Aspen City Council reacts to climate report

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

Reacting to a climate report that states skiing in Aspen will be a thing of the past by 2100 if global emission levels continue, members of the Aspen City Council offered input Monday on how the town can play a part in reversing the trend.

Councilman Adam Frisch said he doesn’t want to be a defeatist, but Aspen will need to plan as if temperatures will continue to rise. The report, “Climate Change and Aspen,” which the Aspen Global Change Institute prepared and presented, found that temperatures in Aspen during all seasons have increased since 1940, although precipitation and snowfall, which have declined since 1980, have shown an overall increase since 1940.

Aspen’s Climate Action Manager Ashley Perl told the council during Monday’s work session that the city needs to enact a climate resiliency plan, as it is listed as a top 10 goal for officials in 2015.

“I think leading by example is something Aspen should continue to do,” Frisch said. “We punch above our weight when it comes to reputation and leadership.”

However, Frisch asked Perl how a town of 6,000 people can help move the needle.

“You’ve raised a really hard question, especially for policymakers in that position,” Perl answered. “We feel less empowered when we make changes because we know what we do today is really hard in the face of what China or India is doing today.”

She said her hope is that Aspen’s resiliency plan is a link to the city’s on-the-ground mitigation efforts. People are watching the actions of Aspen, she added.

“I think we have more of an effect than we think we do,” she said.

In order to form the resiliency plan, Perl and staff from greenhouse gas-reduction program Canary Initiative are expecting to conduct a series of community forums, meetings and conversations on the initiative dubbed “Our Future Aspen.” Frisch said Perl’s department has run through a number of climate-change taglines and suggested the city stick with one for continuity.

Councilman Art Daily called the climate-change report “intensely valuable,” and praised Perl’s effort so far in developing the resiliency plan. The report estimates that at current emission levels, Aspen’s temperatures could rise 2.9 degrees by 2039 and 9.7 degrees by 2099. According to findings, the amount of frost-free days has increased by 23 since 1980.

Though officials did not question Perl on financial impacts of the plan, a memorandum to the council states that the Canary Initiative has money set aside for the effort. However, further action or infrastructure needs may arise, it states.


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