Colorado Coalition for a Livable Climate

Advocating strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to a level supportive of a livable climate.

Is Earth Really Getting Too Hot for People to Survive? 

Published in the Denver Post on June 22nd, 2024

My parents said the planet is getting too hot for people to live here. They called it climate change. What does that mean? 

— Joseph, age 12, Boise, Idaho

Many countries have seen extremely hot weather lately, but in most of the inhabited world, it’s never going to get “too hot for people to live here,” especially in relatively dry climates.

When it’s hot outside in dry places, most of the time our bodies can cool off by evaporating water and heat from our skin as sweat.

However, there are places where it occasionally gets dangerously hot and humid, especially where hot deserts are right next to the warm ocean. When the air is humid, sweat doesn’t evaporate as quickly, so sweating doesn’t cool us the way it does in drier environments.

In parts of the Middle East, Pakistan and India, summer heat waves can combine with humid air that blows in off the sea, and this combination can be truly deadly. Hundreds of millions of people live in those regions, most without access to indoor air conditioning.

Scientists like me use a “wet bulb thermometer” to get a better sense of this risk. A wet bulb thermometer allows water to evaporate by blowing ambient air over a damp cloth. If the wet bulb temperature is over 95 F (35 C), and even at lower levels, the human body won’t be able to let enough heat out. Prolonged exposure to such combined heat and humidity can be fatal.

During a severe heat wave in 2023, wet bulb temperatures were very high over the lower Mississippi Valley, though they didn’t reach fatal levels. In Delhi, India, where air temperatures were over 120 degree Fahrenheit (49 Celsius) for several days in May 2024, the wet bulb temperatures came close, and several people died from suspected heatstroke in the hot and humid weather. In conditions like that, everyone has to take precautions.

Is it climate change?When people burn carbon — whether it’s coal in a power plant or gasoline in a vehicle — it creates carbon dioxide (CO2). This invisible gas builds up in the atmosphere and traps the Sun’s warmth near the Earth’s surface. 

The result is what we mean by “climate change.”

Every bit of coal, oil or gas that ever gets burned adds a little bit more to the temperature. As temperatures rise, dangerously hot and humid weather has begun to spread to more places.

Areas of the U.S. Gulf Coast in Louisiana and Texas are increasingly at risk of dangerous hot and humid conditions in summer, as are heavily irrigated areas of the desert Southwest where water sprayed over farm fields adds moisture to the atmosphere.

Climate change causes a lot more problems than just hot, sweaty weather.

Hot air evaporates a lot more water, so crops, forests and landscapes in some areas dry out, which makes them more susceptible to wildfire. Each Celsius degree of warming can cause a sixfold increase in wildfire over parts of the western U.S.

Warming also makes ocean water expand, which can flood coastal regions. Rising sea levels threaten to displace as many as 2 billion people by 2100.

All of these impacts mean that climate change threatens the global economy. Continuing to burn coal, oil and gas could cut global incomes by about 25% by the end of the century, according to one estimate.

Good news and bad news

There’s both bad news and good news about climate change in the future.

The bad news is that as long as we keep burning carbon, it will continue to get hotter and hotter.

The good news is that we can substitute clean energy, like solar and wind power, instead of burning carbon, to power the products and services of modern life.

There’s been tremendous progress in the past 15 years in making clean energy reliable and affordable, and almost every country on Earth has now agreed to stop climate change before too much damage is done.

Just as our ancestors built better lives by switching from outhouses to indoor plumbing, we will avoid making our world unlivable by switching from coal, oil and gas to clean energy.

Scott Denning is a professor of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University.

An Interview with ChatGPT- 4.0

Published in the Boulder Daily Camera on June 15th, 2024

To ChatGPT: Does climate change endanger human survival?

ChatGPT: Yes, climate change does endanger human survival. It leads to more frequent and severe weather events, rising sea levels, loss of biodiversity, disruptions to food and water supplies, and increased health risks. These impacts can threaten the stability and well-being of human societies around the world.

