Sam Slams City Sewers, Pans Pan Am Stadium

By Ryan McGreal
Published July 27, 2009

In response to extensive flooding after the heavy rains of Saturday and particularly Sunday, Ward 4 Councillor Sam Merulla went on an email tear, sending several messages to his fellow council members and local media accusing the city of misplaced priorities and negligence.

The City reported yesterday that over 1,000 homes have experienced flooding in their basements, particularly in the lower city, as well as a power outrage that, among its effects, impacted the Woodward Wastewater Treatment Plant. The Plant ran for several hours on back-up generators.

Merulla, whose ward was heavily affected by the flooding, sent out the first email early yesterday afternoon, "demanding" that the city use municipal Future Fund money to support victims of flooding, as well as renewing a call to have Council ask for federal stimulus money to replacing aging infrastructure.

In addition, he accused City Council and many local media organizations for supporting the 2015 Pan American Games bid while some city infrastructure remains in a poor state of repair.

[S]hame on the Hamilton Spectator, City Council and all media outlets that supported the mother of all unfocused priorities, the Pan Am games bid on the backs of hard working Hamilton residents who have to contend with feces floating in their basement as a direct result of pie-in-the-sky gross expenditures supported by unfocused initiatives.

The Spectator has endorsed the city's Pan Am Games bid, which would commit municipal money toward building a stadium and a velodome for the 2015 Pan American Games. The head of the bid committee is Jagoda Pike, who resigned as the publisher of the Toronto Star in September 2008 to concentrate on the bid.

Between 2001 and 2006, Pike was the publisher of the Hamilton Spectator, which Torstar has owned since 1999.

Merulla's subject line, "Let's build a stadium", may be a reference to a previous altercation between Merulla and Ward 2 Councillor Bob Bratina on the announcement that US Steel was closing its Hamilton and Lake Erie operations. At that time, Merulla wrote an email to council and the local media that simply stated, "Let's build a stadium!!!!!!!" [sic]

Yesterdy, Merulla sent a follow-up email about an hour later, calling the flooding situation "a state of emergency" as residents have experienced flooding up to nine times in the past five years. He also demanded that "all levels of government come to our aid!!!!" [sic]

Two hours later, Merulla forwarded an exchange with Bay Observer reporter Peggy Chapman stating that he had received "over 150 calls in four hours" and announcing:

The media and council is being put on notice. I'm not available for a self-serving photo op when residents are in tears over feces floating in their basement.

He also called the Bay Observer an "irrelevant periodical" and told Chapman the Observer should "endorse the reconsideration of the Pan Am Games".

A little over an hour after that, Merulla issued another email "demanding full compensation to all residents who have been impacted by the storm and the human feces floating in their basement."

Thousands of residents have been impacted by the recent failure of Hamilton's infrastructure. Merulla is demanding full compensation to all residents that are expected to pay for flood damage but are denied from insurance companies due to the state of Hamilton's infrastructure deficit!!!! Let's build a stadium? I NOT! Let's get our house in order and provide fundamental services rather than pie in the sky bullshit!!!! [sic]

Meanwhile, the city issued an update stating that seven pumps were running at full capacity to reduce water levels in the Wastewater Treatment Plant's wet well, and asking residents to avoid unnecessary water use to reduce the amount of water running into the sewer system. The city also affirmed that the city's municipal water is safe to drink.

The following roads and facilities were closed as a result of flooding:

Various other local roads were also closed. For more information or to report a problem, residents can call a flooding hotline the city activated: 905-667-3157. The city also opened a relief centre at the Valley Park Community Centre, 970 Paramount Dr.

By 9:00 PM, the Wastewater Treatment Plant was back to running on main power rather than its back-up generators.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By frustrated ward 4 resident (anonymous) | Posted July 27, 2009 at 11:16:21

That the same Sam Merulla who championed spending megabucks on the (just flooded) Red Hill Expressway that's promoting expensive sprawl (we know suburban building actually costs the city money) and paved over a big part of the Red Hill Valley? Boo freaking hoo, Sam. You helped make your (flooded) bed, now lie in it.

