Year 3, Month 11, Day 24: Did You Think About That?

The High Country News’ Heather Hansen talks about what needs to happen:

I have a file on my desktop called “Cool Ideas.” It’s filled with news items on practical steps Westerners are taking to address climate change. I collected them over this election year while the issue drew platitudes and punch-lines from the candidates but little meaningful discussion on the national level. Some highlights from my file include:

The plan to build a biomass plant in Eagle County, Colorado is forging ahead. When it starts humming in 2014 it will burn wood chips from beetle-killed pines and other “junk” wood, to generate 11.5 megawatts of electricity.

Not far from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, at the Fighting Creek Landfill, trash is treasure. Earlier this year Kootenai County and the Kootenai Electric Cooperative debuted their multi-million dollar plant which uses garbage gas to power 1,800 homes.

The Aspen Ski Company is plunking down over $5 million to capture methane vented from coal operations at the Elk Creek Mine in western Colorado. The project will both prevent the powerful greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere and will generate three megawatts of electricity, or roughly the amount the company uses for its annual operations.

The West is a hotbed of research and testing for the underground storage of carbon dioxide. One project, Rocky Mountain Carbon Capture and Sequestration, is studying a site near Craig, Colorado to potentially store 4.6 billion tons of carbon from power plants, natural gas processing plants, cement plants, oil shale development and other industries.

An unusual consortium including Montana Hutterite farmers, an Idaho wind energy developer and the federal government have joined forces to build the first silo-shaped wind turbine, capable of producing 100 kilowatts of electricity.

Kootenai ElectricIn his victory speech last week, President Obama said, “We want our children to live in an America that…isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.” This coincided with three related news items: First, the release of a study by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder which concludes that earth warming is likely to be “on the high side of current predictions.” That means an 8-degree Fahrenheit increase in global temps by late this century.

Voices of the West. Good. November 19:

Heather Hansen is absolutely right: it’s about time that climate change becomes item number one on our national agenda. After all, it’s only been a few months since drought ravaged some of the world’s most fertile cropland, decimating crops and making farmers’ lives even more tenuous and threatened. And it’s only been a few weeks since superstorm Sandy clobbered the East Coast, leaving thousands homeless, hungry and cold. And, of course, those are only the things that made the nightly news. Everywhere around America and the world local and regional ecosystems are under assault from the consequences of a runaway greenhouse effect.

But nowhere else is the outright denial of climate science so much a part of government. Because the Republicans in the House of Representatives plan to block any meaningful legislative action on climate, their ridiculous anti-science posturing is extremely dangerous. How much more damage must our nation sustain before these ideological extremists abandon their ignorance and let us all get on with the hard work of preparing for the coming climate crisis?

And to those insisting that climate-change mitigation is “too expensive” — it’s a sure bet that failure in the face of disaster is far costlier than that same disaster averted.

Warren Senders

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