Written by Audrey Wheeler

Colorado’s Senator Cory Gardner has claimed many times that he values our outdoors and environment. Unfortunately, when it comes to conservation and environmental issues, Senator Gardner has little to brag about. In fact, Gardner has voted with President Trump 92.4 percent of the time since Trump took office, both on environmental issues and everything else that’s come up in the Senate.According to the League of Conservation Voters’ 2017 National Environmental ScorecardSen. Gardner received a zero percent score. According to the 19 Senate votes scored, Gardner could not have been a worse ally for the environment. Let’s take a look at some of his votes.

1. For Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

Protesters outside of Gardner’s Denver office raise the cry against Scott Pruitt.

In spite of hundreds of calls to his office, protests outside of his office, and social media campaigns, Gardner supported Scott Pruitt. Pruitt has denied man-made climate change and is known for his many lawsuits against the EPA. Now he is the head of the agency.

2. For Rick Perry to be the Secretary of Energy.

Perry’s famous slip where he forgot the Department of Energy was one of the agencies he wanted to eliminate is not even his biggest disqualifier for being Secretary of Energy. He has ignored the consensus around climate science and has many financial ties to energy companies, yet Congress — and Sen. Gardner — approved him for the position.

3. For Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil, to be Secretary of State.

Tillerson led Exxon during its long-term campaign to spread lies about climate science and deceive the public. He also has deep ties to Russia and Putin, which should have disqualified him from representing our country on the international stage. Instead, Congress voted to confirm him.

4. For Ryan Zinke to be Secretary of the Interior.

At first, Zinke seemed like the least extreme member of Trump’s cabinet. However, his financial backing from the oil and gas industry makes him less than suitable to manage our public lands. His record since becoming Secretary of the Interior has been peppered with misuse of funds and efforts to undermine public land protections, like shrinking Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah.

5. To undo a rule that would have made it easier for the public to influence decisions about our public lands.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had recently made a rule to update land management processes. Both experts and the public agreed it was a much-needed step to improving management of our public lands. Senator Gardner’s vote overturned this rule and prevented the BLM from ever making a similar rule. This is an example of shutting out local voices while putting our public lands at risk.

6. His vote to repeal the stream protection rule allows coal companies to have a freer hand in dumping mining debris in streams.

This debris pollutes streams with toxic heavy metals, which can have dire health impacts on the communities nearby. It was yet another move to stand up for fossil fuel companies at the expense of our health and people.

7. To move forward with repealing a rule that protects our air from oil and gas emissions.

Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, leaks from oil and gas sites across the country, wasting taxpayer dollars and exacerbating climate change. The Bureau of Land Management’s Methane Rule established commonsense standards that require oil and gas companies to deploy readily available, cost-effective measures to reduce methane lost through venting, flaring, and leaks. While the rule itself is still in question, there’s no doubt that Sen. Gardner went against the wishes of most Coloradans and voted to repeal the rule.

9. To open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. 

This vote was snuck into the Tax Bill that Congress passed in December 2017. There was a proposed amendment to remove the piece of the Tax Bill that allowed for drilling in the Arctic Refuge — but Sen. Gardner voted against the amendment, and voted to pass the Tax Bill. Now the largest protected wilderness in the country, known to the indigenous Gwich’in people as “the sacred place where life begins,” is open to drilling.


In an increasingly blue state which Gardner won by a slim margin in 2014, he’s becoming one of the country’s least-liked politicians. Not only did Coloradans vote decisively for Hillary Clinton, but they care about the issues Gardner has attacked. The environment is a key example.

During his 2014 campaign, Gardner repeatedly claimed to be “Not That Kind Of Republican”. In order to win Colorado, he tried to separate himself from the extreme partisanship and positioning of his party. He advocated for clean energy and protecting future generations.

Cory Gardner’s 2014 campaign video was all about the environment.

