Letter: U.N. panel reports climate change is worsening
November 12, 2014
A week ago, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its Synthesis Report, a review of 30,000 climate-change studies as part of the panel's Fifth Assessment Report.
There are few surprises, but the language employed is the clearest and sternest of the panel's reports. According to the report, it is an "unequivocal" fact that the Earth is warming. Failure to reduce emissions could mean "severe, widespread and irreversible impacts" for people and our planet.
Report authors are stentorian in their admonishments. The first observation in the report states, "Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history." If continued unabated, we can expect "substantial species extinction, global and regional food insecurity, consequential constraints on common human activities and limited potential for adaptation."
Desperate times call for desperate measures. The U.N. climate panel indicates that in order to avoid irreversible impacts, we need to maintain warming below 2 degrees Celsius. To do so, global anthropogenic greenhouse-gas emissions must be reduced 40 to 70 percent by 2050 (compared with 2010), and emissions levels must approach zero — or below — by 2100. Bottom line: We need to reduce greenhouse gases — by a lot, and fast.
Here in the Roaring Fork Valley, we are particularly vulnerable to a changing climate. Our valley's economy is centered upon the tourism industry, propelled by our world-renowned ski slopes and outdoor activities. Our economy could be devastated by the predictions of reduced snowfall, increased drought and more frequent wildfires.
The report is frightening, and for some, this information can even be paralyzing. The good news is we have the solutions at our fingertips, and in this valley they are readily available.
Every day, the Community Office for Resource Efficiency helps valley residents reduce their energy consumption, thereby reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Through Energy Smart Colorado, the Community Office for Resource Efficiency helps incentivize energy-efficiency improvements in the built environment, which currently comprises 40 percent of the United States' total emissions. Energy Smart Colorado provides rebates for insulation, LED lights, efficient boilers, windows and more. The solar rebates are $3,000, and the city of Aspen Utilities Department and Holy Cross Energy have generous rebates that often match and even exceed the resource efficiency office's incentives.
We are all a part of the problem. However, we also have the ability and arguably the unique responsibility to be part of the solution.
Don't give up hope. Take action to reduce your impact by starting at home. As a byproduct, you will save money and likely improve the comfort of your home. The Community Office for Resource Efficiency and your utility providers are here to help you become more energy-efficient. Together, we can fight climate change. And for the sake of our valley, the economy, our planet and our future, we must.