To ChatGPT: Produce a four-word sentence that states the fastest and most efficient way to stop climate change. Include what needs to be done with fossil fuels.

ChatGPT: Eliminate fossil fuels immediately.

To ChatGPT: Since you state that the fastest and most efficient way to stop climate change is to eliminate fossil fuels immediately, and since climate change endangers human survival, and since oil and gas companies plan to keep investing in new oil and gas production for years to come, are oil and gas companies friends or enemies of human survival?

ChatGPT: Given the context, oil and gas companies can be seen as adversaries to human survival if they continue to invest in new fossil fuel production, which exacerbates climate change and its associated risks to humanity.

(Responses to the questions below have been edited for length only. To see the full response, enter the question on ChatGPT-4o yourself.)

To ChatGPT: How does the challenge of climate change offer us an opportunity to live a new and better life?

ChatGPT: The challenge of climate change offers an opportunity to live a new and better life in several transformative ways:

1. Clean Energy Transition: Cleaner air and water, reducing respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

2. Sustainable Living: Increased availability of local, organic foods; reduced traffic congestion and pollution; more green spaces.

3. Technological Innovation: Development of advanced technologies that can improve efficiency and quality of life.

4. Resource Efficiency: Lower utility bills, reduced landfill use, and conservation of natural resources.

5. Enhanced Quality of Life: More outdoor recreational opportunities, preservation of natural beauty, and improved mental health.

6. Community Engagement: Increased community resilience, cooperation, and a sense of shared purpose.

7. Equity and Justice: More equitable distribution of resources and opportunities, improving social stability and fairness.

8. Global Cooperation: Enhanced global peace and cooperation, sharing of knowledge and resources for common good.

By addressing climate change, we can create a world that prioritizes health, sustainability, and equity, ultimately leading to a more fulfilling and prosperous existence for all.

To ChatGPT: What is the most efficient and most socially just method to transition the world from using fossil fuels to using renewable energy? To what extent would a carbon fee and dividend policy with a carbon border adjustment mechanism be of benefit?

ChatGPT: The most efficient and socially just method to transition the world from using fossil fuels to using renewable energy involves implementing comprehensive policies that both incentivize renewable energy adoption and address social equity concerns. A carbon fee and dividend policy, combined with a carbon border adjustment mechanism, offers a promising approach.

To ChatGPT: Many people in the United States are struggling with what to do about climate change. If we want a good future for the people and places we love, what are the three most important things that individuals can do right now to protect the people and places we love from the ravages of climate change?

ChatGPT: To protect the people and places we love from the ravages of climate change, individuals can take impactful actions on both personal and collective levels. Here are three of the most important things they can do right now:

1. Reduce Carbon Footprint

Impact: Reducing personal carbon footprints directly decreases greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global efforts to mitigate climate change.

2. Support and Advocate for Climate Policies

Impact: Collective action and strong climate policies are essential for systemic change. By supporting and advocating for such measures, individuals can influence government and corporate actions toward sustainability.

3. Invest in and Support Renewable Energy

Impact: Transitioning to renewable energy reduces dependency on fossil fuels and drives the market towards cleaner energy solutions, accelerating the shift to a sustainable energy economy.

Conclusion: By reducing personal carbon footprints, supporting and advocating for effective climate policies, and investing in renewable energy, individuals can make significant contributions to protecting the environment. These actions not only help mitigate climate change but also inspire broader societal changes necessary for a sustainable future.

Interviewer’s comment: Artificial intelligence is useless without actual courage. We know what to do. We just need to do it.