“What can we do to make sure we are protecting this beautiful environment?” he asked on the campaign trail. However, Senator Gardner’s promises to be a “new kind of Republican” have proved to be empty.

On environmental issues, Gardner’s track record leaves much to be desired. Despite his efforts to portray himself as a Westerner who values public lands and protecting our future, his voting record tells the truth.

At the same time, Gardner still claims to love the environment. In February, he and Senator Bennet introduced a package of public lands bills designed to fix a couple of tiny issues with Colorado’s public lands. These bills would affect a grand total of less than 1,000 acres of public lands — out of 24 million acres in Colorado. Although Gardner says he’s “proud” to work on bills like this “that will ensure future generations of Coloradans are able to enjoy our state’s natural treasures,” these bills are a distraction from his anti-environmental onslaught.

We must continue to tell Senator Gardner that Coloradans don’t want to see him siding with Trump. Especially when it comes to our air, land, and water, which he campaigned for and claims to support, Gardner needs to vote with his constituents.

Written by Emelie Frojen

1) MYTH: They’re incredibly expensive.


Fact: Colorado is the cheapest place in the U.S. to buy an Electric Vehicle.

First off, the United States government offers $7,500 in federal tax credits for purchasing an electric car. In addition to that, Colorado offers another $5,000 off at the time of the purchase, making it the cheapest state to get an electric vehicle. Colorado locales such as Fort Collins, Aurora, Durango, Garfield county, and Colorado Springs also have programs that offer discounts on electric vehicles. Our largest utility provider, Xcel, has partnered with Nissan to make many aspects of purchasing and owning an electric vehicle cheaper, including one year of free charging at public stations.

2. MYTH: Road trips are out of the question.


Fact: There are countless charging stations in both urban and rural Colorado.

Photo via Green Car Reports

Switching to an electric vehicle doesn’t mean you have give up weekend skiing or long summer road trips. With a little research and planning ahead, you’ll find that an electric vehicle can get you anywhere a gas-powered car can go. Websites like Plugshare are popping up all over the internet with tools to find charging stations that are fast and compatible with your car. They even have a trip planning tool so you can travel with ease. In addition to the ample amount of charging stations we have right now, the recent money Colorado received from a settlement with Volkswagen will be used to add around 600 new fast-charging stations to our state. These fast charging stations, referred to as “DC chargers,” charge electric vehicles for 170 miles in 30 minutes, making it easy to get around in an electric vehicle. On top of that, the tech industry has its sight set on improving charging stations as electric vehicles gain popularity.

3. MYTH: Electricity isn’t more sustainable than gasoline.


Fact: Colorado’s grid is getting greener, and so are electric vehicles.

Photo via High Plains Public Radio

An EV on the road today has dramatically lower emissions of the two pollutants that contribute to ozone pollution (a huge problem for Colorado): volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. They have 99 percent lower lifecycle emissions of volatile organic compounds and 63 percent lower life-cycle emissions of nitrogen oxides. Electric vehicles also emit 43 percent fewer greenhouse gases than the average gas-powered vehicle. On top of this, Xcel Energy just released a four-year plan, which will result in making renewable energy 50% of their energy mix in Colorado. Under this new energy plan, much of Colorado’s electricity mix will be so green that by 2026 an EV that you buy today will have greenhouse gas emissions as low as a car that gets 88 mpg! Even if our grid were was run entirely on oil, natural gas, and coal, electric vehicles still use two thirds less energy than gasoline vehicles.

4. MYTH: They put too much pressure on our electric grid.


Fact: The American grid is currently very well-equipped to handle millions of electric vehicles.

Photo via Nissan

It may seem like electric vehicles would increase demand for electricity so much that we could get a power shortage, but in reality, all of the peak power use in the U.S. comes during summer afternoons, when air conditioning units are turned on. Electric vehicles, on the other hand, are usually charged overnight when electricity use is at its lowest. A study done by Navigant Research found that we can add millions of electric cars to the current American grid without requiring any new power generation. This will help the grid operate more efficiently, which means that by 2030, for every additional EV added, utility customers in aggregate receive $630 in benefit.

