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Carbon Pollution Puts CO "On Thin Ice"



March 28, 2012

DENVER - Warming winters threaten Colorado's outdoor traditions, according to a report released Tuesday during what may be the driest March in state history.

It's been a wild month in Colorado, with record high temperatures, little snow, and red-flag wind and fire warnings. The Front Range is experiencing the driest March on record, with virtually no measurable snowfall. Instead of snow, there are flames - with the North Fork and other wildfires forcing evacuations, leaving two people dead, destroying dozens of homes and scorching thousands of acres.

The report confirms that Colorado faces one of its smallest snowpacks ever - 70 percent of 30-year norms, according to David Ellenberger, National Wildlife Federation regional outreach coordinator.

"The trend lines all indicate that the West is on a bad trajectory towards warmer, drier winters that are going to cause some problems in the long run."

This is the fourth-warmest winter on record in Colorado, he says, and the other three have occurred in the past two decades. The NWF report, "On Thin Ice," ties the changing climate conditions to carbon pollution.

The report was issued on the same day the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first-ever Clean Air Act standard aimed to reduce carbon pollution from new power plants. Bryce Carter, Colorado associate organizing representative for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, calls the EPA action an important first step because Colorado's top 12 carbon polluters are coal-fired plants.

"The bottom line is that there are currently no national limits to the amount of carbon being spewed into the air by these largest sources of carbon pollution, which are these dirty, coal-fired power plants."

If the warming trend continues, Ellenberger says, it threatens Colorado's thriving outdoors industry, which contributes $3 billion to the economy each year, supporting nearly 34,000 full-time jobs.

"If these long-term trends hold up, which scientists are expecting that they will with an ever-increasing and warming climate, it's going to be some economic problems for our state. We're going to have job losses and some cumulative impacts that are not very positive."

Since 1978, the report says, nationwide winter snowfall has decreased by about 6 percent as winter temperatures have increased.

The full report is online at nwf.org/cleanair and the proposed EPA standard is at epa.gov.

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO