Eartha Steward: Global climate issues, Summit County impact |

Eartha Steward: Global climate issues, Summit County impact

Why is it that I don’t hear much about climate change in Summit County? Is there anything going on locally that I should know about?

Mark, Breckenridge

Great question, Mark. There are actually a number of programs happening locally to combat climate change, but I agree that I haven’t heard much about climate change in a local context lately. Unfortunately, the media coverage of climate change has also diminished across the country. As a bleeding-heart environmentalist, it’s incredibly discouraging for me to see the environmental issue of our time being disregarded by so many people.

The diminishing media coverage certainly doesn’t mean any of the facts have changed. Although we’ve seen rising temps on average in the past decade and more erratic weather events, the day-to-day impacts of climate change aren’t obvious enough (yet) for average Americans to notice. The “doom-and-gloom” predictions of climate scientists aren’t enough to motivate us to take action until we can see obvious signs. Unfortunately, and this is doom and gloom, I know, it may already be too late once the changes become obvious. Subtle changes are already occurring in the Rockies with earlier and faster snowmelt in the spring.

On a local level, the High Country Conservation Center (HC3) is focused on two strategies to curb climate change. The first and most important is that HC3 staff is focused on reducing local carbon emissions. The second strategy is that HC3 hopes to keep Summit County residents informed of what’s happening on climate change policy at state and federal levels. On the second count, HC3 says it should be doing a better job keeping locals informed. Both HC3 strategies are solution-based, providing opportunities for Summit residents and visitors to make positive impacts. HC3 understands that depressing stats and problem presentation sometimes makes us feel more overwhelmed and helpless.

So what exactly is HC3 doing on the climate change locally? HC3 currently partners with the towns of Frisco, Breckenridge and Silverthorne to work with 40 businesses annually to improve their sustainability. HC3 also partners with Summit County government to educate the public has named the Keystone XL pipeline as a critical issue and turning point for the environmental movement, as well as for President Obama’s legacy. NASA climatologist James Hansen labeled the Keystone XL pipeline as “game over” for the planet, and called the amount of carbon stored in Canadian tar sands a “fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet.” cites oil spills along the proposed pipeline route, which would pass near Texas’ Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, which supplies drinking water to more than 12 million people. It could also pose danger to the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest aquifer in western North America that supplies drinking water and irrigation to millions of people and agricultural businesses. has opposed the economic argument that has been made by proponents of the pipeline, arguing that Keystone XL would create only a few thousand temporary jobs during construction. The State Department estimated that ultimately the pipeline will create 35 permanent jobs.

Contrary to oil industry claims, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has said that the Keystone XL pipeline will increase gas prices instead of lowering them. The NRDC’s study also refutes the claim that the pipeline will lead to energy independence, because the pipeline will carry tar sands from Canada to Texas which will then be sold on the global market.

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at

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