5. MYTH: Electric vehicle batteries are dangerous to dispose of.


Fact: They’re easily recyclable into materials for solar and wind energy.

Photo via Green Car Reports

Even though electric vehicle batteries are safe for landfills, they won’t have to be put there. Lithium-ion batteries can be recycled for many uses- including solar and wind energy! They can also be made with recycled materials.

Photo via Vail Daily

In conclusion, there is no doubt that electric vehicles are our future and a critical piece to tackling growing clean energy in our state and country. They are more economical, emit fewer pollutants, and aren’t required to run on a limited resource. With that said, we still need to put policies in place that support the deployment of electric vehicles — join us and help us fight for them!

 

Header photo via wallhaven.

Contact: Jessica Goad, 720- 206-4235

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper today announced major steps to fight climate change, including putting the state of Colorado on track to meet the emissions reductions targets of the landmark Paris climate agreement and joining Colorado into the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of 13 states and Puerto Rico committed to meeting the goals and objectives of the Paris Agreement. 

“Times like these demand decisive action, and we are pleased to see Governor Hickenlooper join the burgeoning movement among states, cities, and businesses to tackle climate change,” said Pete Maysmith, Executive Director of Conservation Colorado. “The actions that the governor has announced will not only help us fight climate change, but will bring clean energy jobs and business innovation to the Centennial State. With today’s announcement, President Trump has become even more isolated from the world, whose leaders are taking aggressive action to fight climate change. We are excited to work with Governor Hickenlooper to meet or exceed all of these important targets.”

Other actions in the governor’s announcement include:

  • Measurable goals for carbon emissions cuts in the utility sector, as well as those for energy efficiency.
  • Supporting electric vehicle infrastructure in Colorado. 
  • Focusing on making buildings more sustainable.
  • Adopting greenhouse gas tracking and reporting requirements for Colorado, which will enable the state to identify opportunities to cut pollution and therefore save energy and money.
  • Spurring economic development in Colorado’s coal and mining communities.
  • New partnerships with local governments to fight climate change.

The 2015 Paris Agreement included a worldwide goal of limiting temperature increases to no more than 2 degrees Celsius and ideally 1.5 degrees Celsius. As part of this, the U.S. set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to between 26 and 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, and also outlined “mid-century” goals to get to zero emissions.

Colorado’s clean energy economy is rapidly expanding, with 62,000 jobsalready in the clean technology sector and more than 2,000 cleantech companies. Nearly 90 Colorado businesses have pledged to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Written by Audrey Wheeler

A year ago, we reported on the West Elk Coal Mine, a highly contested mine in Colorado’s Gunnison National Forest. At that time, we and many other Coloradans were concerned about Arch Coal’s proposal to expand its coal mine, which would destroy 1,720 acres of forest.

Now, those concerns have become reality. Just two weeks ago, the Trump administration’s Forest Service announced that it is forging ahead with a plan to allow the company to expand the mine. If approved, this decision will cause irreparable harm on the national forest in more ways than one.

To take a step back, the West Elk coal mine is located in western Colorado, north of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. It’s an extremely controversial mine for a variety of reasons, including its location inside a roadless area of a national forest, its exemption from a new moratorium on coal leasing, and the fact that it is owned by formerly bankrupt company Arch Coal. But perhaps the most disturbing issue is the air pollution that it already causes, which would increase if the mine expands.

Mount Gunnison towering over the Sunset Roadless Area. The aspen forests on the right would be damaged by the mine expansion. Photo by Ted Zukoski of Earthjustice.

The West Elk mine has already been the single largest source of methane pollution in Colorado, spewing 58,000 tons of methane into the air every year. Methane — an immensely potent greenhouse gas — has more than 80 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide, and is a major contributor to climate pollution.

