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Climate Change in Central Colorado

By Tyler Grimes

With any article on climate change, it’s tempting to try to grab the reader’s attention with horrifying statistics or stories of natural disasters or the severity of drought, but this is an issue where facts speak loudest:

• The global temperature has increased by 1.4 degrees Celsius over the last century. (EPA)

• 2000 to 2010 was the warmest decade on record. (EPA)

• August was the 342nd consecutive month with above average global temperatures. (

• The major scientific agencies of the United States – including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – agree that climate change is occurring and that humans are contributing to it. (EPA)

• 97% of scientific papers (out of 12,000 between 1991 and 2011) agree that human activities are warming the planet. (Washington Post)

• 57% of Americans disagree with or are unaware of science’s findings.

• In May, the atmosphere reached 400 carbon ppm, up from 175 before the industrial revolution. (NPR)

• Ice core measurements reveal that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are higher than they have been in at least 800,000 years. (EPA)

• Scientists largely agree that more than 2 degrees Celsius of warming will lead to irreversible, catastrophic climate change.

• For every 2 degrees Fahrenheit of warming, we can expect to see, and have seen:

• 5-15% reductions in the yields of crops as currently grown.

• 3-10% increases in the amount of rain falling during heaviest precipitation.

• 5-10% decreases in stream flow, including the Arkansas and Rio Grande rivers.

• 200-400% increases in areas burnt by wildfires. (EPA)

• CSU wildfire research found that wildfires destroyed less than 100,000 acres per decade in the 1960s and 70s, over 200,000 acres in the 80s and 90s, and nearly 1,000,000 acres in the 2000s.

• Also according to CSU research, wildfire season is wider now than 30 years ago because snow packs are less and melt faster.

• Colorado State Climatologist Nolan Doesken said, “2012 (extreme drought year) will be average in a few decades.”

Climate change is coming to the forefront as a national issue. President Obama has announced his plans to address the problem, and in late August construction began to install solar panels on the White House. Even with political leaders recognizing the issue and pledging action, it’s not enough and certainly not quick enough because of economic and political barriers.

One environmental organization has found that the atmosphere needs to drop to and stay below 350 carbon ppm to maintain a healthy and stable environment, hence their name, The organization is led by its founder, Bill McKibben, who says the climate fight needs an enemy, and in this case it’s energy companies.’s Do the Math video breaks it down into simple numbers:

• Burning 565 gigatons of CO2 will keep the planet below the fateful 2 degrees Celsius.

• Fossil fuel companies (oil, coal and gas) have 2795 gigatons of CO2 in reserve (worth around $27 trillion) and their business plans involve burning those reserves. That’s five times the safe amount of carbon.

McKibben toured the country this past spring and summer, further building a growing climate movement and urging students, governments, churches and businesses to divest from fossil fuel companies. Already 308 colleges, 105 cities and states, including the cities of San Francisco and Seattle, and six religious institutions and churches have pledged to divest.

So, if is successful, how will energy demands be met? Many activists are more concerned with reducing emissions than replacing energy, but research shows we can have both. According to studies by Stanford’s Mark Z. Jacobson and UC Davis’ Mark A. Delucchi, clean, sustainable energy sources could power the world at a roughly comparable cost to the systems in place. “Based on our findings, there are no technological or economic barriers to converting the entire world to clean, renewable energy sources,” said Jacobson. “It is a question of whether we have the societal and political will.”


An organization has formed in the Upper Arkansas Valley, Central Coloradoans Concerned About Climate Change, to seek climate solutions in this region. The group is still in the formative stages and is seeking others to get involved; for more information, check out their Facebook group. Colorado Mountain College in Buena Vista will be offering a class on climate change every Saturday in September for those interested in learning more about this issue and what can be done to address it.

One Comment

  1. Paul Rehbein Paul Rehbein September 24, 2013

    quoting NPR and Washington Post and EPA is like listening to how the VolksWagon was going to change Germany’s economy in 1933. No doubt man is causing damage to the environment by polluting the water, air and land. Climate change “science” is looking more and more like the hoax fossil evidence of austropalithicus. You can stick your head in the sand and drive your electric car that uses power from a COAL fired power plant to recharge your batteries, but what good would that do. Why not design a car that has a solar paint job that will recharge your batteries that once they are wore out end up end in the land fill causing another form of castrophic pollution. Cows farting………horses peeing in the rivers……..does it ever end? The real issues are basic greed and power. Man has no solutions that are lasting and benefit everyone. It’s always the few that are in charge that benefit. One day the Creator IS going to step in and set things straight. Until then “Do the Right Thing”. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Don’t do things that would adversely affect your fellow man. Don’t waste your resources. But don’t let your recycling be an ugly eyesore either. Organic foods probably are better for you but I can guarantee you this: You’re still going to die sooner or later. So if you believe that “Global Warming or Climate Change is the main issue of the day……..

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