Andersen: Forecast: Sunny, warm and foreboding
The Aspen Daily News reported last week that the head of the Pitkin County Republican Party condemned a climate-change advertisement that appeared in the local papers.
Bob Jenkins stated that “our snowpack was measured earlier this winter at 150 percent of average and is still at 130 percent of normal. I’ve lived here for 45 years and have found this winter’s conditions to be outstanding.”
This is the kind of short-term thinking that dismisses legitimate concerns over climate change. If there’s a cold snap, or there’s snow on the mountains, climate change is no problem in Aspen.
Jenkins’ real complaint, however, was about the full-page ad placed March 21 by the Pitkin County commissioners. The ad targeted President Donald Trump’s family members, some of whom were reportedly here on a ski vacation.
The ad ran in both the Daily News and The Aspen Times, and it voiced caution that human-caused climate change is an economic, environmental and social threat. The ad urged Trump family members, some of whom are advisers to the president, to encourage Trump’s support of climate-protection policies.
Jenkins, who apparently is close enough with upper-level Republicans to dine with the president in Washington, objected to local taxpayer money spent on what he charged are the personal views of commissioner board Chairman George Newman. The ads reportedly cost $1,000 of discretionary county funds.
The Daily News article pointed out that the majority of Pitkin County and Aspen residents (70 percent) did not support Trump with their votes, so it could be argued that the Board of County Commissioners was justified. Jenkins thought not, and he bridled at the way elected officials imposed their message on Trump’s family through a full-page ad.
What’s more telling about Jenkins’ position, however, is his assessment of the local snowpack as rationale for minimizing climate change. It’s sometimes hard to believe, but Aspen is not the center of the universe. Our local weather is not a comprehensive measure of long-term global climate patterns.
And yet, in my observations, having lived here for almost 35 years, I don’t recall a warmer, rainier winter than 2016-17. Climate change is a real issue in a ski town, and that is what the commissioners were pointing out. But climate change is even more devastating elsewhere, particularly in low-lying coastal areas facing seawater inundation, places where the Trumps own golf courses.
The commissioners’ newspaper ad should run far more often, and not just as a message to Trump. Cautions on climate should regularly target the Aspen community, where conspicuous consumption has long been a cultural norm with vacant monster homes, vast snowmelt surfaces, fleets of private jets and convoys of unconscionably fuel-inefficient vehicles.
Aspen promotes green virtues, but there is no denying the underlying energy waste and outrageous per capita carbon emissions that spew from this affluent international urban capital. You don’t need fancy spreadsheets and contrived metrics to observe for yourself the dichotomy of an eco-conscious ski town consuming itself into a climate warming catastrophe.
Aspen is fortunate to be at a high enough elevation that a World Cup ski race can be held, even during a mid-March heat wave. Ten years from now that might become an impossibility, which is how it’s looking now for some lower elevation ski resorts that can’t assure the FIS of appropriate course conditions during any winter month.
What we’re seeing here this winter is a deep high-altitude snowpack where mid-elevation rain came in as high mountain snow. We’re top-heavy with moisture and desert-like down low.
According to the Daily News article, there are 2,000 Republicans in Pitkin County. I wonder how many are in Jenkins’ camp thinking that, as long as the skiing is decent, we have no right or need to bother the president’s family with annoying climate warnings.
Donald Trump won’t have the final say on climate, anyway, because climate is a universal matter. It is up to those who care to voluntarily reduce their carbon footprints. The sad truth is that until climate directly affects individual Americans, it is off the table as a driver for economic, environmental and social reforms — both for the Trumps and for Aspen.
Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays. He may be reached at email@example.com.
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