Although Colorado has some of the strongest rules in the nation for methane pollution from oil and gas activity, as the Colorado Independent reports, “Unlike methane from oil and gas drilling, coal mine methane remains unregulated at both state and federal levels.” The proposed expansion to the coal mine could mean emitting enough methane to negate half of the emissions prevented by Colorado’s methane rules for oil and gas.

Plus, under Arch Coal’s plan, more than six miles of forest will be bulldozed for roads and up to 48 drilling pads will be built in the Sunset Roadless Area, which connects to the West Elk Wilderness. The area is a rolling landscape of aspen and spruce-fir forests that provide habitat for native black bear, elk, lynx, and cutthroat trout.

The actions by the Trump administration to move forward with this mine expansion are even more disturbing because of how they deal with the impacts of government projects on climate change. Previously, government environmental reviews like this had to take into account the impact of the project on climate change. Now, the Forest Service claims that calculating climate impacts is not an “appropriate tool at the project level” and is “no longer representative of governmental policy.” This comes out of a Trump executive order that disbanded the agency working group associated with it.

Hikers in the Sunset Roadless area near the West Elk mine. Photo by Ted Zukoski of Earthjustice.

The Forest Service wants to give Arch Coal access to more than 17 million tons of coal — but at what cost? The West Elk Mine already has over a decade of coal in reserve, and this decision not only ignores the economic realities that face the coal industry, but it generates even more greenhouse gas emissions, further exacerbating climate change. Coal has been central to the local economy in this area for generation, but this coal mine expansion is a bad idea for the forest and for our climate.

The negative consequences of expanding the West Elk Coal Mine and the damage it would cause to our national forest are obvious. The U.S. Forest Service is asking the public to weigh in on this problematic West Elk Coal Mine expansion. Take action today to send a message to the administration that we value our public lands too much to watch them be destroyed. Follow this link to sign a petition to the Forest Service.

This one decision could destroy aspen groves, displace native wildlife, and vent methane pollution into our air. It’s a sign of what to expect under the Trump administration in terms of our public lands — and it’s up to us to stop it.

Cover image: The West Elk Mine. Image from WildEarth Guardians flickr.

Contact: Jessica Goad 720-206-4235

The Colorado state Senate just passed HB 1227, a bill to extend a successful energy efficiency program, on a 21-14 vote. The state House has already passed the bill, so it is going to Governor Hickenlooper’s desk.

Theresa Conley, Advocacy Director at Conservation Colorado, made the following statement:

This is an important win for Colorado. Energy efficiency programs have been wildly successful in our state, having saved consumers money and helped our environment. Despite misleading information that this bill would cost ratepayers money, its passage demonstrates that bipartisanship can be found on energy issues. We thank Senators Priola and Fenberg, as well as Representatives Winter and Lawrence, for their teamwork and for their commitment to Colorado’s consumers and our environment.

Colorado has long been a bipartisan leader in energy efficiency policies. Energy efficiency saves money for families and businesses and reduces air pollution. A Colorado bill passed in 2007 created the Energy Efficiency Resources Standard, which requires energy savings goals for utility companies, providing incentives for implementation of energy efficiency programs. This program is set to expire in 2018, and HB 1227 extends it through 2028.

Since its implementation in 2009, the EERS has created over 40,000 jobs, avoided 1.85 million metric tons of pollution, and saved Colorado consumers and businesses over $1.3 billion in utility costs. HB 1227 ensures the continuation of programs that help Colorado consumers and business save money, support existing jobs, create new jobs, and benefit our environment.

Around the country, over 300,000 people participated in more than 370 marches. In Denver, although the weather forecasted a foot of snow, more than 5,000 people joined the march to show that Coloradans want action to address climate change.

Missed out on the march last weekend? Don’t worry, here are some of the best signs from the day that demonstrate how witty, dedicated and passionate the thousands of Coloradans who attended are about climate action and environmental justice.

