman MD, 2015

PS: I have been distributing these monthly columns by email to people all over the country–and a few outside the USA. I promise only one email a month. If you would like to be added to the listserv, please contact me at:

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States.