SOUTHERN COLORADO — A new United Nations climate change report released on Monday states definitively that climate change is caused by humans, and the warming is happening even quicker than scientists originally thought.
The sixth assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) follows years of research between hundreds of scientists. The report is thousands of pages long, and says the warming of the planet is caused by human reliance on fossil fuels, and the subsequent greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate Central is a non-profit science and communications organization based in New Jersey. One of their members, Sean Sublette, said the IPCC report does not have too much groundbreaking new evidence. Instead, it is more of a confirmation of what scientists believed would happen. Sublette said the earth will not stop warming until mankind moves away from fossil fuels. "There's always these little natural variations, ups and downs, some years that are warmer, some decades that are warmer. But what we've seen over these past 40-50 years is starting to move away from that natural variation in a very definitive warming direction. And when looking at all kinds of possibilities as to why this is happening, there's really only one. The increase in greenhouse gases from the combustion of fossil fuels," said Sublette.
The report states there are irreversible changes caused by climate change. One of those is the sea level rising, because ice sheets are already melting. "The longer we wait, the more difficult it's going to be down the road... We are capable of doing big things relatively quickly when we set our minds to them. So, it's a question of getting together and getting the big things done," said Sublette.
The Assistant State Climatologist with the Colorado Climate Center, Becky Bolinger, said the report inspires confidence in past climate models. She said it predicts drought and fire will continue to increase in frequency and severity in the future, which will have major impacts on Coloradans. "If we go on a path towards lowering our emissions and eventually going to net zero, the bad news is there are going to be things that will be irreversible for centuries and millenia to come," said Bolinger, referring to the warming ocean. However, Bolinger did say there is still time to improve our air quality by lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
Last week in Colorado Springs marked the last coal train for the Martin Drake Power Plant, meaning the last day that location will be burning coal is near the end of August. Trains will still come through Colorado Springs to deliver coal to the states south of Colorado, but the Martin Drake Power Plant will be switching to natural gas. Within the month, coal will not be burning downtown in Colorado Springs anymore.
Those with Colorado Springs Utilities said there's no way to know if the IPCC report will lead to federal recommendations at the moment. However, the company said Colorado already has fairly aggressive initiatives to reduce emissions. Colorado Springs Utilities is mandated to reduce emissions 80% by 2030, and 90% by 2050.
Colorado Springs Utilities said they have already reduced carbon emissions by over 35% since 2005, which was the baseline year for the Colorado rule that mandates they comply with the 80% emission reduction. Those with Colorado Springs Utilities said they are well on their way to meet the 80% emission reduction goal, and will need to retire all of their coal to do so.
The Martin Drake Power Plant will be retired by the end of 2022, and the Ray Nixon Power Plant will be retired by the end of 2030. Coal will be eliminated from Colorado Springs Utilities' fleet by 2030, and will bring on more renewable energy sources and storage technology in it's place.
News5 also spoke with Max Boykoff, who is an environmental studies professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is involved with one of the working groups on the third installment of the IPCC report, which should be released in March. "We're in a world where carbon dioxide emissions are higher than they've been over the last four million years, and they're about double of what they've been since the Industrial Revolution. Meanwhile, 2020 was tied with 2016 for the hottest year on record, and eight of the ten warmest years recorded have been in the last decade," said Boykoff.
When asked if Boykoff believes Colorado's emissions standards are aggressive enough for the climate crisis, he said the mandates do not meet the scale of the challenges. "While I understand, I know well, I study, I'm involved in those negotiations processes that lead to these kind of results, these kinds of standards, I also am thoroughly dissatisfied with the low levels that we have agreed to at this point," said Boykoff.