1. “There are no jobs on a dead planet”

Will McKay / McKay Photography

 

2. “March Now or Swim Later” and “YOLO Earth! (You Only Live on Earth)”

Skyelar Habberfield / Skyelar Marcus Photography

 

3. “Dare to Care for our Air President Billionaire”

Skyelar Habberfield / Skyelar Marcus Photography

 

4. “Defend, Not Defund”

Skyelar Habberfield / Skyelar Marcus Photography

 

5. “Resist Bigly”

Will McKay / McKay Photography

 

6. “Make the Earth Cool Again”

Christian O’Rourke / O’Rourke Photography

 

7. “Heed the Lorax, Save the Planet”

Will McKay / Will McKay Photography

 

8. “Wake Up!”

Christian O’Rourke / O’Rourke Photography

 

9. “People and Planet Over Petroleum and Profit”

Alejandro Silva

 

10. “We Can Fix This”

Skyelar Habberfield / Skyelar Marcus Photography

Contact: 

Jessica Goad, Conservation Colorado, 720-206-4235
Kaili Lambe, People’s Climate of Colorado, 719-445-8332

Despite snow and cold, thousands of Coloradans who believe that climate change is real and that our elected officials must take immediate action to address it turned out to the People’s Climate March on Denver this morning.

Led by indigenous leaders and youth activists, the march highlighted the voices of communities most directly affected by climate change. The march was a collaborative effort of environmental, social, racial, and economic justice groups.

Credit: Philip Wegener Photo and Video

Marchers returning from the mile-long circuit formed into the shape of a thermometer with a line at 2 ℃, which represents the amount of average global temperature rise that the planet can tolerate before the most dangerous and destructive effects occur.

Speakers and performers after the march included Colorado State Representative Joe Salazar, spoken word artists, a representative of the labor community, a Naval Officer and national security expert, members of the American Indian Movement of Colorado, several youth leaders, and representatives from the groups in the steering committee.

“The science of climate change is irrefutable, as are the potential consequences of inaction,” said Leia Guccione, Veteran of Operation Free. “No single threat poses a greater or more enduring danger to both the safety of our men and women in uniform and our nation as a whole. Climate change makes our battles harder, demands for humanitarian relief more urgent, and our resilience at home weaker–we must take action now.”

“Service Employees International Union Local 105 members are joining thousands of working people taking to the streets for the People’s Climate March to build unity, fight for a clean economy, and to protect the environment for future generations,” said Tikdem Atsbaha, a janitor at Denver International Airport and mother of two. “Greedy corporations are continuously putting profits over people and the environment, as a union member and working mom, I can’t stand by and let them threaten the very air we breathe and water we drink.”

“This is about our future, said Tay Anderson, the Student Body President of Manual High School.” That’s why it’s so important that young people get engaged, get active, and vote.”

Cover image: Christian O’Rourke, O’Rouke Photography

Written by Pete Maysmith

President Trump recently signed an executive order to roll back the Clean Power Plan, along with a host of other Obama-era policies designed to protect our health and environment from climate change. While Trump claimed this action was to promote energy independence and bring back coal jobs — both of which are not likely to be influenced by this — in reality it is a clumsy attempt to bolster the fossil industry at the expense of our health and our climate.

Fortunately, Colorado and the West will keep making progress in spite of the president’s backward efforts. This is evident because of popular sentiment, market forces, and the opportunities that exist in our state.

In Colorado (and increasingly across America), citizens understand that climate change is a threat to our livelihood and we need to take action. Following the release of the Clean Power Plan in 2015, Conservation Colorado collected thousands of signatures from Coloradans wanting to see quick action from our state to comply with the plan. Those people, along with 66 percent of our state, still want to see climate action, even if it isn’t in the form of a national plan.

Conservation Colorado’s Protégete team in 2015 holds a poster with over 3500 signatures from Coloradans calling for climate action.