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By Dave Kuruc (anonymous) | Posted July 27, 2009 at 11:49:33

How many other Ward 4 residents will see through Sam's talking out of both sides of his mouth? His emails to the press are becoming quite ridiculous. Will voters make a connection between the multi-millions spent on the Red Hill Expressway to facilitate sprawl - lowered fees to developers building these homes in the middle of nowhere - pressures on the aging infrastructure and lack of municipal money to repair it because of the huge mistake that is the Red Hill road...

I'd like to hear from the pro-expressway folks on this one!

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 27, 2009 at 12:11:53

frustrated ward 4 resident, I feel for you. Most residents in your ward get distracted by all the crazy emails and press releases and fail to realize that one of the main culprits responsible for their constantly flooded basements is the unchecked sprawl Hamilton has allowed in recent years. Complicating the problem is the fact that development charges are so low on new sprawl projects, no money has been available to upgrade our water/wastewater systems to handle the new growth. In other words, developers get to build what they want and you and I face ever-increasing water rates and ever increasing flooding thanks to all the new runoff flowing over the escarpment from all the new pavement.

The recent proposal by the city to increase charges on new developments is a welcome change. The Spec called it a 'rain water tax' but it's simply a means of charging developers a more appropriate amount to help pay for all the new infrastructure needed to support their development. I can't believe it, but it appears that after 30+ years of flogging this dead development model, the city is actually going to start charging those responsible for the new developments instead of burdening existing taxpayers any further.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted July 27, 2009 at 12:40:44

Re Pan Am Games vs. sewers, part of the problem is that politicians like to throw money around to build new things (exciting! innovative! groundbreaking!) but don't like to sink money into maintaining or repairing things already in the ground (booooring!) so there's alot of momentum for a shiny stadium (or, coughcough, a shiny new highway) but not alot of momentum for sewers and stormwater drains hidden under the road. Their only noticable when they break, otherwise there out of sight out of mind.

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 27, 2009 at 13:06:28

actually, nobrainer the city has been working very hard at catching up on our underground infrastructure. Water rates have been climbing as you probably know if you live in the city. The problem has been the free ride developers have had for decades. It's made it virtually impossible for the city to catch up. Lower city residents have also been doing their part with huge numbers of people getting rainbarrels and disconnecting downspouts. Hopefully more will do this to help our cause.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted July 27, 2009 at 13:19:45

The Pan Am stadium & velodrome is a red herring. The real issue is that politicians such as Sam Merulla haven't been doing a good enough job to ensure a) the city is designed properly and b) that there is sufficient expansion of facilitates to accommodate an expanding population base. As far as I've heard, this isn't even a case of burst pipes, just flat out inability of pumping station to keep up to increased demand

To blame decades of neglect on a future potential development, whether or not that idea is beneficial, is dishonest.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 27, 2009 at 14:14:27

The city just issued this press release:

City continues to respond to flooding issues

HAMILTON, ON - July 27, 2009 - The City of Hamilton is continuing to respond to flooding issues as a result of the heavy rainfall the city experienced over the last 48 hours. Public Works crews are continuing to clean up debris around the affected areas to reduce the risk for future flooding and repair damages to roadways.

The City encourages all affected residents to take the following actions to report claims:

  • Call the City's Claims hotline - 905-667-3157 and your information will be recorded
  • Call your insurance company immediately
  • Have someone come to your home immediately (within 48 hours) to assess the damages in your home - this could reduce cleanup costs significantly
  • The city has a compassionate grant program. Applications are available through the City's Claims Hotline

All roads have been reopened, however the Red Hill Valley Trail will be closed indefinitely as a result of extensive flooding damages. Closure signs will be placed at the trail head and along the trail.

Important numbers:

Flood Claims Hotline - 905-667-3157 City Customer Contact Centre - 905-546-CITY (2489) Horizon Utilities - 905-522-6611 Union Gas - 1-877-969-0999

Waste Collection:

The City is waiving the one plus one garbage bag limit for areas affected by flooding for the next two weeks. Quantity limits will not be waived in any area other than those impacted by flooding. This is not a City-wide exemption of waste quantity limits.

