Diane Miller: County needs to adopt climate action plan
October 23, 2018
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations scientific panel, recently warned the world of the serious consequences of continuing along our current path of fossil fuel consumption. This report, written by 91 scientists and based on more than 6,000 studies, details our current climate trajectory and predicts more widespread and serious effects of climate change than any previous report. These include increasing temperatures, drought, fire, floods and storm surges, things we have all seen and heard about with increasing frequency of late.
The New York Times quoted one U.N. official who described the report as a "deafening, piercing smoke alarm." In Northwest Colorado, this is a particularly appropriate metaphor after a summer of record-breaking heat and drought that sparked wildfires, river closures and fire restrictions.
Our high-mountain community is more susceptible to the effects of climate change, resulting in less snowfall, earlier spring melt, decreased runoff, increased drought conditions and more frequent and intense wildfires. The IPCC report warns of impacts on agriculture and tourism, two major economic drivers in our county.
Many mountain counties, including Summit, Eagle, Pitkin, LaPlata, San Miguel and Garfield have already responded to decades of scientific warnings about our changing climate by developing climate action plans. The city of Steamboat Springs recently joined the Compact of Colorado Communities and is in the process of developing climate action goals. Routt County, however, has yet to conduct any comprehensive planning around climate mitigation or resilience.
While county commissioners and staff are participating in a study of Routt County's vulnerability to climate change with a focus on water issues, this is only one facet of a true climate action plan. A robust plan typically includes an updated greenhouse gas inventory and a range of energy efficiency, renewable energy, waste diversion and transportation initiatives that will measurably reduce carbon emissions.
As outlined in the IPCC report, the opportunities for addressing climate change are numerous and many could be implemented here in our community. In addition to the aforementioned activities, reforestation, improved land use and agricultural practices, and even carbon capture are areas where we already have considerable resources and expertise.
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Election season is a good time to ask county commissioners and candidates what they will do to lead us in developing a climate action plan that will improve the economic, environmental and social sustainability of our community.