In fact, a recent poll found that 82 percent of Coloradans support increasing the share of energy from renewable sources like wind and solar to create jobs and economic opportunity in rural Colorado. That’s not a partisan divide — Coloradans from both sides of the aisle understand that we should lead on renewable energy, both because it is a linchpin for clean air and because it means economic growth, including in rural areas.

The impacts of climate change on our forests, rivers, and air are becoming more evident in Colorado. These changes threaten who we are as Coloradans, from wildfires in March to extreme drought predictions for the Colorado river. The evidence is clear and cannot be ignored, and the public is realizing that more and more. Across the U.S., concern about global warming has reached a three-decade high.

As public concern grows, so do the market forces that caused coal to slow down in the first place. Wind and solar prices are dropping, while their use skyrockets. The number of jobs in Colorado’s solar industry increased by 20 percent in 2016, as the state’s solar capacity jumped 70 percent. At the same time, the state is ranked second in the nation for wind jobs, with 14,800 workers currently. Wind jobs are expected to grow by 54.7 percent in Colorado over the next four years.

Coloradans know that to promote jobs and help rural economies, we need to pursue industries with potential for growth. Right now, that’s wind and solar — and the opportunities in Colorado are limitless. Wind and solar are already providing real income through taxes, benefits to farmers, good paying jobs, and supporting the general economies of small towns on Colorado’s eastern plains. In many places, wind companies lease land from farmers to install wind turbines, providing a new income stream on land that is also usable for other agricultural activities. Already, more than $5.4 billion worth of renewable energy projects have been built in eastern Colorado, and we have the capacity for more.

Colorado’s had a promising start to lead on climate solutions. Our renewable energy standard of 30% by 2020 and the “Clean Air Clean Jobs Act” of 2010 that converted coal-fired power plants to clean resources like wind and solar put us on a great trajectory. Our state has proven it is possible to reduce carbon pollution in ways that boost the economy.

Looking forward, we’re working on a host of ideas to further cut down carbon pollution in Colorado. From fighting for investment in alternative modes of transportation to renewing a successful energy efficiency program, there’s a lot happening at the state level.

No matter what politicians or bureaucrats in Washington, DC do or say, here in Colorado we keep fighting to clean up air pollution and combat climate change. States have led and will continue to lead the way when it comes to the clean energy revolution. Despite President Trump’s intransigence, there is hope and it lies in state and local action. By adding more renewables, working with partners, and focusing in on the state level, we can get things done in Colorado and serve as a leader for other states to follow.

Written by Audrey Wheeler

If one takes Donald Trump’s words at face value, admittedly a dicey proposition, his administration and the anti-conservation majority in the U.S. Congress are likely to launch a volley of assaults on Colorado’s land, water, and climate. And yet, as the state’s largest environmental organization, we remain hopeful for the future. It’s not going to be easy, and the next four years will pose significant challenges to our Colorado values and our outdoor way of life. But we’re going to keep fighting in every way we can — and we know Coloradans stand with us.

First, let’s look at a few of the big challenges we’re facing from our next president:

  • He’s a climate denier. Someone who has called climate change a “hoax” and may put an oil executive in charge of our public lands does not inspire confidence for leading our country forward with renewable energy and addressing the climate crisis. The President-elect has pledged to roll back environmental laws and regulations that will keep us safe and healthy, from the Clean Power Plan to crucial limits on methane pollution. In Colorado, climate change is projected to cause droughts, hotter temperatures, and health issues, so it’s essential that we act to fight it in any way possible.
  • It’s not looking good for land conservation and wildlife protection. We could be facing a four-year “drought” of new protections for land and wildlife across the country. In addition, with an anti-conservation Congress, there are good reasons to be concerned for some of our bedrock environmental laws. This means the Antiquities Act, which was used in Colorado to protect Browns Canyon National Monument, Great Sand Dunes National Park, and Colorado National Monument, could be under threat. Some congressional Republicans have been desperate to roll back key protections in the Endangered Species Act, a bedrock environmental law that protects wildlife.
  • Oil and gas activity in Colorado. Image by Soren Jespersen.