As well, bulk disposal rates will be waived for residents in flooded areas who take damaged goods or waste to a transfer station.

Household Hazardous Waste facility closed:

Flooding on the weekend resulted in water damage at the Household Hazardous Waste facility and Reuse Store at the Mountain Community Recycling Centre, therefore the facility will be closed until Monday, August 3rd. The bin areas for recycling and garbage remain open. Household Hazardous Waste may be dropped off at the Kenora or Dundas Community Recycling Centres which remain fully open.

Union Gas:

Union Gas and the Hamilton Fire Department have disconnected service to approximately 1,000 affected homes and businesses in the impacted areas as a safety precaution. Please do not attempt to relight natural gas appliances by yourself. If your household appliances have been submerged in water they will need to be inspected by a licensed gas technician or heating contractor before being reactivated.

Union Gas representatives are currently going door to door to inspect, and repair your meter and regulator set if required at no charge.

If you smell gas or detect other signs of a gas leak, remember to take the following steps:

  • Prevent sources of ignition. Do not touch electrical switches, light matches or candles, or use the phone.
  • Exit the building immediately.
  • From a neighbour's house or a safe area, phone Union Gas or the fire department.
  • Do not re-enter the building until it has been inspected.

To report a natural gas emergency, contact Union Gas at 1-877-969-0999.

Public Health Services:

What to do After a Flood or Power Outage

CAUTION: Be aware of ELECTRICAL HAZARDS associated with submerged live wires, electrical equipment, and water-damaged appliances and devices. IF UNCERTAIN, DO NOT PROCEED until a qualified electrician has assessed the situation.

Contact your insurance agent to obtain approval before discarding or destroying any furniture or equipment, or removing structural elements such as drywall.

Cleaning Up

The most important element when cleaning is the use of soap or detergent, "elbow grease" and hot water. Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces (such as flooring, concrete, molding, wood and metal furniture, countertops, appliances, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures) with hot water and laundry or dish detergent.

For personal protection during clean-up wear rubber gloves, an N-95 disposable dust mask, and other protective clothing. Avoid direct skin contact with contaminated material.

Thorough scrubbing with a detergent or soap and water, then mopping with a mixture of 120 millilitres (one-half cup) of liquid bleach in nine litres (two gallons) of water is recommended to clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces.

Remove and discard items that cannot be washed and disinfected (such as, mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, foam-rubber items, books, wall coverings, and most paper products).

Remove and discard drywall and insulation that has been contaminated with sewage or flood waters.

Always wash your hands with soap and clean water after being in contact with flood water, sewage or items that have been contaminated by these, or participating in flood cleanup activities.

Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent and separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens. If possible, discard clothing used for clean up activities.

Food Safety After a Flood

Foods Affected by Flooding

Discard food that has come into contact with floodwaters.

The following foods should be considered unsafe and thrown away if they may have come into contact with contaminated flood waters:

  • Food and food products stored within paper, cloth or cardboard boxes/containers;
  • Home canned foods;
  • Flour, grains, sugar and coffee in canisters or bags;
  • Previously opened bottles;
  • Fresh meat, poultry, and seafood;
  • Any food wrapped in plastic;
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables that do not have a peel or shell that can be removed before eating; vBottled or canned beverages, condiments (mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, peanut butter, jam, etc.); vCommercially canned food without dents, leaks or bulges are considered safe if properly cleaned and sanitized. To sanitize: remove the label, thoroughly wash the cans in warm soapy water and rinse with clean water, soak for 30-60 minutes in a solution of two spoonfuls of chlorine bleach in water, re-label cans with permanent marker, making sure to include the expiration date.

