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Climate expert to Vail Valley leaders: ‘Nowhere close to the new normal’

EDWARDS — The only rational response to the greatest threat to mankind is a radical one.

That was the message delivered Wednesday night by Dr. Robert Davies, a renowned physicist and climate science expert, to a packed auditorium of more than 400 attendees at Battle Mountain High School. Davies’ lecture, “Getting to Zero: From Radical to Rational,” was hosted by the Climate Action Collaborative and attended by elected officials from Vail, Avon and Eagle County as well as local Vail Resorts mountain executives and other community leaders.

“The bad news is that we’re not even close to meeting these challenges,” Davies said during a sobering hour-plus monologue. “The good news is that we haven’t even tried. We’re going to have to figure it out.”

‘This isn’t alarmist’

What will the Vail Valley and the world look like at the turn of the next century? It’s a terrifying sight if we, as humans, continue on our current pace of carbon dioxide emissions, Davies said.

Picture local winters with no snow, just rain. Imagine hotter temperatures, food and water shortages. Picture 2 meters of sea-level rise globally, complete extinction of coral reefs and as many as 200 million humans displaced from coastlines and 600 million more annually flooded. Envision global political chaos.

“This is why the U.S. defense department views global climate change as the single largest security threat our nation faces,” Davies said.

 The only words to describe such conditions are catastrophic, un-adaptable and irreversible. It’s enough to make anyone despair, but Davies plainly stated that climate scientists around the globe aren’t projecting doomsday scenarios to make headlines.

“We’re nowhere close to the new normal,” he said. “This isn’t politics, this is just physics. This isn’t alarmist. The information is alarming … Humans are very adaptable, but we’re very finely tuned to the climate we have and where we get our food and water, how we move around … Once we cross thresholds and tipping points, the planet will be a dramatically different place, and once you cross, the likelihood that you can return to the place in which human civilization is very highly tuned is essentially zero. The chances of going back become dramatically reduced.”

He added: “When you don’t know where the edge is, you want to stop before you get there if the consequences are big.”

A cultural problem

For more than a decade, Davies has been recognized in critical science outlets for his work on global climate change and sustainable human systems, and he has delivered hundreds of public lectures during that time.

While his talk Wednesday was heavy on climate science, and the overwhelming scientific consensus about the increasingly alarming effects of global climate change, he sprinkled in asides on history to put into context the response required to save the planet.

More than anything, Davies said global climate change is a cultural and political problem to solve — and that there’s a role for every single human to play. There’s also no time to wait.

“We’ve got to find a mindset where we can move forward in response to the problem,” he said. “Our job is to take the next step with the mindset of an emergency. In an emergency you don’t hope you get out, you just get out … We have no time to fix climate change. The next decade is the most important any of us will ever live through.”

To use a very simple metaphor, he likened climate scientists to the engineer on board the Titanic who knew the ship was doomed when he saw that five compartments had flooded while the rest of the crew thought that the iceberg had only delivered a glancing blow.

“Yes, it’s extremist, but it needs to be,” he said. “We’re clearly nowhere near the response it requires, according to the physics.”

Viable solutions

To solve the problem, Davies said the framing of the problem has to be a mindset of resolve on a global scale.

“You resolve to do something and then you figure out how to do it,” he said.

He then provided historical precedents for meeting such a challenge. He spoke of the Apollo 13 engineers who figured out a way to get the astronauts back safely to Earth against impossible odds, or Winston Churchill rallying Great Britain when surrender and Nazi occupation was all but assured during World War II.

Among other things, he said nobody would think that U.S. automakers shutting down the production of new cars would be a viable solution, nor would grounding all domestic flights. And yet, the United States has done both things before. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Congress banned the production of new autos and pushed automakers to make tanks for the war effort in the fall of 1941 and we grounded all flights in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“What is radical is knowing and not responding,” he said. “It’s got to take us out of our comfort zone, plugging ourselves into efforts that change whole systems.”

U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear Colorado’s presidential electors case. Here’s why the state thinks it will win.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear Colorado’s appeal of a federal court ruling  that allows presidential electors to ignore the will of the people and back whichever candidate they want.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold last October petitioned the court to hear the case, hoping to avoid potential legal and political chaos come November. Griswold has said the outcome affects “the very foundation of our nation.”

Weiser praised the Supreme Court’s decision, saying the case is “ripe for review” and that he’s hopeful the panel will rule in Colorado’s favor and not fundamentally alter the Electoral College, the U.S. system of electing presidents.

The situation dates back to 2016, when then-Secretary of State Wayne Williams removed a presidential elector who refused to vote for Hilary Clinton — even though Clinton won the popular vote in Colorado. In August, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Denver, ruled that the removal of the elector, Micheal Baca, was unconstitutional.