    Dirty fuels will be promoted. President-elect Trump has pledged to increase dirty energy production, likely by accelerating permitting to drill or frack on our public lands. Colorado has significant coal, oil, and natural gas under our lands so we will need to be on high alert to counter a “drill, baby, drill” mentality.
  • The Colorado River is at a critical tipping point. A recent study by the University of Colorado found that the next president must act to prevent widespread water shortages in the Colorado River Basin. A continuing 16-year drought puts the entire Southwestern U.S. in danger of possible water cuts, but so far, Trump has not presented a plan of action.

Of course, none of this is certain. Trump’s candidacy was remarkably policy-free, and when he does talk about policy he frequently contradicts himself with the space of even a few days. All this means there is significant uncertainty about where he stands on key environmental issues. For example, at one point he endorsed local control of oil and gas during a visit to Colorado but it is not clear if he stills holds that view. He has also swayed back and forth on supporting efforts to sell off our public lands, although it’s important to note that the Republican platform contains language supporting this costly and unpopular idea.

At the same time, economic forces beyond the control of the president also provide tremendous uncertainty about the next four years. Oil and natural gas prices, and the impact of natural gas prices on coal, are controlled by the markets. In the past few years, we’ve seen natural gas development outpace coal due in large part to market forces. Even if the president-elect goes all-out to “bring back coal,” he may have little success.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review, and Short-Term Energy Outlook (March 2016)

Meanwhile, renewable energy is booming as wind and solar are becoming more and more affordable. Wind and solar energy already support about 4,250 jobs in Eastern Colorado alone, far exceeding the approximately 1,400 jobs in Colorado’s coal industry.

At Conservation Colorado, we’ve got hope. Our work will continue, and it is more important now than ever.

We’ve got three substantial assets on our side:

Protesters fill the streets in downtown Denver, November 10, 2016

  • The will of the people. In Colorado, 77 percent of voters say environmental issues are an important factor in deciding whether to elect a public official. 72 percent of Colorado voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to protect public lands. 76 percent of Colorado voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to promote renewable energy like wind and solar. 77 percent of Colorado voters would rather use water more wisely than divert water from rural rivers. There are more numbers like this, but they all boil down to the same idea: Coloradans have strong conservation values, and want to see them represented in our government. Also, let’s remember, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 5% here in Colorado — Coloradans did not endorse Trump’s vision for our environmental future.
  • Supporters on both sides of the aisle in the state Legislature. We fought for a pro-conservation majority in both the state House and state Senate this year, and we succeeded by expanding our conservation majority in the state House. However, the Senate remains under anti-conservation control. But conservation and the environment are bipartisan issues, and we’ve got several powerful examples of what we can accomplish when our elected officials work across the aisle on environmental issues. Last year with a similarly divided legislature, we scored big by passing electric vehicle tax credits, the first-in-the-nation Colorado Public Lands Day, and legalizing rain barrels. We’re looking forward to more of this bipartisan work in the upcoming year, with opportunities to modernize our transportation system, grow our booming outdoor recreation economy, and further keep Colorado a leader for the nation when it comes to energy and the environment.
  • Colorado’s governor is standing up for the environment. In his first post-election interview, Governor John Hickenlooper cited health care, climate action, and public lands as the three main areas of concern for Colorado under President-elect Donald Trump. He vowed that Colorado will continue striving to cut carbon pollution and further clean our air, and will not pull back our strong methane regulations for the oil and gas industry. He also expressed concern for protecting public lands, saying, “Those lands should not be put up for auction.” We’re pleased that the governor is taking a stand and allowing Colorado to chart its own path.

