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Rocky Mountain Chapter

Climate Change Festival focuses on global warming
Sierra Club raises awareness of in-state


By Carol Carpenter
RMC Communications Team

Climate rally

Bryce Carter, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign representative, and JoLynn Jarboe, RMC volunteer, staff a table at the Colorado Climate Change Festival

Glaciers are melting, storms are more frequent and destructive, winters are warmer and wildfires are increasing in number and severity. To learn more about why these and other natural disasters are happening at an increasing rate—and what can be done about it—about 800 activists and interested others gathered at Denver’s Civic Center Park for May’s Colorado Climate Change Festival: Uniting Against Climate Change.

A coalition of groups called the Climate Action Campaign sponsored the event, with participant environmental organizations including Sierra Club, Conservation Colorado, Environment Colorado, and the National Wildlife Federation.   The event was designed to raise awareness of the need for governments, organizations and individuals to take actions to lessen global warming.

The event featured many activist speakers and the showing of the trailer of “Chasing Ice,” a documentary film about the negative environmental effects of melting glaciers to the planet.

Bryce Carter, Sierra Club’s associate organizing representative for the Colorado Beyond Coal Campaign, and Rocky Mountain Chapter volunteer Jolynn Jarboe staffed an informational table at the event, handing out brochures and talking to individuals about climate change and its many related issues.

“The Sierra Club was an active partner with the festival, as Colorado is a frontline to the impacts of climate disruption,” said Carter.  “As we work toward resolving the climate crisis, it is important for us to come together as a community to celebrate each other and remind ourselves why we fight for a sustainable future.”

Colorado, like most western states, continues, despite recent spring snows and rain, to suffer from a prolonged drought. “Not only are our winters in danger, but also our springs, summers and falls,” Carter states, adding that one of Colorado’s great economic drivers is tourism, which thrives on water, a natural resource that remains at risk, partly from increased demand and also  from global warming.  

Other climate change issues facing Colorado include the following:

  • The state’s ski industry is fighting an uphill battle to maintain a dependable snowpack.
  • Whitewater rafts are scraping the bottom of river ways.
  • Billowing smoke from wildfires clouds skies across the state.
  • Forests are turning brown from beetle kill, steadily changing the landscape.  
  • Steep shores are visible in reservoirs, causing cities such as Colorado Springs to face a dangerous water shortage crisis within a year or two.  

“Because of climate change, the Colorado way of life we all love is in danger,” Carter warns.

Glaciers: dying canaries in coal mines

Glaciers, Carter emphasizes, are a critical component of ecosystems and communities around the world. Now they are melting at rapid rates. “Once they’re gone, the consequences are grave from localized extinctions or total regional ecological collapses to human conflicts. The melting glaciers are the dying canaries in the coal mines. If we don’t pay attention, we’ll end up the same.”+

Unfortunately, as more glaciers and snowpack across the world depletes, more dark ground or water is uncovered that absorbs more heat from the sun, Carter explains.“The more heat retained depletes the ice quicker, which allows for more heat to be absorbed. In addition, as the ground thaws in the permafrost, an untold amount of methane is being released into the atmosphere acting as a much more potent greenhouse gas absorber than carbon. These feedback loops can escalate the heating of our planet rapidly, which means more melting glaciers.”

‘Carbon ethic’ needed

There is a need for a new “carbon ethic” that would positively affect land, water and wildlife, Carter believes. He points out that author Aldo Leopold in The Land Ethic  (from A Sand County Almanac) names three components of human ethics: 1) how as individuals we relate to other individuals, 2) how we relate to society, and 3) how we relate to the land.

“The land ethic is essentially the premise for the creation of the Sierra Club 121 years ago,” Carter says. “Now it can be argued a fourth ethic is emerging—the carbon ethic.”

He explains the need for a carbon ethic by emphasizing that carbon pollution is currently the leading cause of global climate disruption, fueled by the use of fossil fuels. “Today our collective actions have global consequences, and none are as urgent in needing to be addressed as carbon-fueled climate disruption. We need to develop a carbon ethic in our society for if we are to begin to address the challenge of climate change, we must appreciate the need to bring our global life system into balance.”

Pollution standard needed, too

Society also needs a pollution standard, Carter adds, pointing out that carbon pollution today is not being accounted for. “Polluters can emit all the carbon they want with absolutely no consequence on them, as people around the world suffer the consequences of a disrupted climate. A carbon pollution standard acts as a public safeguard which begins to internalize the cost of those consequence by holding polluters accountable to their dangerous pollution. We absolutely need a carbon pollution standard if we are to begin to address the climate crisis.”

Carter is pleased that, while much more needs to be done, things are starting to happen in Colorado to address global warming. The city of Denver, for instance, recently announced the 2020 sustainability goals to improve things locally. Denver is also part of the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which features 12 goals to help educate the public, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the use of clean energy across the country.

 

 

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