Let’s call the most destructive fire in Colorado history what it is: a climate catastrophe.
Thousands were urgently evacuated and hundreds lost their homes as high winds, severe record drought, high temperatures, and unusually dry conditions contributed to the late December grass fires in Boulder County. Many are surprised that this could happen, but those of us tracking the climate crisis know that this type of fire event is exactly what has been predicted by climate scientists for years.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent August 2021 assessment, there is “high confidence” that human-influenced rising temperatures are a direct cause of the extension of the wildfire season, increased drought, and decreased precipitation in the southwest United States. Unfortunately, this event solidifies a new precedent for fire danger that will be with us for years to come.
Millions of Coloradans have been impacted by climate change already, yet our leaders continue to fail to take the action necessary to cut greenhouse gas emissions, protect our communities, and put us on the road towards a liveable future. The climate crisis requires immediate action, not action in ten, twenty, or thirty years as many of our leaders prefer to pursue.
Governor Polis must declare a climate emergency and set Colorado on a path for a just transition away from fossil fuels, beginning by phasing out fossil fuel production by 2030 and closing all coal-fired power plants by 2025. All State agencies should immediately accelerate Colorado’s efforts to address the climate emergency, with the immediate prioritizing of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with scientists’ recommendations and Colorado’s own climate goals. All asset managers and institutional investors including Colorado’s Public Employees Retirement Association should immediately reconfigure investments in line with the necessary transition away from fossil fuel production in order to accelerate the transition to renewable energy and cut emissions in order to stabilize our climate.
Our time has already run out and now the task is to act swiftly in order to best mitigate the worst impacts yet to come.
Deborah McNamara is the Campaign Director for 350 Colorado, a non-profit focused on climate change solutions.