• May 20th, 2024
  • Monday, 09:25:39 PM

Do Not Let Polluters Sabotage Our Climate Future


 

Pete Kolbenschlag

 

 

Developing solar power to facilitate more fracked gas production, as a recently reported project on the Western Slope will do, is not a gain for climate. This is so, even if the connected utility can claim climate points (as it intends to do) toward meeting Colorado’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.

 

In fact the International Energy Agency (IEA) recently noted about its newly updated Net Zero Roadmap that to meet international climate goals “no new long-lead-time upstream oil and gas projects are needed … neither are new coal mines, mine extensions or new unabated coal plants.” The gas fracker in question, of course, has no inclination to limit its plans or reduce its future fracking.

 

The IEA report also found that although the growth of clean energy is keeping a narrow pathway viable, nations must step up their net-zero goals to limit the extent of heating below 1.5 degrees Celsius. In other words, to meet the benchmark that science says we need to meet to avoid ever worse and cascading consequences from global heating and climate change, we cannot allow for further expansion of or additional oil and gas development.

 

It’s time to call the question: What is the plan to end the reign of fossil fuels?

 

This IEA report comports with others, such as the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment, which also found developing additional oil and gas is mostly incompatible with a future that limits warming to 1.5 degrees. As this year has shown around the world, the impacts from heating already occurring due to human-driven climate change bring costly and deadly effects. The hottest ever October followed other record-breaking months, likely making 2023 the hottest year ever recorded on Earth.

 

Despite the billions of people experiencing effects from the climate emergency now, and which is already costing businesses, governments, and households hundreds of billions of dollars each year, America and other nations are failing to meet climate goals.

 

And the state of Colorado is failing, too.

 

A new baseline analysis from Rocky Mountain Institute looking at our progress toward meeting greenhouse gas reductions finds that the state is missing its targets by about 15%, leaving many to call for more meaningful targets that hold polluters to account. If Colorado, the U.S., and the world are serious about meeting climate goals and staving off greater, costlier and more deadly impacts to come, then they must enact a fast timeline to end the use of fossil fuels. Serious climate action means enforceable steps and accountability benchmarks across all sectors to get there. Failure to do this is a failure to take climate change seriously and a surrender to denialism.

 

Failure to act with sufficient response is a capitulation to polluters, an admission that vested status quo interests today matter more to policy-makers than either science or our future. Failure to act boldly and urgently at the scale and pace needed to address the climate crisis discounts the future, it damages our well-being now and will cause even much greater harm to all who come after.

 

Fortunately, we do have the opportunity to act. And that includes how we manage public lands, which comprise a significant portion of Colorado’s land base. Scaling up conservation and limiting fossil fuel development are among the top two steps the federal government can take toward meeting our climate goals. And federal agencies are starting to take action with several recent land use and habitat protection plans. In western Colorado that opportunity includes a plan now being considered for Bureau of Land Management public lands in the region, with the draft plan taking big steps in that direction.

 

Unfortunately the oil and gas lobby is actively working to block these critical and impactful actions by the BLM, enlisting its allies to cement the status quo favoritism they currently enjoy and to avoid any climate accountability. Take Rep. Lauren Boebert’s recent amendment to cancel this plan for western Colorado altogether, which she claimed would “safeguard” Colorado’s public lands for oil and gas fracking from conservation, habitat protection, hunting and recreational use, and other public purposes. Or the reflexive boosterism from some circles that refuse to let yesterday’s vision for an oil and gas boom-town go, pushing tired pipeline-dreams and peddling grandiose promises of fossil glory to come.

 

But all this is just looking backward. None of it shifts us from the need to curtail oil and gas development. None of it addresses the reality that in Colorado, in the United States, and globally the window for meaningful climate action is slamming shut. Or that more fossil fuel use and development thwarts progress, and that the number one culprit impeding response is, in fact, this industry and its accomplices in governments —big and small — around the world.

 

Some advocate half-measures then try to hide inevitable shortfalls behind an incrementalism that has already failed. But importantly, and even if they are made in earnest, such excuses will mean nothing in the end if we do not meet this crisis moment. We cannot let the polluters sabotage our future, and we cannot let vested interests muzzle officials or to shut down climate response.

 

It’s time to call the question: What is the plan to end the reign of fossil fuels?

 

Pete Kolbenschlag is a long-time climate activist, public lands advocate and conservation leader writing from the North Fork Valley of western Colorado. This commentary  is republished from Colorado Newsline under a Creative Commons license.