Guest opinion: Clean Power Plan protects summer rec
July is here, following two months of record high temperatures in what will be another record high year. At a time when we should be planning family trips to the mountains or picnics in the park, we are instead worrying about the impacts global warming is having on our summers and our economy.
Climate change has already had significant impacts on businesses all over the country, most notably the outdoor recreation industry. Here in Colorado, outdoor recreation accounts for $13.2 billion in consumer spending, $994 million in state and local tax revenue and 313,000 jobs, but this is all being threatened by climate change.
The air pollution that causes climate change poses serious health risks for people enjoying the outdoors, especially in summer when air quality is the worst. Furthermore, increasing global temperatures lead to less precipitation and more extreme weather events, meaning decreased snowfall, and increased floods and wildfires, which seriously impacts many outdoor activities.
The effects of climate change are extremely evident during the winter, when decreased snowfall cuts the skiing season short. However, the impacts of climate change directly effect summer recreation as well. Recreation activities such as kayaking and rafting rely on the environment for their existence, and are extremely economically important (accounting for $160 million annually), not to mention a lot of fun.
As a white water rafting guide in Durango, co-author Robin Fox sees the impacts of increasing global temperatures and climate change on a daily basis. Decreased snowmelt leads to significantly lower water levels making rafting very difficult, if not impossible. On the flip side, extreme weather events such as floods and wildfires make rafting extremely dangerous and can significantly alter rivers used for rafting and their surrounding area. The impact that climate change is having on the rafting business is economically problematic for Colorado, but what is worse is that climate change is preventing people from participating in this amazing activity.
The Clean Power Plan is a critical step in tackling climate change and protecting the future of Colorado’s outdoor recreation industry. The plan sets the first ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants and encourages investments in clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency. And it does so in a way that is achievable for all states. After years of meetings with stakeholders, millions of comments worth of feedback, and a series of public hearings, the EPA designed the Clean Power Plan to allow states maximum flexibility and significant time to develop customized plans to meet their pollution reduction goals.
That hasn’t stopped the industry and its allies from doing everything they can to dismantle these and other public health and environmental safeguards. They may have been granted a stay in court, but we should bear in mind that a delay in court does not mean a delay in the impacts of climate change.
Here in Colorado, we have already seen the consequences of climate change firsthand. Spring snowmelt now begins up to four weeks earlier than it did only a few decades ago, and the destruction caused by increased floods, fires and epidemics such as the pine beetle are unmistakable. These consequences are extremely problematic for the outdoor recreation business and for states such as Colorado that are economically reliant on this industry.
Outdoor recreation is the heart and soul of Colorado and its economy. Ninety percent of Coloradans participate in some form of outdoor recreation every year, one of the many reasons Colorado is ranked eighth in health and third in economy among the 50 states. Furthermore, people from all over the country and world travel to our beautiful state to enjoy our 13 national parks, 28 ski resorts and almost 30 million acres of public lands. Climate change puts this robust industry at risk, hurting our economy and an important piece of what makes Colorado so great.
This is why our legislators have and should continue to support the Clean Power Plan. We have the opportunity here in Colorado to become leaders in the push for a cleaner future and protect an industry that is at the heart of our state. The outdoor recreation business is simply to important to Colorado for us too let it be destroyed by climate change.
William Downie of Boulder is with Environment Colorado; Robin Fox of Durango is with Wild to Mild Rafting.
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