Letter: We need stronger state policies to combat climate change
Here in the Eagle Valley, we are celebrating a good snow season this year, which has been helpful for winter recreation and for building up Colorado’s snowpack as we head into summer.
But even this year’s snowfall won’t change the larger climate trends shaping our future. Forecasts predict that our winters will steadily become shorter and warmer, summers will be hotter and drier, and extreme weather will be more common and treacherous.
Last year, Colorado was the warmest it has ever been in 124 years of record keeping. In addition to shortening the winter recreation season, upon which so much of our economy depends, warm winters also allow beetles to survive in large numbers and kill growing swaths through our forests. The expansive beetle damage combined with the hot, dry summers is increasing fire danger, and last year was one of the worst fire seasons on record in Colorado — five of the 2018 fires were among the top 20 largest blazes ever in Colorado. Eagle County experienced its first major wildfire, which nearly took out El Jebel and Basalt. On top of all this, severe flooding extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and intensity.
Local communities including Vail, Avon, and others in Eagle County pay a heavy price for all of this. Health, quality of life, and our economy suffer. In addition, fires and floods impose direct costs on local taxpayers. Eagle County, the State of Colorado, and the federal government spent more than $18 million fighting the Lake Christine Fire, and local communities will bear ongoing recovery costs for years to come.
Each of our jurisdictions understands the threats of climate change and are working locally to be prepared for these anticipated impacts, and reduce our carbon pollution. But to succeed we also need stronger state policy, and we recognize how difficult it can be for individual communities to do this on their own. For this reason, all three of our jurisdictions participate in the local Climate Action Collaborative, and in a 25-member strong statewide coalition of municipalities and counties known as Colorado Communities for Climate Action. Working in partnership with other like-minded local governments allows us to have a real impact on what happens at the state capitol.
The legislature is currently considering a number of important proposals. These bills would set accountable statewide carbon goals, expand opportunities for rooftop solar and community solar gardens, reduce air pollution, provide transition assistance to communities navigating the retirement of coal mines and coal plants, ensure that passenger vehicles in Colorado continue to become more fuel-efficient, help expand electric vehicle and charging station access to all of Colorado, and save money for Colorado’s local governments, families, and businesses. Our own Senator Kerry Donovan is leading the charge on a bill that would make sure the state accurately tracks greenhouse gas emissions so we can make smart choices about the most cost-effective and beneficial climate strategies.
But with less than two weeks remaining in the legislative session, and most of these bills still working their way through the process, our state senators and representatives will have to continue working hard to get them over the finish line.
Senators Donovan and Bob Rankin and Representatives Julie McCluskie and Dylan Roberts care deeply about Colorado and about the communities they represent. We appreciate their hard work, and we ask them all to make sure we pass bills that will reduce carbon pollution, improve our quality of life, and protect our long-term economic vitality.
Jeanne McQueeney, Kathy Chandler-Henry, Matt Scherr
Eagle County commissioners
Sarah Smith Hymes, Mayor
On behalf of Avon Town Council
Dave Chapin, Mayor
On behalf of Vail Town Council