Chris Hoffman is an ecopsychologist, poet, climate justice advocate and retired management consultant and licensed professional counselor. He is the author of “The Hoop and the Tree: A Compass for Finding a Deeper Relationship with All Life.” www.hoopandtree.org

Letter to PRPA on Evaluating the All Dispatchable Resources RFP

Northern Colorado Partners for Clean Energy (NCP4CE)

P.O. Box 672

Fort Collins, Colorado 80522

May 20, 2024

Platte River Power Authority Board of Directors

2000 E. Horsetooth Road

Fort Collins, Colorado

Dear Board Chair Gertig, Vice Chair Arndt and Directors Marsh, Peck, Hall, Bergsten, Marr, and Hornbacher:

On behalf of the Northern Colorado Partners for Clean Energy (NCP4CE), we are writing in regard to the Board’s evaluation of the proposals from the recent all dispatchable resources RFP.  The choices in front of you may be some of the most critical faced by the owner communities in our time and could have profound effects on our environment, climate goals, and communities.  As such, we respectfully request that you include the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) in the decision-making process.

Inclusion of the SCC in new electric generating resources is required for other utilities such as Xcel by the PUC.   While PRPA is not PUC regulated, its strong environmental pillar and concerns voiced over the potential impact of carbon taxes, makes including this criterion a wise and insightful exercise and is allowed within the RFP’s language.   Specifically we ask that PRPA calculate the SCC using methodology outlined in (CRS 40-3.2-106) to ensure consistency with Colorado Statutes for each proposal received. 

Consideration of SCC can also help hedge against uncertainties of future carbon emissions regulation, as well as EPA’s updated Greenhouse Gas Emissions rule covering gas and coal fired electricity generation (https://www.govinfo.gov/app/details/FR-2024-05-09/2024-09233)

Meeting the need for a new dispatchable portfolio (per Black & Veatch modeling) to maintain reliability, while acknowledging the zero carbon goals set by the owner communities, and PRPA itself, will be challenging.   Incorporating the SCC can help differentiate the long-term value of the proposals and help the board choose the optimal mix of proposals to create a portfolio that is cost effective, reliable, and with the lowest possible carbon intensity.   The inclusion of SCC also levels the playing field between fossil fuel and non-fossil resources, such as the Saga battery storage proposal, and helps consider future impacts of carbon pricing and its potential financial impact for our communities. 

Respectfully,

Northern Colorado Partners for Clean Energy

Co-conveners

Peter Eberle

eberlep@yahoo.com

Fred Kirsch

Cforse.fred@gmail.com

Fred Kirsch

Director

970-412-6295

www.cforse.org

Polis’ Veto Disappoints

Published in the Denver Post on May 26th, 2024

When I voted for Gov. Jared Polis for governor in 2018 and 2022, I hoped for his leadership on reining in climate change. At least he talked a good game. But it appears that I was conned.

Although I was mixed on Polis’ actions last year, this year the governor had shown himself to be very aligned with the oil and gas industry (O&G). Last week we heard about Polis’ “grand bargain“ with the O&G, which means more inaction on fracking, taking care of orphan and stripper wells, and a business as usual approach and partnerships with O&G. But it keeps on coming.

The last straw for me was the veto on senate bill 150 – Processing of Municipal Solid Waste. Polis has allowed the O&G/plastics industry to embark on use of pyrolysis and incineration to deal with Colorado’s plastic waste problem. Instead of focusing on how to minimize the use of plastics in the state, he decided to give another plum to the industry. 

Polis’ veto of this bill will create a ‘witches brew’ of toxic poisons which will continue to pull air and will likely reach into our water as well. Additionally, it allows these industries to take advantage of tax credits to invest in these new unproven approaches to polluting our state. As a side note – we have been advised that they are planning to put one of these facilities into Northern Colorado – you can be sure I will be opposing this development.

But what really saddens me is that the climate change community was played for the fool. As the saying goes, “Fool me once; shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.“ I will not make the same mistake again, Governor.

Scott Simmons, Windsor.

Note: Among several other affiliations and experiences, Scott is a co-leader for the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, Colorado Chapter.

CCLC Statement Opposing SB24-230: “Oil and Gas Production Fees”

Posted on May 5th, 2024

The Colorado Coalition for a Livable Climate (CCLC) is opposed to bills that perpetuate dependency on the oil and gas sector by funding state and local government programs through fees imposed on oil and gas operators. The next few years are crucial to implementing a path to a sustainable future on a livable planet, and SB24-230 takes Colorado in exactly the wrong direction by tying funding for diesel transit to oil & gas production fees.