Baca, one of Colorado’s nine electoral voters, tried to cast his ballot for then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, instead of Clinton as part of an attempt by a handful electors across the country to block Republican Donald Trump from becoming president. But the 10th Circuit found that Colorado didn’t have authority to remove Baca as an elector, eliminating the state’s ability to bind electors to follow the will of Colorado voters. 

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at coloradosun.com.

Red flag petition filed against officer in fatal shooting

DENVER (AP) — A woman whose son was killed by Colorado State University police in 2017 is trying to have the guns of one of the officers involved confiscated under the state’s new red flag law, a move the sheriff calls a classic example of how the controversial law can be abused.

In her Jan. 9 petition for an extreme risk protection order, Susan Holmes said there was a credible risk of unlawful or reckless use of a firearm by Phillip Morris because he threatened and killed her son, 19-year-old Jeremy Holmes, and because she said he has shown ongoing violence and aggression.

Morris’ actions were investigated in the shooting and deemed justified by the district attorney, who noted that Morris tried to de-escalate the situation. A message left for his attorney was not returned Wednesday.

The law, which took effect Jan. 1, is similar to those adopted in over a dozen other states and intended to allow family members or law enforcement to seek a court order to confiscate the weapons of people they believe could harm themselves or others. Holmes did not seek an emergency removal of the weapons so no action will be taken until after a judge considers it during a hearing on Thursday.

In a post on Facebook Wednesday, Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith called Holmes’ petition, signed under oath and penalty of perjury, a fraud and said authorities were investigating what charges she could face. He said he could not elaborate on the case because of the investigation.

In the section of the form where Holmes was asked to describe her family or household relationship with Morris, she checked the box for having a child in common with him. Holmes told The Associated Press that the language of the law can be interpreted in different ways but declined to elaborate ahead of the court hearing.

Morris does not share a child with Holmes, said Dell Rae Ciaravola, a spokeswoman for Colorado State’s police department. She said he remains with the department and has been “consistently honorable and professional” since being hired in 2012.

Holmes said she supports amending the law to allow anyone to seek protection orders against police officers who have abused their power.

“I don’t have a vendetta. I have a desire for justice for everyone,” she said.

Jason Crow of Colorado chosen as a Trump impeachment manager

U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, an Aurora Democrat, will help prosecute President Donald Trump in the Senate.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday that the freshman congressman will be one of seven impeachment managers when the president’s trial begins next week. Trump was impeached by House Democrats last month for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

“The emphasis is on litigators,” Pelosi said of the impeachment managers. “The emphasis is on comfort level in the courtroom. The emphasis is on making the strongest possible case to protect and defend our Constitution — to seek the truth for the American people.”

Crow was an attorney in Aurora before joining Congress, though he was not a prosecutor. Of the impeachment managers, he’s the only one who doesn’t sit on the Intelligence or Judiciary committees, the two panels that oversaw impeachment in November and December.

“This is a somber time for the country; it has been for many months,” Crow said in an interview Wednesday. “But the president has forced us into this position of having to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law. His abuses cannot be allowed to go unchecked.”

Read more via The Denver Post.

Why Colorado hospitals just sued the Polis administration over the health care reinsurance program

The association that represents Colorado’s hospitals filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Polis administration over the state’s new health care reinsurance program — a fresh challenge to a program that has been one of Gov. Jared Polis’ signature achievements but is also facing a clouded budget picture.

The reinsurance program, which is currently planned to run for two years, has helped reduce what some people who buy health coverage on their own pay in insurance premiums and is financed in part by $40 million in new fees on hospitals per year. The Colorado Hospital Association’s lawsuit specifically targets a regulation telling hospitals they have to collectively pay the first year’s installment of $40 million in the first half of this year.

The hospital association argues that the rule was enacted through an “improper and illegal” process that didn’t provide the requisite notice or opportunity for public comment. The lawsuit says collecting the fees in the first half of the year — instead of the second half — will hurt cash-strapped smaller hospitals that have already set their budgets for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

And the hospital association also takes issue with a provision in the regulation that would allow the state’s Division of Insurance to potentially revoke the license of a hospital that doesn’t pay on time. 

“(T)he Division enacted the Emergency Regulation in an improper and unlawful attempt to increase the Division’s jurisdictional and enforcement authority over Colorado hospitals,” the lawsuit argues.

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at coloradosun.com.

Colorado bill would outlaw holding a cell phone while driving

Colorado may soon follow 20 other states in prohibiting hand-held phone use while driving.

The proposed legislation would make it illegal for adults to use a mobile device while driving, except through the use of hands-free equipment. It also would bar drivers under 18 years old from using any mobile devices. Colorado already bans texting while driving.

