Eartha Steward: Climate change: It’s for real
April 22, 2009
I visit Summit County a lot and am a little surprised that there isn’t more talk and action about climate change. Isn’t Summit County particularly vulnerable to warmer and drier weather? What is going on to address greenhouse gas emissions?
Charlie from Denver
Great question, Charlie. It wasn’t too long ago that “global warming” or “climate change” was a controversial issue that even some environmental organizations stayed away from. But, as we learn more, the reality of human-caused climate change is becoming more apparent and more dire ” even if public opinion polls and inaction sometimes show differently.
In my mind, climate change is the single most important issue facing our children today ” even those yet to be born. I care about the polar bears and the sea lions who are facing extinction and whose arctic habitat is changing quickly. But, what really gets me is that we are collectively leaving a really, really big mess for our children to deal with.
The news about climate change is not good, and if you really listen and read, it’s actually a major downer. Personally, I get filled with anger and deep sadness when I really listen to what leading scientists are predicting. In fact, some outreach specialists and activists have stopped talking about the really bad news of climate change because people just tune out.
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Just like most emotional issues, it’s actually much easier to shut out the thought and pretend its not happening. But, no matter what the issue, its not a healthy way to go. And, by shutting out the depressing and scary thoughts of climate change, we’re dealing with mass extinction, drought, and major human suffering.
Specifically, the picture for the Rocky Mountain West is not a pretty one. Compared to the rest of the nation, we are already seeing warmer and drier weather patterns, and studies predict that it’s just going to get hotter and drier here in the interior west ” including Summit County.
The tricky part, which I try to convey to my non-believer brother-in-law (the last convert in my family), is that weather ” even independent of a warmer average surface temperature of the planet ” is unpredictable. Some places may be warmer, some cooler. Some wetter, some drier. There are complex patterns and systems at play that don’t simply result in one big, happy, balmy planet. But, complexity can’t be a reason for inaction or denial.
Fortunately, we do have some action in Summit County! Summit County, Frisco, Breckenridge, Silverthorne and Dillon are all local government members of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization. The Town of Frisco recently completed a community-wide greenhouse gas inventory and just finished an action plan, called “Clean Tracks” with the input of a dedicated citizens’ group.
The Town of Breckenridge has an active Green Team that has been focusing on solutions to conserve energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions both internally with their own operations and externally with community-wide programs. Our own Arapahoe Basin resort has also been working to reduce its impact on our climate through creative solutions, like food-scraps composting and incentives to encourage carpooling.
While we don’t yet have a Summit County climate czar to lead the charge and compile the data for the various programs taking place, there’s actually a fair bit going on. On the community level, the Sustainable Building Code (adopted in every jurisdiction except Silverthorne) and the continued investment in waste diversion programs are two examples of efforts to conserve resources and reduce energy consumption.
Individually, more people in Summit County are taking advantage of the programs and incentives to insulate their homes and install renewable energy systems. Here at the Conservation Center, we’ve been promoting the Low Carbon Diet ” a 30 day program to help you lose some tons of carbon.
Really, we need action on all levels ” at home, in our community, at the state, and definitely at the federal level. Personally, I’m hoping (and using a little bit of the faith that I’ve stored up) that we’ll see swift, decisive action at the federal and state level in the next few years. Until then, continue to look for programs at the local level and do you part to help make a better world.
Eartha Steward is written by Carly Wier, Jennifer Santry, and Heather Dodd Christie at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation in our mountain community. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org or to High Country Conservation Center, PO Box 4506, Frisco, CO 80443.