County Update: A good place to start on climate change

Tim Corrigan
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Let’s start with this premise: Climate change is real and human-caused, largely by the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and increasingly intensive agricultural practices.

Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan.
Courtesy photo

This change in our climate represents a very real threat to humankind’s continued existence on this planet. Even for those individuals who have rejected this overwhelming scientific consensus, it has become impossible to ignore the existential consequences of this threat.

You don’t need to be a scientist to observe these effects locally. Just look at the precariously low flows of our beloved Yampa River. Recreational access has been cut off, and fish struggle to survive.

Here in Yampa, the Bear River is literally a trickle with hardly enough water for livestock or wildlife to get a drink. The Muddy Slide and Morgan Creek fires continue to burn, merging with smoke from other western fires and clouding our skies and clogging our lungs. Our ranchers are being forced to sell off their herds due to historically low hay production and are hauling water to keep their remaining animals alive.

We are holding our collective breath, hoping that adequate snow is on the way to support our ski season and provide the snowpack we rely upon to provide the runoff to replenish our water supplies. Our recreation-based economy cannot continue to exist, let alone thrive, without adequate snowfall.

Even when snow is plentiful, we are experiencing earlier runoff because of warmer spring temperatures. And who hasn’t noticed that our summers are becoming longer and hotter?

The challenges of confronting climate change and its effects can seem overwhelming. We ask ourselves what can we do locally when the challenges are global? It’s a good question. My answer is that addressing climate change and taking steps to be resilient in the face of this threat will require collective action on a global, national, state and local level. We need to do the things that we have control over locally while working to influence policy at higher levels of government.

Fortunately, we are taking steps here in Routt County to combat climate change and be more resilient to its inevitable effects. In partnership with the municipalities of Hayden, Oak Creek, Steamboat Springs and Yampa, we have adopted the Routt County Climate Action Plan. This plan provides a menu of options for partnering governments and stakeholders to select and implement strategies and tactics to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in support of climate action and targeted levels.

The plan outlines specific strategies addressing energy, transportation, waste, land use, the economy and, perhaps most importantly, accountability. Each of these strategies is supported by a series of actions that the partners can take to make measurable progress toward the goals outlined in the plan. While these actions may not be easy, they are achievable.

In order to achieve these goals, each partner must be held accountable for their progress. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that resources are allocated and priority is given to fulfilling the commitments made in this plan.

I understand that there are those that continue to argue about what causes climate change, but at a certain point, I don’t care if you want to call this climate change, drought, global warming, air pollution or anything else. We can all agree that what is happening with our climate is not good, and we need to take immediate actions to mitigate these consequences.

From where I sit, the Routt County Climate Action Plan is a good place to start. I invite readers to visit Routt County’s website and click on to see how each of us can get involved.

Tim Corrigan is president of the Routt County Board of Commissioners.

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