Letter: Catastrophic climate disruption is happening now
Does it seem to you like we’re going through an extraordinarily hot and dry stretch of summer, with smoky air and wildfires all around us? An Aug. 7 article in the Washington Post gave me a climate change jolt, using Mesa County as an example. … Not so far away, huh?
The article’s title, “2°C: Beyond the limit: This giant climate hot spot is robbing the West of its water.”
In the 2015 Paris Accord on climate change, leaders agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to “well below” 2 degrees Centigrade (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. Would it surprise you — shock you? — to know that a “cluster of counties on Colorado’s Western Slope — along with three counties just across the border in eastern Utah — has warmed more than 2 degrees Celsius, double the global average? … It is the largest 2C hot spot in the Lower 48,” according to the Washington Post.
The article includes a map showing hot spots throughout the Lower 48, as well as a table showing temperature increases in Colorado counties, including Routt County, +2.8º Fahrenheit annual temperature change, 1895-2019 (+1.6C).
The earth has warmed 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since the industrial revolution, but since global warming affects areas differently, 10% of the earth is already at 2 degrees C.
“Western Colorado is experiencing a feedback loop,” according to Colorado State University senior scientist Brad Udall, “because there is less soil moisture to absorb the solar energy and transfer it to the air through evaporation. Heating begets drying, and then drying further begets heating,”
Chris Milly, a senior resource scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey, has found that 1.5 billion tons less of Colorado River water is due to the region’s snowpack shrinking and melting earlier — 1.5 billion tons is equivalent to what 14 million Americans use in a year.
Catastrophic climate disruption is not in the future; it is happening here, now. What can we do to impact the trajectory of climate change?
We can all do things as individuals — transportation and electricity are the biggest contributors to green house gases. But the greatest impact comes from the policies of governments and corporations to limit greenhouse gases. Put pressure on state and federal elected officials. Our own county and city officials are right now working on a plan to reduce greenhouse gases. Ask them by email, letter and in person to make that plan aggressive and forward-thinking. Also, complete the county’s online climate action survey at routtclimateaction.com.
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Rather than protest at a rally to raise awareness of an alleged problem, Steamboat Springs High School students should file a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.