Working to keep the West special

RMCO's Monthly Newsletter

This is our latest monthly newsletter with information about news and developments on climate disruption and its impacts and on climate action in the West. You can sign up for our newsletter, sent by email, by sending a request to admin@rockymountainclimate.org.

December 2018

 Fourth National Climate Assessment 

The U.S. government's second volume of the Fourth National Climate Assessment is the latest and best explanation of the impacts of climate change in the United States. It has appropriately received a lot of public attention -- despite the Trump Administration having released it the day after Thanksgiving and then trying to completely dismiss it (Trump Administration's strategy on climate: Try to bury its own scientific report, New York Times, November 25, The Trump Administration released a damning climate report. Now its agencies won't comment., Mother Jones, November 26, and Donald Trump buried a climate change report because 'I don't believe it', CCN, November 27). When combined with last month's report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the worldwide impacts of Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees C, the national climate assessment report represents a new crescendo of scientific information on what our nation and the world face as we humans continue changing the climate.   

This second volume of the Fourth Assessment focuses on the human welfare, societal, and environmental elements of climate change. Volume 1, published in 2017, focused on the foundational science of climate change. Volume 2's chapters on the Southwest and the Northwest add up to what the West has at stake. Among the media coverage:

There are signs of growing public recognition of what is at stake and the need to act. According to the latest Politico/Morning Consult poll, two-thirds of voters say they are very or somewhat concerned about the Fourth Assessment report. A 58 percent majority agrees with the scientific consensus - and disagrees with President Trump - that climate change is being caused by human activity. See Poll: Majority of voters worried about climate change, Politico, December 6, 2018.

News about RMCO and CC4CA

News about Colorado Communities for Climate Action

With the addition of the Town of Avon, the ranks of Colorado Communities for Climate Action now include 21 municipal and county government members, and the coalition is becoming increasingly visible in climate and clean energy policy-making.   

Colorado finalizes tougher emission standards, November 26, 2018, Littleton Independent, and Colorado adopts California's stricter emissions standards, bucking Trump Administration, Colorado Public Radio, November 16, 2018. CC4CA president Anita Seitz, executive director Jacob Smith, and Jannette Whitcomb of Aspen's environmental health department are featured in coverage of the Air Quality Control Commission's November 16 decision to adopt state low-emission vehicle standards. Pushing for those standards has been a major CC4CA priority in 2018.

News about CC4CA Members

Jared Polis wants Colorado 100 percent powered by renewable energy, but talk is easier than the walk, Colorado Sun, November 26, 2018. The challenges and cost-effectiveness considerations of reaching 100 percent renewable energy goals are highlighted. Summit County, Aspen, Lafayette, Nederland, and Fort Collins are among the nine Colorado local governments cited as having adopted the goal.

Boulder, Pueblo could be the next cities to create their own utilities in pursuit of 100 percent renewable energy, Colorado Sun, November 26, 2018. Boulder and Fort Collins are featured, and Lafayette draws a mention.

Carbondale subscribes to solar garden toward carbon-neutral future, KDNK News, November 22, 2018. The town is subscribing to a new solar garden as a strategy to reach its goal of becoming carbon neutral by the year 2050.

Boulder County promises transition to electric government vehicle fleet, Longmont Times-Call, November 13, 2018. The county becomes the first local government to join the GoEV Cities and Counties campaign, sponsored by a coalition of clean energy and conservation groups.

News about Climate Action

Clean Energy  

Xcel Energy announces that it is adopting new carbon reduction goals across the eight states that it serves -- an 80 percent reduction by 2030, from 2005 levels, and 100 percent by 2050. This is further than any other major utility has yet pledged to go. Xcel CEO Ben Fowke says that reining in climate disruption is a motivation: "This risk of climate change isn't going away and we want to be the company that does something about it and hopefully inspire others to do something about it too." (See Xcel Energy, Colorado's largest utility, aims to have zero carbon emissions by 2050 in industry-first plan, Colorado Sun, December 4, 2018.)

Also driving Xcel's decision is strong support by local communities for cleaner energy. Xcel's Fowke observes, "When your customers are asking for this over and over you really do listen. . . Boulder, the City of Denver, Breckenridge ... Pueblo, they've considered or they have already decided that they want to pursue 100 percent renewable." (See Xcel Energy vows 100 percent carbon reduction by 2050, Colorado Public Radio, December 4, 2018.) It's also increasingly clear that phasing out fossil fuels is simply the financially prudent thing for utilities to do. For the first time, a major US utility has committed to 100% clean energy, Vox, December 5, 2018.