Governor Hickenlooper with Conservation Colorado staff, November 2016

Above all, we will stand together as a community to defend our natural resources and keep up the fight for the future. We’re not alone — a majority of Coloradans share these values and expressed them by voting for pro-conservation candidates in this year’s election.

Written by Conservation Colorado staff

Climate change and rising temperatures don’t simply mean you need to get a nicer air conditioner. They also have major implications for public health. Research has shown myriad ways climate change will provide challenges for Coloradans staying healthy and safe. For example, climate change will cause disease-carrying insects like like mosquitos and ticks can move to colder areas. It means natural disasters will become less predictable and more severe. And it means allergens and air pollution will worsen.

In order to get a more thorough take on what’s at stake if we don’t act on climate, we interviewed Ken Scissors, a physician at St. Mary’s and a board member at Conservation Colorado. He’s been practicing medicine since 1980 and his insight on the effects of climate change and health are eye-opening.

According to Dr. Scissors, there are four overarching areas where climate change could affect our health:

1. Air quality

Climate change is linked to poor air quality and air pollution. Warmer air helps trap and hold smog around cities, so rising temperatures can actually worsen existing air pollution. Colorado is already vulnerable – 3 of the 25 worst cities in the US for ozone are in Colorado, according to the American Lung Association. These risks are most significant for lung and heart problems, as well as cancers and other disorders. These health issues already affect low-income communities more than average, and this effect will only grow worse with rising temperatures.

2. Natural disasters

Climate change also brings a substantial increase in frequency and devastation of natural disasters. Aside from the immediate injuries and death that can be caused by hurricanes, floods, and fires, they also lead to longer-standing issues. Sanitation can be compromised, illnesses spreads easily, and health care delivery is often obstructed. This health effect of climate change will be localized and dramatic, and difficult to predict or prepare for. The Union of Concerned Scientists highlighted wildfires as a major risk for Colorado. US Forest Service scientists predicted the area of wildfire burns to double by 2050. Burn scars also contribute to the severity of flooding damage. In short, Colorado may be safe from hurricanes or sea level rise – but we’re not exempt from the catastrophic effects of climate change.

3. Diseases

In general, harmful microbes, bacteria, and the animals that carry them (also known as “vectors”) prefer warm conditions. Disease-carrying animals like mosquitos, ticks, and rats will be able to move into previously-cooler areas. This increases the risk of devastating diseases like zika, ebola, hantavirus, and lyme. These diseases historically were limited by geography, but today their ranges are already expanding. Colorado is especially vulnerable to increases in West Nile, plague, and hantavirus. Biological hazards from climate change also include pollen and dust – as summers get longer, we’ll see more problems with dust and pollen in areas that never used to struggle with these problems.

4. Heat-related issues

High temperatures can also be problems in and of themselves. Heat stroke and heat stress are real risks for people who work outside or who do not have air conditioning. But for places that are already hot, for those who cannot afford air conditioning, and for people who are already in poor health, this can be a life or death matter. Like many risk factors, this is most likely to affect the sick, old, young, and poor.

Part of the struggle with climate change is that it’s a long and gradual process. Weather events can go against the grain of greater climatic shifts. The same goes for the health effects. It’s almost impossible to say if climate change caused a specific hurricane, a bad day of smog, or a breakout of a microbial disease. But we can look at trend lines and see that the frequency and severity of these events is changing.

Prevention is the best cure for most ailments, and this is no exception. The sooner and more aggressively we can slow down or even reverse climate change, the better things will come out for us. There are also some things we could do to anticipate and be proactive against health risks in the future.

We can put more resources and science into disaster preparedness and disaster relief. We can identify weaknesses and vulnerable populations and put resources into being able to reduce risks or act quickly. And importantly, we can continue working to cut carbon pollution and transition to clean energy sooner rather than later. Identifying these future threats to our health and working to decrease their impact is the only way to move forward.