Quinton: Let’s not be the boiling frog

Adam Quinton
Valley Voices
Adam Quinton

A few days ago temperatures hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit … in Siberia. Arizona is limiting new development in some suburbs of Phoenix due to a lack of water. Over 200 wildfires are raging across Canada. You think climate change is bad now? Just wait. Even if current 2050 “Net Zero” commitments by the United States and over 100 other countries are met, we will be pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere for the next three decades. 

But here in Eagle County we are forward-thinking and setting an example with the sort of climate action needed to have a chance of mitigating the worsening impacts of global warming, right? Regrettably, the answer is no.

As I pointed out in a public comment to our Climate Action Collaborative board last Friday, the long-term Climate Action Collaborative goal for a 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 is looking out of date and out of touch. Besides not meeting national goals, we aren’t even consistent with state law. SB23-016, which the governor signed into law on May 11, requires greenhouse gas reductions of 80% by the early 2040s and a 100% reduction by 2050.

I argued to the Climate Action Collaborative that jurisdictions like ours that aim to lead and be ambitious on climate (because so many voters here demand it) surely need to target a 100% reduction before 2050. In my view, a truly forward-leaning Eagle County should aim for a 100% greenhouse gas reduction goal by say 2045. 

Yes, our 2030 goal of a 50% reduction is still the state target. But unless you are reflecting on the accelerated pace of what is needed, both scientifically and legally, post 2030 then what we do in the near term and medium term likely will not set us on the right trajectory.

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Our main electric utility, Holy Cross Energy, is publicly on track to be over 90% renewable energy by this time in 2024 en route to 100% clean by 2030. This means that further material greehouse gas emission reductions in the county beyond 2024 can only come from the transportation and building sectors. 

If we start from the premise that we should aim for a 100% reduction by 2045 say, logic dictates we need to consider much tougher action on building emissions, where we have the most agency. 

The Climate Action Collaborative plan talks about “emergency grade action.” Let’s see some. One example: If I install a gas furnace today, it could last up to 20 years. By my math 2045 minus 20 equals 2025. That means we can’t have any new gas furnaces installed from mid-decade to meet a 2045 goal. 

Channeling what President John F. Kennedy said in 1962 about landing a man on the Moon that decade, the: “challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.”

We must surely think like this when it comes to the escalating threat to our way of life that climate change represents. Otherwise, we are all the proverbial boiling frog.

Adam Quinton lives in Edwards and sits on the boards of Holy Cross Energy and Walking Mountains Science Center. He holds a degree in Natural Sciences from Cambridge University, England. The opinions expressed in this column are made in a purely personal capacity.

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