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"It’s extreme droughts, extreme floods, extreme temperatures, increases in fires. We've seen all of these."

Why is Colorado phasing out coal? Simply put: Planet Earth is warming up. Fast.

For decades, scientific evidence has pointed to significant human influence on our climate, dating back to the Industrial Revolution. Burning fossil fuels like coal releases significant amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming.

Climate change increases the volatility in our systems, says Waleed Abdalati, Director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder. And the catastrophic effects are already being felt. The U.S. has experienced a record-breaking number of weather disasters in recent years, including droughts, hurricanes, and wildfires. 

"We can't, you know, cast ourselves in amber and say nothing's going to change because it's going to have impacts. Because the world is changing anyway."

In 2019, the Colorado legislature took its boldest step yet toward addressing climate change. House Bill 1261 committed Colorado to a 50% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and a 90% reduction by 2050. Almost every sector would be affected.

Electrical utilities, like Tri-State would need to generate more of their power from renewables like wind and solar. The bill signaled the beginning of the end for coal plants in the state.

This was an opportunity for the state to lead on climate action, then-Colorado Speaker of the House KC Becker says. There would be an impact for communities like Craig. But there are also impacts to doing nothing. And addressing our climate future is imperative.

"We didn't ask for this, but we got it handed to us. We got it shoved down our throat."

But for some, like retired Moffat County commissioner Ray Beck, the bill was seen as an overreach. He felt like Craig was being left out of the decisions that affected its future, the latest example of the glaring rural-urban divide in America today.

How do we balance the need to protect the planet with the need to protect livelihoods?

Waleed Abdalati, Director, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder
Ray Beck, Former Craig Mayor and Moffat County Commissioner
KC Becker, Former Speaker of the House, Colorado State Legislature
Jennifer Holloway, Executive Director, Craig Chamber of Commerce

Bonus Clips

Waleed Abdalati, Director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, breaks down the most recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released in 2021.

Ray Beck, retired Moffat County commissioner, talks about the term "just transition" and efforts underway to diversify Craig's economy.

Further Reading

United Nations Convention on Climate Change (1992)

IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (2021)

"Hottest month on record; July 2021 according to NOAA," 9NEWS, August 13, 2021.

"Dolores River in southwest Colorado is running dry," 9NEWS, July 1, 2021.

"Much of Estes Park evacuated Thursday as East Troublesome Fire expands east over Continental Divide," Denver7, October 22, 2020.

"Making the case for climate action: The growing risks and costs of inaction," House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, April 15, 2021.

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