Containers and utensils that come in contact with food may also be unsafe. If they have come in contact with contaminated flood waters do the following:

  • Dishes and eating and cooking utensils should be thoroughly cleaned with a water and chlorine bleach solution;
  • Throw away any plastic utensils, paper and plastic plates, wooden bowls, chopping boards and kitchen tools or any other non-food items made from a porous material;
  • Food preparation surfaces should be wiped down using hot tap water and soap. Use bleach and water to sanitize after cleaning;
  • If any plates, glasses, pots or pans are badly chipped or damaged do not use.

Refrigerators, Freezers, Stoves and Other Appliances

NOTE: Any appliance that has been partially or wholly immersed in water will have wet insulation with no insulation value. It cannot be dried without removal. A qualified service technician should be contacted before the appliance is put into service.

Once the safety of the appliance has been verified, it should be cleaned as follows:

  • Ensure electrical power is turned off;
  • Clean the unit thoroughly with a detergent solution, rinse with clean water, then wash with a solution containing one-half cup of chlorine bleach in nine litres (two gallons) of water;
  • Allow to dry with door kept open. Note: Keep children away.

Power Outages & Food Safety

Food in the fridge should be safe as long as power is back on within a few hours. After that you may have to discard most foods. See list below for the types of food that should be thrown out.

  • You can't rely on appearance or odour
  • Never taste food to determine its safety
  • Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they have been in the fridge for too many hours without electricity- or at room temperature too long (over two hours); food poisoning bacteria may have multiplied enough to cause illness if eaten.

Food to Throw away from the Fridge:

If above 4 Degrees Celsius (40 Degrees Fahrenheit) for more than TWO hours:

  • Non-vacuum packed deli meats (cold cuts)
  • Soft cheeses
  • Wieners
  • Cooked dishes such as pasta, casseroles, stew, baked potatoes
  • Raw ground meat including beef, pork, and chicken
  • Fish and other Seafood (unless smoked or cured or pickled)
  • Eggs
  • Milk, cream, yogurt
  • Opened baby formula
  • Garlic in oil or butter

If above 4 Degrees Celsius (40 Degrees Fahrenheit) for more than FOUR hours:

  • Hard cheeses
  • Solid pieces of meat such as steaks or roasts

Keep the Freezer Closed. Keep what cold air you have inside. Don't open the door/lid any more than necessary. A full freezer will stay at freezing temperature for two days; a half full freezer for about 1 day. Frozen food can be refrozen if ice crystals are still present. Some foods may lose some flavour but they will be safe to eat.

If your freezer is not full you can do one transfer of food from your fridge to your freezer to keep those foods cold- but do it quickly and shut the door/lid right away.

Additional Cleaning Considerations

Mould and Mildew

To avoid the health hazards of mildew and bacterial mould, water soaked walls and insulation should be removed, and the space and studding allowed to dry thoroughly. Walls constructed of drywall, plaster or wood will dry out in time but insulation in these walls is no longer effective. As insulation becomes water soaked the weight causes it to settle and compact at the bottom, leaving a large portion of the wall no longer insulated.

Household Furnishings

Upholstered furniture, mattresses, carpets and rugs affected by sewage contaminated flood waters should be thrown away. Clothing, bedding and other soft/fabric articles including children's toys should be laundered on a hot wash (60ºC or the highest temperature indicated on manufacturer's instructions).

Hazardous Products

Containers that hold hazardous materials such as pesticides, fuel or gasoline may have spilled indoors during a flood. If there is a noticeable chemical odour and/or a spill, avoid skin contact with contaminated materials or contaminated water and keep the area well ventilated. Contact the fire department for help.

Links and Other Websites

Floods - Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada
Information from the Government of Canada to help you prepare for a flood, including what to do during and after a flood, and how to begin cleaning-up. Keeping food safe during a power outage Detailed information from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care about food safety issues during and after a power outage. For more information, please contact the City of Hamilton at 905-546-CITY (2489) or by email at

Further updates will be provided as new information becomes available.

-- 30 --

Media Contact:

Kelly Anderson Public Affairs Coordinator City of Hamilton 905-973-4230

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By synxer (registered) | Posted July 28, 2009 at 09:40:20

Damn, Sam.

