... And So Does the Climate
I don’t know about you, but I just had my trusty Volant skis tuned up. My golf clubs are put away and I cannot wait to hit the slopes! I love skiing as much as anything. Anywhere in our state is always a great powder day.
As Coloradans, we will enjoy it while we can. Warmer spring and summer temperatures across the state melt our snowpack an average of one to four weeks earlier compared to 30 years ago, according to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s report on climate issues and water availability. This is a major concern to folks I know in the ski industry and in the ski towns, represented by our great partners at CAST (Colorado Association of Ski Towns).
This warming trend will also likely lead to more heatwaves, wildfires, droughts, and floods. With the historic and deadly fire seasons of 2012 and 2013, and the floods that followed in 2013 still fresh in our minds, Colorado local and state leaders are assessing vulnerabilities and planning for a variety of impacts to our infrastructure and economy. This is why the resiliency partnerships fostered by the Department of Local Affairs and the Colorado Recovery Office, headed by my pal, Molly Urbina, are so important to all of you.
Paul S. Chinowsky, PhD, professor of civil engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder (go Buffs!) recently wrote about Colorado’s infrastructure vulnerability to climate change for our most recent Knowledge Now. Dr. Chinowsky writes, “Roads bridges, and water systems have been designed for specific environmental conditions that may also be out of date. Changes in these conditions – extremes of heat and cold; floods, and blizzards; excessive rain or drought – will lead to increases in maintenance costs that will far exceed the capacity of individual cities and counties.”
With regard to water, both ends of the “too little, too much” spectrum are likely for Colorado communities from a combination of increased demand and reduced water supply to increased heavy precipitation events that overwhelm local stormwater and treatment facilities.
Our transportation networks such as roads and railroads, energy infrastructure, and cities’ building stock will also be hit. Increasing temperatures will weaken paved surfaces on our roads, leading to increased maintenance costs and traffic congestion; it will warp rail lines that will lead to reduced freight capacity and slower passenger rail; and it will place a higher demand on utilities as homeowners and businesses try to keep cool.
Add it all together, and it is a big impact on our economy.
Every day, municipal leaders make difficult choices about how to invest in their communities and spend limited taxpayer dollars to make our 271 cities and towns better places in which to live, work, play, support local businesses, and grow the economy. We need a federal government that will be a partner in this endeavor.
As the race to the White House continues, I am very interested in how the presidential candidates stand on these issues. The National League of Cities has been doing some great work on the key issues of concern to municipal leaders for the next president. I urge you to look at NLC’s material online and signing up for the email list.
Intergovernmental leadership is important both at the local level and in Washington on this and so many other important issues.
I would love to hear from you. What do you think?