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Colorado Lawmakers Take Aim at Climate Change

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Unmitigated climate change could result in a 30% decline in the Colorado River, which supplies drinking water for 40 million people. (Christian Mehlführer/Wikimedia Commons)
Unmitigated climate change could result in a 30% decline in the Colorado River, which supplies drinking water for 40 million people. (Christian Mehlführer/Wikimedia Commons)
April 24, 2019

DENVER - A bill making its way through the Colorado Legislature could make the state a national leader in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

House Bill 1261 calls for a 26% reduction in climate pollution by 2025, a 50% reduction by 2030 and a 90% reduction by 2050, compared with 2005 levels.

John Sanderson, director of science with The Nature Conservancy in Colorado, said cutting pollution is critical for protecting public health and the Colorado way of life.

"So many things we value about this place - from our snowpack to our agriculture, to all the recreational opportunities that we have, and our beautiful rivers," he said, "and all of this is at risk if we don't get a handle on the emissions that are causing temperatures to warm."

According to a recent NBC News poll, two-thirds of Americans believe climate change is a serious problem and that the nation needs to take action.

The measure called on the state's Air Quality Control Commission to work with stakeholders, including industry leaders, to find the best ways to reduce emissions.

Sanderson said Coloradans already are seeing negative impacts, including more frequent and powerful wildfires, flooding and prolonged drought. He added that Colorado River flows could decline by as much as 30%, which would put the state's economy at risk. Sanderson pointed to two peer-reviewed scientific reports - from the International Panel on Climate Change and the fourth National Climate Assessment from the U.S. Global Change Research Program - that suggest HB 1261's targets would put Colorado on a path to avoid the most catastrophic projections.

"Those reports both converge on a 45% reduction by 2030 as both meaningful, in terms of averting the worst impacts of our changing climate, and also doable," he said.

Sponsored by House Speaker KC Becker, D-Boulder, and Rep. Dominique Jackson, D-Aurora, the so-called "Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution" has cleared the House, and on Monday, the bill narrowly advanced out of the Senate's so-called "kill committee" to Appropriations.

The text of HB 1261 is online at leg.colorado.gov, the NBC poll is at NBCnews.com, the IPCC report is at ipcc.ch, and the NCA4 report is at globalchange.gov.

Disclosure: The Nature Conservancy in Colorado contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Environment, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO