As Colorado wildfires burn, fears that climate change is causing “multi-level emergency” mount
The Denver Post | Bruce Finley The record-breaking forest fires burning in Colorado even as winter sets in are the latest sign climate warming is hitting the West hard, causing scientists to up their rhetoric and warn it is past time to move beyond planning and start aggressively acting. […] Colorado and the West face more hot days and temperatures will shoot higher, scientists say. The rising heat is depleting water and drying soil across the Colorado River Basin and other river basins. Last week, federal authorities classified 97% of Colorado in severe to exceptional drought. Mega-fires including 2020’s Cameron Peak, East Troublesome and Pine Gulch are burning hotter and longer, with record destruction this year of 700,000 acres in Colorado and 6 million around the West. The smoke that exposed tens of millions of people to heavy particulates, health researchers say, will pose an even greater risk to public health in years to come. […] Politicians including presidential candidate Joe Biden and Senate hopeful John Hickenlooper now refer to “an existential threat” and call for a shift off the fossil fuels they’ve supported in the past. Yet efforts to help residents cope, and even draw down heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by re-greening farmland and cities, have barely begun. A Denver Post examination found a $4.2 billion backlog of forestry work identified by the Colorado State Forest Service as critical to protect people and property from fires. Owners of destroyed homes still typically rebuild on site, despite increased erosion and flooding. More people moving into fire-prone forests between now and 2040 likely will triple the size of a high-risk interface zone, according to a forest service report scheduled for publication next month. Farmers are left largely on their own as water vanishes and crops wilt. Local governments still approve urban expansion despite water supply strains.
Are courts a ‘revolving door’ for climate policy?
E&E News | Jennifer Hijazi In the chaos of the upcoming presidential election and Supreme Court nomination battle, the legal fate of the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks is far from certain. Regulatory instability is nothing new — federal environmental rules from any administration are all but guaranteed to face litigation — but experts worry there isn’t time to rehash climate policy in court every four years. And Trump has now installed more than 200 judges for lifetime positions on federal district and appellate benches, potentially creating new judicial hurdles for future administrations that want to take stronger action on climate. […] Trump-era policies may now stand a better chance in federal appeals courts, which often have the final say on litigation and where the president has already appointed 53 judges. On the Supreme Court, the Senate appears poised to confirm Trump’s third nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, likely cementing a 6-3 conservative majority for a generation. During her nomination hearings, Barrett said she held no “firm views” on climate science. […] An uptick in Earth’s temperatures over the last century has unleashed a chain reaction of more severe storms, heat waves and flooding, and the latest U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projections say world leaders have about a decade to combat global warming before its impacts become even more severe. “Clearly we’ve already lost the last 30 or so years of not moving forward on climate policy,” said Georgetown Climate Center Executive Director Vicki Arroyo. “Even [though] the science has been quite clear that we needed to,” she said. Drawn-out courtroom slugfests may be avoidable if lawmakers tighten up legislation to give space to federal agencies to take action on climate, Arroyo said. “You sort of take those [questions] off the table, because it’s just very clear in the statute and that’s the end of the analysis for the court,” she said. “I think that is our best shot at this point.”