Mayors, council members and county commissioners from throughout Colorado debated Friday with climate experts in Aspen if local efforts to curb greenhouse-gas emissions will be enough to save a warming planet.
Some officials noted that big, bold moves by the U.S. government are unlikely now that Donald Trump occupies the White House and has filled key Cabinet positions with climate deniers.
Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones, a former executive director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition, said the county’s research indicated that local action on climate could only achieve small improvements. The critical components are federal fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles and state mandates for renewable energy use by public utility companies, she said.
But Brad Udall, a researcher at the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University, said local actions are equally critical.
“This is the single most important issue facing humanity,” Udall said. Researchers are continually learning more about the consequences of the planet warming. “The science is compelling.”
Denver could see 34 days of temperatures above 100 degrees per year by the end of the century if greenhouse gases aren’t aggressively curbed, Udall said. Aggressive action could limit the super-hot days to a few annually.
Wildfires in Colorado used to destroy roughly 100,000 acres per decade in the 1960s and 1970s, according to research by CSU. That increased to 200,000 acres per decade in the 1980s and ’90s, and then soared to more than 1 million acres for the 2000s.
In addition, Udall noted, 2,000 homes were destroyed in the northern Front Range in the September 2013 floods when a year’s worth of precipitation fell in just four days.
Even if some people don’t philosophically accept that action is needed to prevent further warming, the threats to their property from catastrophic events and pressure from insurers will likely drive action, said Carl Castillo, policy adviser for the city…