Global warming poses a number of risks to Colorado, and concrete, science-based action to begin reducing the state’s greenhouse gas pollution will be a top policy priority next year for groups comprising the Colorado Climate Action Network.
“It is essential for Colorado to set science-based reduction goals for global warming pollution that will drive innovation and make Colorado a leader in building the New Energy Economy,” said Matt Baker, executive director of Environment Colorado. “We’ve got a small window of opportunity to make real changes. We need to take action now, and the people of Colorado have said emphatically in polls that they want action now.”
The best available science indicates that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced 80 percent below current levels by 2050 to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and avoid the worst impacts of global warming (www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science/emissionstarget.html). In order to meet the reduction goals that scientists say are necessary, member groups of the Colorado Climate Action Network have proposed a five-pronged Early Action Plan to move toward an interim benchmark of cutting carbon dioxide pollution levels to 1990 levels by 2020.
1. Clean Electricity – Generate at least 20 percent of all our electricity by 2020 from clean, renewable resources; create energy-efficiency programs that save money and reduce electricity use statewide 10 percent by 2020; and require new coal-fired power plants to cut their global warming pollution in half through advanced technologies.
2. Clean Cars – Adopt a Clean Cars Program that will cut global warming pollution nearly 30 percent from new cars; increase consumer choice and encourage sales of cars that go further on a gallon of gas.
3. Clean Fuels – Reduce the carbon content of transportation fuels 10 percent by 2020 through incentives for low carbon bio-fuels and electric vehicles.
4. Clean and Efficient Buildings – Create incentives to promote construction of new high-performance homes and commercial buildings that use 50 percent less energy than today’s, and promote widespread energy retrofitting of existing buildings.
5. Carbon Capture and Storage – Research, test and demonstrate technologies that capture and store greenhouse gases geologically; and create a carbon registry to promote and track verified carbon storage in soils and forests.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – which unequivocally establishes that global warming is happening and that tailpipe and smokestack emissions are largely to blame –the consequences of climate change for the Western United States could be severe. For example, the panel’s scientists said there is “high confidence” the West faces significant reductions in snowpack, larger and more frequent wildfires, and more intense heat waves. (www.ipccinfo.com/west.php)
“We’re already seeing some of the effects of global warming on Colorado. Look no further than the massive beetle kills turning our forests brown,” said Dave Dittloff, regional representative of the National Wildlife Federation. “If we want our children and grandchildren to continue enjoying the outdoors and the great opportunities for hunting and fishing that our wild places and wildlife provide then, we need immediate action to cut greenhouse gases.”
Colorado has proven itself a leader in clean energy development; its residents were the first in the nation to vote for standards requiring renewable energy. Yet despite similarly strong public support for tackling climate change, the state currently does not have any policies aimed specifically at cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Polling conducted in Colorado earlier this year on clean energy and global warming issues shows that the public overwhelmingly favors actions to address climate change and to promote clean energy.
“This research shows once again that Coloradans want leadership on clean energy to protect Colorado’s water, wildlands and wildlife,” said Amy Mall, a senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, a national firm providing polling services for Republican political candidates, the polling showed, for example, that 77 percent of voters favor cutting global warming pollution one-third below current emissions by 2020. The polling also found that by a stunning 11-to-1 margin, Colorado voters believe the state’s energy future should focus on “increasing energy efficiency and using more clean energy sources like wind and solar power” over using more coal.
“The time for action to address global warming is now,” said Dan Grossman, head of the Rocky Mountain office of Environmental Defense. “The science is clear, the solutions are at hand, and the public support for action is widespread.”
Members of the Colorado Climate Action Network supporting the policies in the “Early Action Plan” are: Environment Colorado, Environmental Defense, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, Western Resource Advocates, and Colorado Environmental Coalition.