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Colorado’s ever-changing landscape provides a special case study to observe various ecological, biological, and political factors that drive the environmental movement. Destructive factors, like wildfire, floods, and droughts, are no longer few and far between. Is this the new reality of the future?
With the United Nations Conference on Climate Change coming up soon in Paris, there is much talk about what can be done on a local, state, and national level to slow climate change. The Next Frontier of Climate Change is an event hosted by New Republic, RASEI, and Centre for American Progress Action Fund. All groups are centered on the idea of creating solutions for today’s essential issues.
One of the challenges accompanying climate change is switching to renewable energy sources from fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency’s article Global Energy-Related Emissions of Carbon Dioxide Stalled in 2014 outlines how worldwide emissions came to a plateau in 2014 without disrupting the economy. But, we are not in an era of abundant energy, though it may seem that way.
Former Colorado governor Bill Ritter says cleaner, more renewable resources have yet to be successfully implemented on both a local and large-scale grid. There has been a shift away from coal energy to natural gas, as Colorado knows all too well with news of the Keystone Pipeline, but cleaner resources like solar energy are historically difficult to implement and regulate in Colorado. Ritter believes that we can successfully implement a no-coal strategy in just a few years. Xcel energy has already committed to achieving a 30 percent clean energy standard by 2020. Ritter suggests a market shift towards clean energy sources is necessary for other businesses and industries to follow Boulder’s model.
CU Boulder law professor William Boyd believes a bottom-up approach is where the Boulder community should begin to make its voice heard. By taking charge of utilities and telling companies like Xcel what community regulators want done, a standard of clean alternatives is set, and the public’s voice is heard. Boyd notes that state and local levels already account for 52 percent of efforts combating climate change, which provides a chance for state-level officials to listen to communities and do what is already working at the foundational level.
An example of bottom-up communication success comes from ‘Colorado Moms Know Best’ head mom Emma Pinter, who noted that Westminster leads Boulder in the amount of open space and parks set aside by the community, for community use.
Most Next Frontier panel members agree that the effect can spread through voting and by capitalizing on that shared love and pride of Colorado.
The U.S. is passionate about the outdoors. We are a nation that generates billions in revenue from tourism and visits to this land’s beautiful national parks, according to Luis Benitez, Director of Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. The belief that should economic health and environmental protection increase, they must do so together, is not unfair. The United States’ outdoors and national parks programs are a huge industry. Though a bottom-up approach can get the ball rolling, urging political officials and presidential candidates to internalize the cost of climate change and step away from a system heavily driven by fossil fuels can make a difference.