Climate change will be focus of event Monday | VailDaily.com

Climate change will be focus of event Monday

EAGLE COUNTY — At no time during Monday's Eagle County Climate Challenge will you assume the lotus position, sit in a circle, hold hands and hum.

And that's what makes it worth your time.

"We're gonna get s— done. This is not an aum (om) moment," said Bob Castellino, founder and CEO of Climate Colorado.

The Climate Challenge is a working conference. While you might occasionally nod approvingly as some academic extols the glories of Ra the Egyptian sun god, mostly you will use your brain and the brains of others to come up with actual solutions to real problems.

“Imagine an economy driven by people’s choices. And you don’t have to look to the government to give it to you.”Bob CastellinoCEO, Climate Colorado

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When you're done, you'll have an action plan.

"Doing is thinking," Castellino said.

Monday's Climate Challenge is followed Monday evening by the Vail Symposium's panel discussion featuring four of the world's leading energy experts.

Real solutions

Monday's summit will take a decidedly pragmatic, non-political approach to climate issues.

For example: If 1.2 million of Colorado's 2.5 million households switched to renewable energy, then they'd put about $11 billion back in pockets.

"Imagine an economy driven by people's choices. And you don't have to look to the government to give it to you," he said.

And you can stop blaming China, Castellino said, who offers this uncomplicated market solution.

"America needs to start making its own products and stop relying on cheap labor and environmental degradation. Everything we buy in big box stores is made there and sold here to make our lives more affordable," Castellino said.

On the other hand, China is also the world leader in generating solar energy, Castellino said.

"We're on the ground in Eagle County to take action, to help people take responsibility for their actions and with whom they do business," Castellino said.

People will solve climate change; state and federal governments won't, he said.

"We didn't need a computer chip to solve this. We just needed people willing to roll up their sleeves. We're trying to get everyone to turn the lights on without using coal, oil and gas," he said.

Changing local climate

Castellino has been here 41 years, and things have changed. His first day skiing Vail was April 7, 1974; deep powder all day long. Snow melting in April is a relatively recent phenomenon, he said.

"When you're looking up the mountain during this year's world championships, and you see girls in bikinis and people are trying to keep the snow from sliding down the mountain, you know things have changed," he said. "In Colorado, we have rising temperatures, melting glaciers and rising snow lines. We'll soon see Kansas temperatures in mountain towns … hot, hot, hot."

It's like this

There is no escape, he said.

This is what it's like.

"Drive into your garage, close the doors and let the engine run," Castellino said.

Here's why.

"We only have 22,000 feet of breathable space in our atmosphere that gives rise to all life," he said. "Then throw some soot into that thin layer."

Pollutants are not just falling on the polar ice caps, it's also falling on us.

"We can stimulate our own economy, create jobs and clean up this mess," Castellino said. "Who wouldn't want to do that?"

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

If You Go

Eagle County Climate Challenge & Renewable Energy Fair

When: Monday. 8 a.m. registration.

Where: Colorado Mountain College, Edwards

Schedule: Presenters 9-11:30 a.m., 12:30-4 p.m. Climate Challenge Rapid Prototyping, 4-5 p.m. closing team presentations.

Same Location: 6-8:30 p.m., Vail Symposium Solar Energy Panel

Tickets: Combo ticket, $67.50. Vail Symposium only, $35. Students and teachers, $10.

More information: To register or for more information, go to vailsymposium.org.

To buy tickets, go to http://www.eventbrite.com.

The Vail Symposium’s panel is John Jimison, Heather Bailey, Mark Simmons and Laura Farris.

Also on hand for the Climate Summit will be:

Shawn Bruckman, Vail Honey Wagon: Zero Waste.

David Ellenberger, National Wildlife Federation: The State of Wildlife in Colorado.

Dave Finnigan, CEO – Climate Change is Elementary: Elementary and Junior High Climate Change Education.

Irene Vilar, Americas Latino Eco Festival: Bridging Energy Efficiency Gap with Latinos.

Connie Woodberry, RIA Group: Building Green Sustainable and Water Wise Communities.

Robert Castellino, Climate Colorado: Implementing Local Solutions for a Resilient Future.

Symposium discussion panel

John Jimison is the managing director of the Energy Future Coalition, a non-partisan public policy initiative of the UN Foundation. He previously served as Senior Counsel to the Energy and Commerce Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Heather Bailey is the executive director of Energy Strategy and Electric Utility Development for the city of Boulder, Colorado. Bailey was hired in 2012 to manage Boulder’s Energy Future project that aims to develop long-term energy strategies to decarbonize the city’s power supply.

Mark Simmons is the president of SolarMart and has been involved in over 800 installed solar projects in Colorado, Hawaii and Columbia.

Laura Farris is the Climate Change Coordinator for the EPA Region 8 in Denver.