Letter: Shrinking snowpack an indicator of climate change

Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to Rep. Scott Tipton and The Aspen Times.

I am a 39-year-old Colorado native and lifetime resident. I write to you today to urge you to take climate change seriously, act quickly and support the Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s carbon fee dividend.

I have spent the past 15 years of my life traveling through our incredible state, climbing and skiing Colorado’s highest peaks. In 2010, I was the first woman to climb and ski all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. With my husband, Ted Mahon, and partner Chris Davenport, we hope to be the first people to climb and ski Colorado’s 100 highest peaks, referred to as the state’s Centennial Peaks.

During my extensive but short time in the backcountry, I have witnessed drastic changes in our state’s natural environment. Just last week, my partners and I attempted to ski our 97th Centennial peak, Stewart Peak, located in south-central Colorado’s La Garita Wilderness. Traveling through the forest was made nearly impossible by extensive deadfall from the spruce beetle, an epidemic (caused by drought and global warming) that has killed this forest and approximately 1.4 million acres of forest statewide. However, in this case, the forest deadfall was not the only thing that kept us from skiing the peak. Due to the snow deficit in Colorado’s south-central and southwestern mountains, which are facing their fifth straight year of below-average snowpack and streamflows, the mountain had no snow.

This is just one small anecdote of how climate change is drastically affecting our state, why I am a member of the Aspen Citizen’s Climate Lobby and why you should support carbon fee and dividend in Congress.

Carbon fee and dividend has the best chance of getting bipartisan support. It works for conservatives and liberals alike. Economic modeling shows that it would actually have a positive effect on gross domestic product and employment. This is a policy worth doing for the economic benefits alone, whether or not you believe in climate change.

However, climate change is an issue for our state, one that is really important to a wide range of Western Slope interests — agriculture and water issues, the ski industry, recreationalists and people living in fire-prone areas. This is a policy that enables you to be responsive to your citizens, reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of a changing climate for our state. I hope you will act today.

Christy Mahon