Vail Daily column: Local Climate Action Plan worth a read
May 3, 2017
I read the Climate Action Plan for the Eagle County Community on the Walking Mountains Science Center website. The plan is an effort by Eagle County; Vail, Avon, Eagle, Gypsum, Basalt and Minturn; Holy Cross Energy and Eagle River Water and Sanitation District; local nonprofits and some businesses (notably Vail Resorts, Vail Honeywagon, East West Hospitality and Vail Valley Medical Center) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Eagle County.
The targets are a 25 percent reduction in emissions by 2025 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050. Per capita greenhouse gas emissions in Eagle County are 30 percent higher than the national average (for reasons I think we can all identify), so we should probably try extra hard to bring them down.
The plan seems to be well thought out, likely to be productive, and is well worth reading. The great thing about this kind of local planning is that the "stakeholders" are familiar with our local issues, history and economic interdependencies. The fact that our largest industry is extremely climate sensitive may make this kind of effort less fraught in Eagle County than it would be many places. Even the Republicans, being such huge fans of local control, ought to be all for it.
I would like to think that every county in the country is making a similar plan. Unfortunately, many counties are not blessed with the strong civic culture and financial resources that Eagle County has. If the majority of localities do not come up with an effective plan, then Eagle County is going to suffer the effects of climate change anyway, since the atmosphere does not respect political boundaries.
I am not going to argue the climate change "question." The fact that human-generated greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly changing the climate is settled science. It's not clear how fast we're going to go down, but go down we will if we do not address it. I'm sure there are people who think their wealth will shield them from the effects of a global environmental meltdown — they are wrong, but in the meantime, they are politically powerful.
There are corporate actors, schooled in the mantra that change is opportunity, who think that if they let 'er rip they will come out on top. If most of the world's species are lost in the process, and billions of people are stressed, displaced or starving, then who cares. We have robots. I mean, they have robots — I certainly don't.
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Individual action, while important, is not going to get us out of this mess. It's hard to make major changes to your lifestyle, even if you know it's the right thing to do. Propaganda by the fossil fuels industry and the anti-science right wing has convinced millions that they would be suckers if they took this problem seriously. We have the technologies to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions without having to become radically abstemious, but not the national and political will to put them in place.
If an asteroid were headed for earth, then we would not wait for someone to figure out how to make a profit on averting the collision — we'd expect the governments of the world to try to destroy it or change its course.
What I want, since climate change is a seriously global collective problem, are solutions from every level of government. We need the federal government and the state of Colorado to ramp up action on this issue. Now. The only way to get that result is to tell our representatives what we want and kick them out of office if they don't respond. (Here's looking at you, Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton.) Sounds tepid and laborious, but that's democracy. It's work.
Meanwhile, I would like to say thank you to our Eagle County Commissioners (Jeanne McQueeney, Kathy Chandler-Henry and Jill Ryan) for funding and to Kim Langmaid, of the Walking Mountains Science Center, for leading what looks like an effective local response. Thank you to everyone who participated. It beats the heck out of doing nothing.
Cynthia Lepthien is a resident of Eagle.
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