In the scientific community, there is certainty that climate change is the existential threat of our lives and that of many generations to come, and there is no doubt that it is caused by the burning of oil and gas. Colorado, as the 4th largest oil producer and 7th largest gas producer in the nation has a special responsibility to address our contribution to this crisis, and to the harms it causes to our residents.

Colorado is already experiencing the devastating impacts of local warming. Western Colorado in particular is a climate hotspot, warming at double the national and global average. How many more life-threatening wildfires, rockslides, flooding, and road collapses must we endure? How long a megadrought are we to bear before Colorado recognizes that continuing to support mitigation strategies that allow continued emissions from the oil and gas is a losing strategy?

Expanding clean transit service is certainly a laudable goal that the legislature and citizens have supported year after year. But addressing traffic pollution by expanding the use of diesel trains and buses is no solution. As a leading producer of dirty fuels, it is incumbent upon us to begin to wean ourselves off these destructive products and move our economy to a clean energy future with cleaner air and better health outcomes.

Yet, SB24-230 ties oil & gas revenue to mass transit and wildlife habitat resiliency and restoration. With this bill Colorado is committing itself to a future of continued development of these destructive resources for the foreseeable future. Our local and state government budgets and programs are already overly dependent on oil and gas revenues. This dependency—perceived or actual—on dirty energy production has been consistently used as justification to reject stricter regulation of the industry and justify continued permitting of new oil and gas projects. Instead of creating yet another insidious budgetary dependency on oil and gas production, legislative efforts should be underway to reduce this dependency or addiction. 

When including the 20-year global warming factor of methane, and the damaging impacts of ozone formation caused by volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen, oil and gas development is far and away the number one contributor to environmental damage in our state, and this marriage of mass transit with fossil energy is bad for our people, bad for our state, and bad for the planet. 

This bill was part of Governor Polis’ and Democratic Leadership’s ‘compromise’ legislative package agreed to by a few oil and gas operators and conservation organizations in exchange for withdrawing nearly 20 ballot initiatives from the 2024 election year, killing 4 health and safety bills that targeted the oil and gas industry, and placing a moratorium on legislative efforts to regulate the oil and gas industry and protect the health and safety of Coloradans for the next three years. This compromise is not representative of the interests of the entire industry or environmental community, and primarily funds a commuter train from Denver to Boulder and Fort Collins.

75% of Coloradans know climate change is happening and nearly half of us have personally experienced the effects. Over 60 organizations and thousands of people supported SB24-159 to phase out oil and gas permits by 2030. Colorado produces nearly quadruple the gas, and double the oil that it consumes, exporting the product while saddling us with the pollution and environmental impacts. Boundless production is causing severe air quality issues, making Coloradans sick and accelerating climate change impacts. This isn’t a truce in the oil and gas wars between dirty energy and clean air and healthy communities. It’s a failure of leadership, just as leadership failed in enacting “Clean Air Clean Jobs” and in approving the Pueblo Unit 3 coal plant earlier in this century.

This dirty deal with dirty industry opens up a new vein in the economic lifeblood of Colorado and creates a new and dangerous addiction that is already killing us all. We oppose this dirty deal because we know dealing with it later is too late.

COLORADO COALITION FOR A LIVABLE CLIMATE

Micah Parkin, 350 Colorado

Natasha Leger, Citizens for a Healthy Community

Leslie Glustrom, Clean Energy Action

Jan Rose, Climate Reality Project Denver Chapter

Kevin Cross, Fort Collins Sustainability Group

Nat Miullo, Resilient Denver

Time for a New Electric Utility Paradigm 

Published in the Denver Post on April 27th, 2024

After nearly 20 years at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, I still wonder what parts of “climate crisis” and “extreme weather,” are not understood by Xcel, Colorado’s largest investor-owned utility (IOU), and its regulators at the PUC.