In northern Colorado, the board of the Platte River Power Authority, the supplier for the communities of Fort Collins, Longmont, Loveland, and Estes Park, voted unanimously to adopt an even more aggressive goal: to "proactively work toward the goal of reaching a 100 percent non-carbon resource mix by 2030" (see board packet, page 305). Fort Collins and Longmont, both of which have carbon-free power goals, have been instrumental in pushing that clean energy shift.

Storage will replace 3 California gas plants as PG&E nabs approval for world's largest batteries, Utility Dive, November 9, 2018. The California PUC directed Pacific Gas & Electric to purchase the storage in January instead of approving new ratepayer-funded contracts for three gas plants in PG&E's service area.

Regional, State, and Local Climate Policies

With Democratic majority, climate change is back on U.S. House agenda, Inside Climate News, November 7, 2018.

Election results include that in Washington State, a proposed first state carbon tax was defeated, following a record $30 million campaign by the energy industry to defeat it; voters in Nevada approved an initiative to boost renewable energy to 50 percent of the state's electricity by 2030; but Arizona voters rejected a similar initiative. See Why Nevada upped its renewable energy standards (and Arizona didn't), Grist, November 11, 2018.

Governors could drive the next wave of climate change action, Vox, November 8, 2018. Changes of governorships from Republican to Democrat in New Mexico, Nevada, Maine, and Wisconsin means that more states may be able to help fill the void left by likely continued congressional and presidential inaction.

Fossil Fuels

U.S. coal consumption in 2018 expected to be the lowest in 39 years, Energy Information Administration post, December 4, 2018. EIA projects a four percent decline from 2017 and the lowest level since 1979.

PacifiCorp shows 60% of its coal units are uneconomic, Utility Dive, December 5, 2018. The company's analysis shows 13 units at plants in Montana, Colorado, and Wyoming are more expensive to operate than replacement options, but the utility is not ready to pursue those options.

Report: 42% of global coal capacity now unprofitable, Utility Dive, November 30, 2018. According to financial think tank Carbon Tracker, two in five coal plants are running at a loss, and by 2030, new wind and solar will be cheaper than almost all existing coal plants. See the report here.

Transportation

1M EVs in the US 'a step in our journey' to combat climate change, Utility Dive, December 3, 2018. At an Edison Electric Association event celebrating the milestone, significant attention was given to how electric vehicles could play a large role in the fight against climate change and carbon emissions.

Gov. Hickenlooper and Colorado Energy Office award $10.33 million grant to build electric vehicle fast-charging stations, news release, November 29, 2018. The stations will be located in communities at 33 sites across six Colorado corridors, in accord with the Colorado Electric Vehicle Plan, and financed by the state share from the Volkswagen diesel emissions cheating settlement.  

  News about Climate Disruption

Heating-trapping Emissions

'We are in trouble.' Global carbon emissions reached a new record high in 2018., Washington Post, December 5, 2018. Global heat-trapping emissions are again increasing rapidly, by 1.6 percent in 2017 and a projected 2.7 percent in 2018, according to the Global Carbon Project. In the United States, emissions in 2018 are projected to have risen 2.5 percent. Rather than achieving pledged reductions in emissions to head off the dangers of climate change, most nations in the world are instead continuing to accelerate its pace.

Extreme Weather

Electric power outages in 2017 doubled in duration: EIA faults large storms, Utility Dive, December 4, 2018. Absent 2017's strong storms, the difference from 2016 outages would have been negligible.

Ecosystems

In Yellowstone National Park, warming has brought rapid changes, New York Times, November 15, 2018. Visually striking images accompany the text. The impacts are mostly those previously described in Greater Yellowstone in Peril: The Threats of Climate Disruption, a joint 2011 report by RMCO and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

Northern New Mexico forests under siege by destructive insects, Santa Fe New Mexican, November 10, 2018. A caterpillar never seen as far north and as high in elevation in the state's forests adds to infestations already decimating trees. Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists have said it is highly likely New Mexico will lose the vast majority of its forests by 2050. 

Wildfires

This fall's devastating California wildfires continue to draw attention:

Half of all Coloradans now live in wildfire-prone areas as city sprawl grows, Associated Press, November 28, 2018. Conversion of agricultural lands to support urban development is cited as the reason for a rapid increase in wildland-urban interface lands during the last five years.

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