“It’s a pretty common-sense measure to make our roads safer,” said Rep. Dylan Roberts, who is sponsoring the bill. He said his constituents want legislators to act on this issue to cut down on crashes.

Just more than half of Coloradans admitted talking on a hand-held phonewhile driving, according to a 2017 state Department of Transportation survey.

Colorado lawmakers are determined to make roads safer, with fines for phone use while driving starting at $50 for the first offense and up to $300 if the violation involves texting.

Read more via The Denver Post.

Could a new nicotine tax pay for free preschool in Colorado? Advocates want to ask voters in November.

Colorado voters could decide this November whether to fund free preschool for 4-year-olds statewide by taxing tobacco and vaping products. 

On Friday, two citizens took the first step toward putting the question on November’s ballot, filing more than a dozen possible versions with the state’s Office of Legislative Council, which reviews potential initiatives before sending them to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.

New taxes on a pack of cigarettes or vaping products would range from $1.20 to $2.60, depending on which version of the ballot proposal is selected. Currently, taxes are 84 cents a pack, among the lowest in the country.

The money from a new vaping and tobacco tax, which is sure to be vehemently opposed by the tobacco industry, would go a long way toward helping Gov. Jared Polis make good on his promise to offer free preschool to all 4-year-olds by the end of his first term. 

One version of the ballot question would put $300 million more a year toward state-funded preschool. That’s far above the $27 million that Polis requested in this year’s budget and that, so far, lawmakers of both parties have been reluctant to endorse.

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at coloradosun.com.

Gov. Jared Polis wants to go even bigger in 2020. Here’s his State of the State address

Gov. Jared Polis celebrated his first-year wins during his second State of the State address Thursday, imploring the General Assembly to go even further by expanding preschool education and reducing Colorado’s prison population. 

He also urged lawmakers to cut prescription drug costs and create a government-managed public option health care system.

The Democratic chief executive’s robust agenda will cost big money to implement, and lawmakers rejected significant elements a year ago. Once again, the legislature expressed immediate caution about whether it’s achievable in this year’s lawmaking term.

“The governor’s completely within his right to make any request he wants,” said state Sen. Dominick Moreno, a Commerce City Democrat who, as a member of the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, helps write the state budget. “The legislature’s not obligated to give it to him.”

“It’s hard to understand how all of the things the governor talked about get paid for,” said Senate Republican leader Chris Holbert, of Parker.

The 57-minute speech began moments after protesters in the state House chamber — which was packed with elected officials and dignitaries — disrupted the decorum, shouting and waving signs demanding the governor and lawmakers ban hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking. 

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at coloradosun.com.

Gov. Polis said he wanted to close a private prison in Colorado; GEO Group beat him to it

After months of saying it wanted to close a private prison in Colorado Springs, the Polis administration got the surprise news on Tuesday that GEO Group will be shuttering the facility on its own, leaving hundreds of inmates and employees in limbo. 

GEO announced it will close the Cheyenne Mountain Reentry Center in just 60 days. 

The move likely will cause jail backlogs, parole releases and prison crowding, said Colorado Department of Corrections Executive Director Dean Williams, adding that the situation is not ideal and noting a list of “undesirable consequences.”

“I knew that this certainly was going to be a possibility,” Williams told The Colorado Sun, explaining that his agency has been planning for the outcome. “We knew that this could possibly turn south. I thought we were on track, however, that we would continue to work this situation out.”

Williams said his agency had been working with GEO Group for months to address issues at the Cheyenne Mountain Reentry Center around staffing and programs offered to inmates there. He had hoped that the facility would stay open through at least June so the state could find a solution for its inmate population. 

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at coloradosun.com.

Colorado would repay first 2 years of student loans for grads who stay in state under “Get On Your Feet” bill

A bill in the works for Colorado’s upcoming legislative session would mandate the state pay for the first two years of student loans for new graduates of the state’s public colleges who commit to stay in Colorado and enroll in an income-based repayment program.

Students who qualify would have their monthly payment — determined by an income-based repayment program — paid in full by the state for their first two years out of college, relieving them of the financial responsibility as they get introduced to the workforce.

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, a Boulder Democrat, and Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, a Democrat representing District 19, plan to sponsor the “Get On Your Feet” bill, modeled after a program established a few years ago in New York.

“Students are graduating with so much debt that it’s, frankly, overwhelming,” Fenberg said. “People are going down a path or a career that isn’t what they even went to college for to start paying these off. They don’t have a chance to take a breath and figure out what they want to do. The concept is to give them two years of breathing room to actually be able to pursue the career they want to pursue.”

More than 761,000 Coloradans are repaying $27.7 billion in student loan debt, according to household debt statistics from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Read more via The Denver Post.