After many years of advocacy by customers in Boulder and around the state, Xcel is making steady progress on decarbonizing its electrical system. The good people who work for Xcel deserve recognition for this progress, but Xcel and its regulators seem to think we can experience a “climate crisis” but still have the same weather we had in the 20th century. Not likely that!

How many demonstrations do we need before we recognize that the weather in the 21st century will be very, very different from the weather of the 20th century and that we should be building and operating an electrical system that reflects this new reality?

In the past 11 years in Boulder County, we’ve seen the floods of September 2013, the Marshall fire of December 2021 and now the strong winds and the public safety power shutoff in April. There is every reason to believe that we will be seeing many more extreme weather events in the months and years to come.

Sadly, Xcel, with the approval of its regulators, keeps spending large amounts of money on 20th-century technologies — coal plants, methane (a.k.a. “natural gas”) plants and big transmission lines with no apparent consideration for what happens when this 20th-century model fails in the face of the extreme weather of the 21st century.

There can be no argument that the costs of the 2013 flood, the 2021 Marshall fire and the 2024 power shutoff are extremely large, financially and emotionally — yet they are essentially ignored by Xcel and the PUC when planning the future electrical system.

Although there are many things that can be done to increase the ability of the electrical system to withstand current and future extreme weather events, one of the key concepts is to start building a system that uses the thinking and technologies of “islandable” microgrids that can keep operating independently when the transmission and distribution systems fail.

Building a cost-effective and resilient 21st-century electrical system will require the best and most innovative thinking our country has.

One way to unleash the needed innovation and provide price discipline is to allow communities to “go shopping” for their electrical provider under a system referred to as community choice energy in Colorado and community choice aggregation (CCA) in other states.

In states where CCA has been allowed, many communities are finding they can get lower rates, cleaner energy, more local generation and a significant revenue stream to help fund a more resilient and equitable electrical system.

In Colorado, politically diverse communities, that used to be wholesale customers of Xcel (including Fountain, Steamboat Springs and the Grand Valley around Grand Junction) have found that they indeed can get better deals by “going to market.” All have left Xcel and chosen another provider.

Sadly, communities such as Boulder that are retail customers under franchise with Xcel, are not allowed to seek out the best prices and programs and instead are forced to accept Xcel’s decisions, monopoly rates and often poor customer service with no option.

One might think Gov. Jared Polis — sometimes described as the country’s most “libertarian” governor — would want to support competition and innovation and allow market forces to work.

Sadly, however, Polis and his administration generally have decided to support Xcel’s monopoly, oppose competition and drag their feet in moving microgrid policy forward. It is past time for Polis and his administration to do more than write self-serving letters admonishing Xcel!

Here’s hoping Colorado’s leaders soon start to support competition in our electrical system to help provide price discipline and unleash successful innovation so that we can build a more equitable 21st-century electrical system that reflects the new climate realities of this century — instead of being forced to accept Xcel’s attachment to its 20th-century business model and thinking with no recourse. Here’s hoping they begin soon. The climate clock is ticking — for sure!

Leslie Glustrom is trained as a chemist and biochemist. She has spent most of the past 20 years participating at the Public Utilities Commission working to decarbonize our electrical system and helping to build the climate movement in Colorado and beyond.

Hope for Larimer County Air

Published in the Denver Post on April 17th, 2024

As a representative of the Larimer Alliance for Health, Safety, and Environment, I wholeheartedly support House Bill 1330, which aims to address our dire air quality issues in Larimer County. With an “F” grade in ozone from the American Lung Association, we are in crisis. Science, including findings from the Front Range Air Pollution and Photochemistry Experiment, has shown that emissions from oil and gas facilities are a primary culprit of our unhealthy air, particularly when combined with regional airflow patterns that transport pollution into our county.

HB 1330 is a beacon of hope for not just Larimer County but all of Colorado. It promises a shift towards honest emission assessments, acknowledging the significant cumulative impacts of so-called minor sources. By requiring new emissions to be offset, it introduces a practical approach to reducing pollution and, crucially, offers better protection for communities directly impacted by air pollution.

