Junction warming – The Criterion
ere in Mesa County, we live in one of the largest and most extreme “hot spots” in the United States. Western Colorado and areas just past the Eastern border of Utah have raised in temperature by 2.5 degrees Celsius since 1895–a massive difference in warming than can be accounted for in most other areas of the country.
Even just a few hours away, the Front Range of Colorado, near Denver, has not experienced these drastic levels of rising temperatures. Colorado Mesa University (CMU) environmental science professor Deborah Kennard puts our current global warming predicament into perspective.
“We’ve warmed as much here as they are predicting the entire world to warm over the next decades,” Kennard says.
The most devastating effects of this warming thus far can be observed through plant and animal life across Western Colorado, as well as in lowering water levels of the Colorado River. Perhaps the best visual representation of how global warming is rearing its head in Western Colorado is in the trees. Kennard explained that many of the trees here in Mesa County are between 500-1000 years old, showing a time before human-induced climate change. Yet, these trees have been dying out faster than ever in the last 10-15 years.
“The reason they are dying is because of insects, and the insects are killing them because they are super stressed out. They are stressed out from heat and drought: climate change-related issues,” Kennard says. “Those forests have been around in their current form for centuries, so the changes we see today are an indication that [the] climate has shifted.”
Global warming has already taken its toll on the beautiful forests housed within and around Mesa County. By looking at graphs with tentative predictions of where temperatures are expected to go, we are expected to continue along this trajectory. As far as what Mesa County can do to try to offset and slow down the global warming effects, Kennard says we have to stop burning fossil fuels.
“Stop burning coal, burn less natural gas, switch to renewables. We live in a place that is so great for solar energy,” Kennard said.
Fossil fuel consumption is not something that only one person can combat. Fossil fuel burning has become so prominent in recent years that the change has to come from our government in order for anything to change. This would likely include generating new projects to promote renewable energy. Kennard voiced her frustrations that we have known about this problem of global warming for over three decades, but never stepped up enough to fully combat it.
There is a direct correlation between decreased interest in combating global warming and an increase in rhetoric denying global warming, which began in the early 2000s. This is primarily the result of misinformation dispersed to the public by large oil companies.
Until the issue of keeping our Earth clean and able to support life is removed from the political sphere and pushed into the sphere of humanity and wellbeing, we will continue this tug-of-war with our own planet.
“The science on climate change is settled. The solutions to them are available and not out of our reach. We could do them today if we wanted to. The reason we haven’t is because of political will,” Kennard said.
The midterm elections are rapidly approaching, so the opportunity to vote for advocates of climate change and global healing is right around the corner. Here in Colorado, Senator Michael Bennet and Governor Polis have both been outspoken on man-made global warming issues, so keep a watchful eye for those ballots coming in the mail.