The first Earth Day — April 22, 1970 — marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement. Its history is instructive in that this day grew out of bipartisan support. Earthday.org reports it this way: “Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, urban dwellers and farmers, business and labor leaders.”
Today, 51 years since the first Earth Day, we face a new challenge. Climate change is impacting life in Colorado. It’s not a problem confined to far-off places, nor is it a problem we can leave for our grandchildren. It is impacting Coloradans today.
Today we face significant wildfire risk. In 2020 Colorado experienced many fires that took lives; imperiled health; destroyed homes, farms and livestock; and restricted recreation. Last year saw the three largest wildfires in the state’s history.
The damage wrought will continue to impact water quality and quantity, fisheries, and recreation. While climate change was not solely responsible for causing the fires, it aggravated their aggressiveness and likelihood.
Today we are experiencing extreme drought across Colorado that has been heightened by climate change. Left unmitigated, Colorado’s wildfire risk can only grow as the climate of Colorado evolves into a drier and more arid environment. Climate models predict much of the agricultural region of the central U.S., including Colorado, will shift northward.
Today we are experiencing water supply issues across the Front Range. Snowpack is decreasing and spring runoff starts earlier but ends sooner. Lawsuits have been filed creating a tension between water providers who are trying to keep up with the demand for water as our climate changes and residents who highly value their local rivers and waterways.
Collectively, what we are experiencing today will impact the economy and heritage of Colorado. Our current path imperils Colorado’s agriculture and recreational economies.
So, what is the answer? Perhaps it is time to take instruction from the first Earth Day. That monumental day helped achieve “a rare political alignment” of bipartisan support.
Such a solution to climate change is emerging today. This approach places a fee or tax on carbon and pays to each American a dividend to cover their increased cost of energy. Border pricing adjustments protect U.S. manufacturers and jobs from foreign pricing not yet adopting a carbon fee.
This approach lets the marketplace drive technical innovations that are projected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30% in the first five years and achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.
There is already significant support for this carbon fee and dividend approach. The Business Roundtable, the American Petroleum Institute, and the CEO Climate Dialogue have all endorsed carbon pricing. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has expressed a preference for a market-based approach to emissions reductions.
Both sides of the political aisle need to collectively hear from us that change is needed. After all, politicians react to political will. They do not create it. It’s time for all of us to stand and let our voices be heard.
Contact your congressman and senators. Tell them you want bipartisan support for a meaningful climate bill such as the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. Collectively, we can make a difference.
Ron Dickson, an environmental engineer, is the media relations coordinator for the Fort Collins chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which advocates for bipartisan climate change solutions in Congress.