The oil and gas industry must prioritize the health of our environment and communities over lobbyists and advertising. Supporting HB 1330 is supporting the health and well-being of every resident in Colorado.

Doug Henderson, Larimer County

We are Running out of Road on Transition to Green Energy

Published in the Daily Camera on April 10th, 2024

Despite the Camera’s endorsement, Colorado lawmakers rejected a bill (SB 159) that would have gone after orphan and abandoned oil and gas wells and begun the transition away from petroleum extraction. In doing so, our legislators kicked the can down the road. The problem is: we are running out of road.

We have already experienced loss and damage to what we love about Colorado. And the continued burning of fossil fuels will only give us more of the same: toxic air pollution, droughts, wildfires like the Marshall Fire, shortened ski seasons, beetle-killed forests, overheated trout streams, etc. We don’t want that for ourselves, and certainly not for our children. And it’s not good for our economic future.

Fortunately, cleaner, safer, healthier, more abundant energy alternatives are available from wind and solar. There is, of course, work to be done in navigating the energy transition and incorporating new technologies into our economy while honoring and supporting the fossil fuel veterans who have fueled our economy for so long. This work takes time. So we should be moving now, with dispatch.

I commend the legislators who introduced and supported this bill. I am dismayed by the oil and gas industry’s radical pro-pollution agenda in the face of the clear evidence of harm from ongoing production. It’s time for an upgrade. Together we need to develop a glide path from dirty and expensive to clean, abundant and socially just. 

Later is too late.

Chris Hoffman, Boulder

Action Alert: Brave Sponsors of the Oil and Gas Phase Out and Clean-Up Bill Need to Feel the Love!

Senator Jaquez Lewis and Senator Priola need to be buoyed up after SB 159 (the Oil and Gas Phase Out and Clean Up Bill) was voted down in committee on March 28th. They are taking a lot of heat from this, both from constituents and colleagues who were against the bill. One Senator said during the hearing that sponsoring this bill was a career-ending move and other committee members tried to paint them as ignorant and foolish. They are getting harshly critical messages for running this bill from some of their constituents.

Now is the time to thank them. They are truly heroes for running this bill. It’s sad that it takes so much political courage to propose science-based policies to protect people and planet but that’s where we are. We need to show them again what strong public support there is for this bill. We need to outnumber the industry voices again. We need to have their back because they had ours, and we need to ensure other legislators won’t be scared off from running bold bills.

We outnumbered industry in the hearing and now we need to outnumber them in the post-hearing feedback. We can turn this setback into a future success, but only if legislators know there is massive support for it.

Please write to them and thank them, especially if you are their constituent, but even if you are not. Senator Sonya Jaquez Lewis, District 17 (Boulder, Broomfield, Weld, email sonya.jaquez.lewis.senate@coleg.gov), and Senator Kevin Priola, District 13 (Adams, Weld, email kevin.priola.senate@coleg.gov). Tell them you support the bill and appreciate their leadership in running it.

Thanks for supporting strong climate legislation!

Action Alert: Testify for the Oil and Gas Phase Out and Clean Up Bill!

This bill is being heard on Thursday, March 28th at 1:30 p.m. in its crucial first committee hearing, where it will either be killed or get sent to be debated by the whole Senate. RSVP here to receive support and updates. Register for zoom or in person testimony here, and/or submit written comment through this link, following these instructions:

1. Choose in-person, zoom or written (tip – if you want to do both, submit written testimony and log in again to sign up for oral comment by zoom or in-person)
2. Select “By Committee and Hearing Item”
3. Select Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources
4. Select 3/28 1:30 pm
5. Select SB24-159 Mod to Energy & Carbon Management Processes
6. Fill out this form, indicating you are commenting on behalf of yourself – or if you are a designated representative of a business or organization, you can indicate that. If you select written, you will be able to type your comment in or upload a file.

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