Glenwood takes stand on climate change | AspenTimes.com

Glenwood takes stand on climate change

Dennis Webb
Glenwood Springs correspondent

Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” The city of Glenwood Springs is joining the chorus of U.S. communities trying to make a difference over global warming, but not without some voices of discord mixed in.

City Council voted 5-3 Thursday night to have Mayor Bruce Christensen sign the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, following some heated debate over the concern about rising temperatures around the world.

“I didn’t know I was going to solve the problems of the world when I was elected onto council,” said council member Larry Beckwith.

He joined council members Dave Merritt and Chris McGovern in opposing the decision.

Council member Dave Johnson said the city has a moral obligation to participate in the mayors’ initiative, thanks to benefits that would include job creation, air pollution reduction and improved national security.

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Council’s action Thursday came at the urging of a group of local residents promoting a “Cool Communities” initiative to fight global warming. One of its members is Dave Scruby, an executive with Alpine Bank.

“You know we’re in a desperate situation when a banker is here to talk about global warming,” Scruby said.

He pointed to Alpine Bank’s own effort to conserve energy and reduce the carbon emissions that are believed to contribute to global warming. He said the bank knows the undertaking will produce savings for shareholders in the long run, and urged council not to get too concerned about what costs the city might face.

“I think with planning the budget thing can be overcome,” he said.

But Merritt had financial concerns about the direction council was taking. The mayors agreement, signed on to by the leaders of more than 330 cities, supports the Kyoto Protocol goal of reducing global warming pollution to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

“While it may seem good to go back to 1990 levels, at what cost do we want to do that?” Merritt asked.

Council member Joe O’Donnell noted that signing the agreement doesn’t commit the city to taking any specific actions, but instead just means it will look at steps the city can take to reduce emissions.

He said one thing he wants to know is why the city currently has no gas-electric hybrid vehicles in its fleet.

City resident Floyd Diemoz said he supports the goal of reducing carbon emissions. But he doesn’t think the global warming situation is as bad as former Vice President Al Gore has suggested, and said “extremely radical” measures aren’t warranted.

“Many of these things that we should be doing, yes, let’s do, but let’s not get hysterical about it,” he said.

Beckwith was skeptical about whether global warming is natural or manmade, pointing to reports that polar caps are melting on Mars also.

“There’s not a lot of SUVs on Mars and they’re warming there as they are here,” he said.

While opposing Thursday’s council action, he said he still supports reducing fossil fuel use, whatever global warming’s cause.

Council member Kris Chadwick said she thinks the suggested goals outlined in the mayor’s agreement – such as promoting use of alternative energy sources and using more energy-efficient lighting and appliances – make sense.

“I see an effort to take logical steps to improve energy efficiency whether you believe in global warming or not,” she said.

One of the agreement’s major recommendations is for cities to assess global warming emissions that are caused by city operations or occur communitywide. The Cool Communities group is urging the city to conduct that assessment, and is recommending that a citizens panel be appointed to develop and implement a climate action plan. Bob Millette, the group’s chair, said the group will be back before council to push for those actions.

“The mayors protection agreement starts the ball rolling. Our council and mayor are to be commended for doing that. I think it’s a big step,” he said.