The stadium and games support job growth which supports positive spin-off effects that eventually lead back to infrastructure improvements. That is, if it is spent correctly ;)

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 28, 2009 at 10:07:27

"That is, if it is spent correctly".

That's Hamilton's problem right there.

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By Daredevil (anonymous) | Posted July 29, 2009 at 10:57:56

How happy is Mr. Ecklund that Albion Falls is now SUPER Albion Falls after the storm?

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By The Godfather (anonymous) | Posted July 29, 2009 at 13:47:16

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted July 29, 2009 at 14:26:18

I think that the problem lies within the very structures of our society where profits are put before people.

Maybe scrutiny needs to be focused on the whole political structure as well as it seems that the voices from the people are being lost.

Just remember it is the families, the individuals that are affected, those who have put trust in a system that has failed them on many levels.

Those with the money, have the ability to influence policy that does not always take into consideration the needs of the people. It is all about "power", I am the king of the hill type of attitude.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 29, 2009 at 14:40:04

The Godfather wrote:

Jason, why don't you blame all this rain that we are having on "sprawl" as well.

Sprawl is not to blame for the rain (although to the extent that our persistently bizarre and unpredictable weather is a result of disruptive climate change, the high-carbon throughput associated with car-dependent sprawl is a nontrivial factor), but sprawl is to blame for the destruction of watersheds that once absorbed heavy rainfall.

The engineering of Red Hill from a river valley into a suburban expressway is certainly a factor in the flooding - the man-made Red Hill Canal simply couldn't handle the volume of water.

Also, consider New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina: a major contributing factor to the devastation was the fact that all the coastal wetlands that had previously absorbed storm swells had been paved over and converted into ... sprawl developments.

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By Really? (registered) | Posted July 29, 2009 at 16:25:46

Worst Politician Ever! (Sam Merulla)

*He only hears himself *Supports Sprawl, yet Slams the lower-City's infrastructure problems *Completely UNPROFESSIONAL

Ward 4 will have their voices heard come November 2010

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted July 29, 2009 at 16:29:43

@godfather - externalities are hard, lets go shopping!!

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By synxer (registered) | Posted July 30, 2009 at 10:24:28

*He only hears himself *Supports Sprawl, yet Slams the lower-City's infrastructure problems *Completely UNPROFESSIONAL *Loves Google Alerts.

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By drhydro (anonymous) | Posted July 30, 2009 at 14:15:25

I think there is a general misunderstanding of the design assumptions and intended performance of most of the storm/wastewater infrastructure here and in any modern city. With the amount of pre-wetting in the Red Hill catchment and the magnitude and intensity of Sunday's event, even normally pervious surfaces (grass, riparian areas, forests, etc.) behaved like impervious surfaces (E.G concrete). Nearly 100 % of the rain that fell would runoff as surface flow (or if you want to get scientific about it, "Hortonian overland flow") and runoff rapidly reaching pipes and creeks nearly instantaneously. Any city's infrastructure would have been stressed and overwhelmed and engineers/planners are always juggling design with cost...and the decreasing rate of return (or safety) with increasing cost.

This was a unique event, although these unique events appear to be occuring with increasing frequency with climate change likely exerting an influence. Granted, there are still many areas of the city that are in need of infrastructure upgrades. Pipes and pump stations are not sexy and typically are not seen as vote getters. Maybe it's time that we hold our politicians to task to ensure that a proper level of resources is dedicated to upgrading, maintaining and sustaining this oft forgotten "out of sight and out of mind" but oh so important infrastructure.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 31, 2009 at 01:03:15

Ryan >> Sprawl is not to blame for the rain (although to the extent that our persistently bizarre and unpredictable weather is a result of disruptive climate change, the high-carbon throughput associated with car-dependent sprawl is a nontrivial factor

I thought there was scientific consensus that human carbon emissions were DEFINITELY causing the earth to warm. Now there's only consensus that HCE's are causing the earth's climate to "change" unpredictably?

