Build a climateresilient Colorado

Daily Camera     Guest commentary

By Judy Amabile

It was an incredible gift to be a kid in Colorado. I recently reconnected with an acquaintance from high school, and it brought back many great memories. Growing up on the Western Slope, we skied, hiked and biked, and still do. In fact, my childhood passion for the outdoors led me to make a living in the outdoor industry.

Colorado’s wild places define many of us, and are vital to our economy and unique way of life. But climate change threatens everything we hold dear. We’re already feeling the dire impacts of warmer weather. It’s long past time for bold action. Real momentum for addressing climate change is building all over the world, except in Washington, D.C. The Trump administration’s rollback of climate action and environmental protections makes it even more important for Colorado and other states to lead. Taking bold action to mitigate climate change and adapt to its realities is necessary for a sustainable future.

First, we must fight climate change by reducing our carbon emissions. Just as we did with health and safety, we should prioritize carbon reduction ahead of the demands of the oil and gas industry. We must give our communities local control to prohibit fossil fuel extraction. And we must set a realistic price for carbon emissions and levy fees accordingly, incentivizing businesses to emit less.

Second, we need to ensure a just transition to a green economy. This idea is gaining bipartisan support across the country. In Colorado, a green economy means transitioning to clean and renewable energy production that does not threaten our iconic mountains, rivers and wild lands. This transition will be fair to all Coloradans via innovative policies that offer equitable access to energy across the economic spectrum. We have to move towards electrifying our transportation and our buildings. We must boost energy efficiency across the state in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors. Finally, we must incentivize clean industries to operate in rural communities. Why? Our rural communities need stable economic vitality — not the boom and bust cycles of the extraction industries.

Third, we need to build a climate-resilient state. Today, Colorado faces the threats of fires, flooding and drought, all of which are projected to increase in intensity and frequency over the next several decades. We spent over $4 billion on flood response in 2013 and many communities have yet to fully recover. We must prepare now for the inevitable flooding, fires, drought and displacement

of our community members. Enhancing Colorado’s resilience is directly linked to a safe and prosperous future. Community-based resiliency plans that encourage coordination and collective action are essential. The state needs to conduct rigorous risk and vulnerability assessments to better prepare for future conditions.

Here’s a great example of how this is done. Last week the Colorado Department of Local Affairs awarded a $65,000 grant to assist the community of Gold Hill in planning for a 100% renewable energy future and improved resiliency in the face of increasing climatedriven threats such as wildfire. More of our communities need this kind of support from the state. Other good work is underway too, notably Rep. Joe Neguse’s Colorado Outdoor Recreation Economy bill, which recently passed the U.S. House with bipartisan support. CORE preserves approximately 400,000 acres of public lands across Colorado, including nearly 100,000 acres in White River National Forest in Summit and Eagle counties. CORE also invests in our outdoor recreation economy. I am hopeful that the Senate will act swiftly to make CORE the law of the land.

Beyond these critical measures, we need to work on the big picture. We must shift our culture and consider long-term consequences before we act. Industries must pay for the long-term climate and environmental effects of their enterprises. As consumers, we can mitigate the environmental impacts of our behavior and demand alternatives to harmful products and practices. We need to fit ourselves into the larger world rather than upending the natural world to satisfy our short-term wants. It is our duty to preserve this beautiful world for all of its inhabitants.

Colorado is facing serious challenges. Now is the time for serious leadership. We have to engage all Coloradans to fight climate change, create a green economy and build a climate- resilient state. I am confident that we can sustain Colorado’s wonders for our kids and their kids, too. We can lead the country — maybe even the world — with innovation and good will.

Judy Amabile is a former member of the Daily Camera Editorial Advisory Board. She is running to represent Colorado House District 13 in the 2020 election.