The #ClimateEmergency is Here – Urgent and Unprecedented Action is Now an Imperative — #Colorado Farm & Food Alliance #aridification #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

From the Colorado Farm & Food Alliance:

Colorado’s Congressional delegation moves legislation to help address climate crisis

The news about the climate crisis is bleak. The summer started with most of the nation gripped by heat waves smashing records across the continent. Once again the hurricane season is off to a historic start with the earliest fifth-named tropical storm. Last year was the worst fire season that the U.S. West has seen in decades, if not hundreds of years, and this year is likely to be at least as bad. Major rivers are drying up.

We are in a climate emergency and western Colorado is square in the cross-hairs. The alarm is sounding: We must act now, in an urgent and unprecedented manner.

he Gunnison Basin is facing a climate emergency, putting our farm and food systems at severe risk. This map shows the warming that has already occurred in this Gunnison watershed since 1895. It is from our upcoming report on climate change in the region and some steps to take to avert worsening harm. Graphic credit: The Washington Post via the Colorado Farm & Food Alliance

Climate action, generally speaking, needs to do three things to reverse a descent into even greater ecological and social calamity. Importantly, we cannot trade one for the other, which is a bait and switch tactic some industry boosters are now pushing. We need an “all of the above” climate plan (to borrow a favored fossil fuel phrase). We cannot get by pretending, as the erstwhile denialists cum begrudging believers ask us to do, that some new fix will allow business to continue as usual. Instead, we must transform our practices and businesses to meet the needs of this moment.

We need to act, across all sectors, to:

  • Curb climate pollution.
  • Keep and return carbon in (to) the ground.
  • Adapt human systems to be climate-smart and restorative.
  • These necessary goals are both daunting and full of opportunity. They point to big and rapid change. But each also has the potential to inspire all manner of innovative technology, entrepreneurship, and solutions. So we cannot wait to get started. First we must stop adding to the problem.

    The carbon dioxide data on Mauna Loa constitute the longest record of direct measurements of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. C. David Keeling of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography began measurements in 1958 at the NOAA weather station. NOAA started its own CO2 measurements in May of 1974, and they have run in parallel with those made by Scripps since then. Credit: NOAA and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

    This year atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have reached toward 420 ppm. Many places are already experiencing heating above the 1.5 degree threshold we are to avoid, as set by international accord. Ice caps, permafrost and glaciers are melting, sea levels rising, biological diversity collapsing: the ecological systems that have long allowed human civilization to flourish are in severe crisis. There is no time to paper over or “both sides” the situation we are in: If we do not act boldly and quickly, our livelihoods, our businesses, and our ability to prosper in the U.S. Southwest are all at severe risk.

    The action required is monumental and we should not shy from declaring it as such. And just acknowledging that and reversing course can signal a shift in momentum. But the effort needs to accelerate if we are to avoid even more damaging heating ahead.

    We cannot claim to be moving forward if for every small step ahead we continue to take several back. Fortunately in Colorado we do have elected leaders who are at least taking these first steps. So we want to acknowledge these action and encourage more that must follow. And we should stay on guard for back-sliding or double-speak.

    Colorado Congressional Leaders Take Action

    The Grand Junction Sentinel reported, in a June 23rd article by reporter Dennis Webb that “U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., is again pushing for passage of bills that would boost funding for cleanup of abandoned, or orphaned, oil and gas wells on federal lands and boost the opportunities for public comment when federal oil and gas lease sales are proposed.”

    And last week, President Biden signed a law limiting methane pollution from oil and gas on public lands, a bill sponsored by Colorado congresswoman Diana DeGette. CNN reported: “President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed a bill repealing a Trump-era rule that rolled back regulations on methane emissions — a particularly potent greenhouse gas believed to contribute significantly to the climate crisis — from the oil and gas industries. The President described the bill as an “important first step” to cut methane pollution and said it “reflects a return to common sense and commitment to the common good.”

    We applaud these steps. But it must be just the start of an “all of the above” approach to climate action if we are to avert worsening catastrophe. And we must make sure that we are not making the problems worse. Our priorities for public lands should be on conservation and restoration. We should limit the further expansion of fossil fuel development.

    The first bill introduced by Sen. Bennet would increase bonding and clean-up requirements for oil and gas on public lands. This may seem minor, but is a critically important fix to a badly broken system. Our public lands fossil fuel leasing and development programs have long put the interests of corporations ahead of both the health of the lands and the interests of the public — and the public ends up paying for it, time and again.

    The second piece of legislation from Sen. Bennet improves public oversight and community involvement processes around the oil and gas programs. This too is a small, but vitally important, step. It would begin to re-center community concerns–including the need to address the climate crisis– in public lands management. For too long the scales have been tipped toward the oil and gas industry.

    That is why the Colorado Farm & Food Alliance recently issued a statement in support of Senator Bennet’s bills which would start to re-balance the scales in favor of the public, toward greater accountability, and in favor of resource protection.

    The climate emergency is real and brings grave risk and an urgent need for action. We must move quickly away from fossil fuels. An obvious place to start is with our public lands, which provide so much from water sources, to critical wildlife lands and popular recreation areas. We have an opportunity to to rethink the purpose of these cherished lands and to model the leadership needed to take the climate crisis head on.

    Agriculture in the U.S. Southwest is at high risk from the impacts of climate change. EcoFlight photo of the North Fork Valley by the Western Slope Conservation Center.

    The International Energy Agency has noted: “A rapid shift away from fossil fuels [is required].

    While these three acts, one now law and two others pending, before Congress are just tweaks to the federal land oil and gas program — they add critical side-boards that will limit the expansion and harm of this activity on our National Forests and other public lands. Still, we must do much more, and continue to enact reforms that move us rapidly beyond fossil fuels and curtail the further expansion of this activity on public lands.

    “Net zero means huge declines in the use of coal, oil and gas. …[Efforts must] include, from today, no investment in new fossil fuel supply projects….” — The International Energy Agency

    Because, if we are serious about responding to the Climate Emergency then it is time we act like it.

    Wildfire season is becoming longer and worse across the West as the twin effects of heat and drought but more forests and grasslands at risk. This map from our up-coming report depicts the changing patterns of fire on the Western Slope since 1933.

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