Let's get this straight, it's vitally important that we all change our behaviour, because if we don't, scientists are not sure what will happen to the climate. Of course, if we do cut back on our CO2 output, they won't be able to predict that either, but at least we'll all feel like were doing something good for Mother Earth.

Who wants Kool-Aid?

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By JonC (registered) | Posted July 31, 2009 at 08:26:29

a) I didn't realize Ryan was scientific consensus b) Ryan never indicated Earth wasn't warming. c) Here's Kool-Aid, the idea that people could modify a system (even naysayers have 20% of change in CO2 emissions related to people) and expect that there would be no appreciable change. That you believe that confirms (yet again) that you either a grade A moron or a fabulous art experiment. I don't even know how you took a left at Albuquerque, but the climate can warm AND change. They are not mutually exclusive changes.

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By Eastend (anonymous) | Posted July 31, 2009 at 11:18:27

Me thinks Sam Merulla & Chad Collins are trying to buy some votes in the next election with this whole payout deal to affected residents.

Just a hunch...

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted July 31, 2009 at 15:22:40

JonC >> a) I didn't realize Ryan was scientific consensus

I never said he was.

b) Ryan never indicated Earth wasn't warming.

Nor did he indicate that it was, that's my point. He now only talks about "our persistently bizarre and unpredictable weather" due to climate change. Do you see the problem here? If the climate is changing in ways that climate models can't predict, this indicates that the climate models are unreliable.

If climate models are unreliable, then recommendations made based on their output are equally unreliable.

Therefore, why should anyone believe that burning fossil fuels are bad? If the effects of burning fossil fuels are unknowable, then there is no scientific basis for limiting their use.

>> the idea that people could modify a system (even naysayers have 20% of change in CO2 emissions related to people) and expect that there would be no appreciable change.

Change is a part of life and it's also why we have brains. Limit the rate of change and you limit progress.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted July 31, 2009 at 17:29:41

Yes you did. To his quote you said "I thought there was scientific consensus that human carbon emissions were DEFINITELY causing the earth to warm", which implies that he's indicated otherwise. I suppose it's possible that you don't understand the grammatical implications of your words, based on overall comprehension.

"Nor did he indicate that it was". I never indicated that I know ten year old children that can reason better than you, but I have.

"If the climate is changing in ways that climate models can't predict, this indicates that the climate models are unreliable." Wrong again, all climatic models out of the past three decades have predicted increased irregularity in weather patterns. Environment Canada can't tell you for sure whether it's going to rain tonight, I can't imagine what makes you think that a model that takes on a planet wide scale area over decades to centuries time line can predict rainfall any better. It's obvious that you have no idea what a model actually does. We can't definitively predict where an electron will be, so they don't exist? To re-iterate, climactic models have predicted increased irregularity, which has been observed. This in no way means that there isn't error associated with all of these models. But even the minimum (assuming maximum error in the models, shows a change.

"If the effects of burning fossil fuels are unknowable, then there is no scientific basis for limiting their use". Again, wrong, and plenty of 10 year olds are definitively better scientists than you, at a minimum. If you've ever used a lighter, you know at least one effect of burning fossil fuels. Increased heat. Scientists, the people that make the models you deride, have measured the output of this flame, CO2, CO, NOx, CH4, and some other stuff. Scientists have also observed the heat capacity of these gases, and compared them to atmospheric gases. Scientists have also simulated the effects of these changes using both mathematical models and actual real life simulations. We also have relatively accurate measures of GHG emissions that are a result of human activities. So even if you don't believe in all the markers that climatologists use to show historical patterns, there at a bare minimum should be no doubt that a) people emit GHG b) GHG behave differently than air and c) a combination of those two statements.

"Limit the rate of change and you limit progress." This is precisely the idea. Limit the rate of change in atmospheric composition and limit the progress of climate change.

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By REALITY123 (anonymous) | Posted October 31, 2010 at 06:27:24

85 percent in the election results for Merulla! WOW SAM ROCKS!

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