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Colorado, circa 2050, if we don't make some changes. —Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Forecasting Colorado’s Environmental Future

Denver's updated Climate Action Plan takes a local look at a global problem.

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Since 2007, Denver has tried to take a proactive approach to climate change. That’s when city leaders released their first Climate Action Plan, and now we have an updated version of the strategies we can use to mitigate this encroaching threat.

The topic has been subject to intense debate in recent years, with much of the opposition’s points running the gamut from nonsensical (it’s all a conspiracy engineered by hundreds of liberal-minded scientists from all over the world) to illogical (many of the same forces that decry the tragedy of leaving our kids and grandkids an unsustainable national debt have seemingly no qualms about leaving them an uninhabitable planet).

But there’s no disputing certain facts: 2015 is poised to become the hottest year on record, and 13 of the 15 warmest years ever have occurred since 2000. The increasingly dire condition has resulted in everything from higher temperatures to rising sea levels and a more frequent incidence of catastrophic weather events. It’s even been linked to the potential exacerbation of terrorism.

So what can one mid-sized American city do about all this? Its part.

The primary objectives of Denver’s updated Climate Action Plan—which Mayor Michael Hancock unveiled on Thursday as part of the Sustainable Denver Summit—are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2020 and to reduce those numbers to 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. Some projections warn that average temperatures worldwide are rising quickly enough to negatively impact up to five billion people over the next 30 years with tragedies that could include catastrophic weather events, massive droughts, and degradation of agriculture and wildlife.

According to the Climate Action Plan, the main avenues for achieving Denver’s goals are by building more energy-efficient homes and workplaces, using renewable energy sources whenever possible, and maintaining or upgrading fuel efficiency in our transportation systems.

Climate change concerns have obvious implications for Colorado, where our water supply is already limited and our multibillion-dollar ski industry is already feeling the heat radiating off of our changing landscape. That’s why executing ostensibly feel-good things like adding bike lanes and public transportation access, reducing the need for car travel, and replacing old structures with greener buildings do more than just make Denver a more enjoyable place to live; they also contribute to the health and well being of those who’ll be here long after we in the older generations have moved on.

Follow 5280 editor-at-large Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.

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