Some Pitkin County commissioners cool on wording of climate resolution
October 27, 2011
ASPEN – Proposed revisions to a Pitkin County resolution urging climate protection dissolved into a debate among county commissioners Wednesday over whether the declaration should downplay climate change.
Commissioners, with Jack Hatfield absent, called for a rewrite, but they appeared split on the resolution’s focus. Commissioner Michael Owsley called for one that advocates energy efficiency and plays up steps that have been taken locally over one that rehashes evidence of climate change.
“I just think we need a different approach,” he said. “I’m just trying to get past the battle of, ‘There’s change, there isn’t change; we’re causing it, we’re not causing it.'”
The county’s resolution was first adopted in 2006. Proposed revisions delete out-of-date references and add mention of local effects of climate change as they relate to the area economy. In addition, a list of local agencies and organizations that have been working to mitigate the effects of climate change has been added. The resolution urges other governments to enact policies and programs to aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
Commissioner George Newman, too, called for more focus on what the county is doing to further the goals stated in the resolution.
“I think we want to be a model for other counties,” he said.
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But while Newman wasn’t anxious to delete the background on climate change, which provides a context for the resolution, Commissioner Rob Ittner said the list of “well-documented impacts of climate disruption” (a decline in Arctic sea ice, for example), was open to question. Ittner said he tried to confirm the facts laid out in the resolution through some Internet research and found differing information.
“I’m not saying any of the facts are wrong … but it opens the door for somebody to say they’re wrong,” he said. “I think the focus should be on what our goals are here, what we believe in here and what we’re doing.”
Commissioner Rachel Richards, on the other hand, said she wasn’t willing to shirk away from climate change as the issue.
“It means the climate deny-ers and their dialogue have already won,” she said.
“It’s not that I’m afraid of using the term ‘climate change,’ I just don’t think it’s a productive argument,” Owsley responded.