Global Warming: Our Problem - Our Solutions

Aspen City Council voted unanimously this week to join the world community in taking responsibility for our actions and working to fight global warming.

Published: 19-Mar-2005

 Shorter warmer winters, reduced snowpack, earlier river runoff, less water available in summer, increasing forest fires and insect infestations. We've already seen these changes beginning in Aspen, and greater changes are on the way. Global warming is our problem.

But the solution is also ours. Some 80 percent of U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide (the primary culprit in global warming which comes from burning coal, oil and gas) are a consequence of consumer demands for energy in our homes, cars, and travel. This gives us a great deal of power in reducing these emissions.

This week, the Aspen City Council voted unanimously to join the world community in taking responsibility for our actions and working to fight global warming. Despite the fact that the U.S. did not join the other industrialized nations in the Kyoto Protocol, Aspen is not alone. All over America, cities, states, and corporations are taking responsibility for their emissions and working to reduce them.

New York's Republican governor George Pataki announced that his state will get 25 percent of its energy from carbon-free renewable sources within a decade, and 15 other states (including Colorado) have also set renewable energy goals. More than 100 cities have pledged to reduce their emissions, including San Francisco, which aims to cut its emissions to 10 percent below 1990 levels within a decade.

As cities, states, and corporations begin reducing their emissions, they find that contrary to the claim that reductions will be costly, they actually save money. IBM reduced its total energy use by almost 7 percent in 2001, saving $22.6 million and 220,100 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. BP reduced its own emissions by 10 percent in just five years (by using less fuel to produce its products and burning off less natural gas at its oil wells), and saved $650 million in the process.

Aspen has already made progress in many areas, including providing 57 percent of its electricity with renewable energy. As we move toward greater emissions reductions, everyone has a role to play. Each of us can find ways to save a ton of carbon dioxide emissions in our own lives

As we find the ways that work, we can reach out to other communities, with the goal of hastening the transition to a new, cleaner energy system that does not threaten our environment, our economy, and our way of life.

Global warming presents a wide-ranging, multigenerational challenge. We can't solve it all right here right now. But what Aspen can do is help create a good foundation of sensible first steps on which others can build. Our current challenge is to get global carbon dioxide emissions to peak and then begin a gradual decline that will ultimately help to stabilize the climate.

With the ski industry and our town's economy on the front lines of climate change, it's the least we can do. Let's roll.

Susan Joy Hassol recently authored "Impacts of a Warming Arctic," the synthesis report of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, a four-year study by 300 scientists that made headlines in November, 2004. She was also a lead author of "Climate Change Impacts on the United States," published in 2000.

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