The Fort Collins “Climate Emergency” Doesn’t Fix The Problem
“An emergency is a situation that poses an immediate risk to health, life, property, or environment, and requires urgent intervention to prevent a worsening of the situation…” — Wikipedia
At its Tuesday, August 20th meeting, the Fort Collins City Council is considering a “climate emergency” resolution similar to that of other cities around the U.S. The proposed language is posted here on the City’s website.
It’s great that Fort Collins is considering this resolution, a likely outcome of the recent City Council election that saw a takeover by environmentally minded progressive candidates. The climate science to support this resolution is strong, and the global climate impacts and damage is also unfortunately equally strong and accelerating. Action must be taken, now.
Unfortunately, Fort Collins’ Greenhouse Gas (GHG) accounting methods and outcomes are not strong, and so this “emergency” resolution won’t create the change that is needed.
First, Fort Collins’ is rapidly growing, and that population growth is exactly undermining all attempts to lower GHG emissions and fight climate change. In fact in 2018, Fort Collins’ reported GHG emissions likely increased over 2017, mostly due to population growth. Thousands of new people burning fracked gas to heat their homes and burning liquid gas to fuel their cars caused emissions to increase (see Coloradoan story here).
Further, there’s no hope on the horizon as Fort Collins is currently allowing nearly 4,000 new houses (see Coloradoan story here) to be built on the north side of town, and is considering another 600 on the west side (see Coloradoan story here). Further yet, Fort Collins “growth management area” will allow for thousands of new houses — and tens-of thousands of new people — to move into town, all fossil fuel burners. Xcel, which provides fracked gas to Fort Collins, is advertising a $300 rebate on a fracked gas furnace on its website right now which will cement in GHG emissions for decades into the future (see Xcel website here).
Second, Fort Collins is not even reporting the single worst GHG polluter in town as well as other “industrial” polluters. Broadcom, which is a micro-chip manufacturer, emits more GHGs than any other single emitter while being excluded from the City’s reporting (see Coloradoan story here). Other types of GHG gases and industrial emitters are also not included, and thus this “cherry picking” in the accounting methods completely and ridiculously undermines the City’s efforts.
Third, Fort Collins — like most every other city — also refuses to count and report “embodied emissions” from all of the products that are shipped into town. Those “embodied emissions” include the pollution associated with producing and shipping all the goods — steel, cement, cars, food, electronic equipment, etc. — that are used in building materials or consumed by citizens. Emissions accounting must include not just what’s emitted in the city, but what the city’s people — and the City government’s policies — cause to be emitted. All of these emissions are produced outside of the city of Fort Collins and are therefore “outsourced” to other rural areas and cities in Colorado, the U.S. or around the globe, thereby completely masking the actual climate impact of Fort Collins’ affluent population.
The health, life, property, and environment of Fort Collins and the planet is at risk. Fort Collins’ proposed “climate emergency” resolution will not prevent a worsening of the situation.
Gary Wockner, PhD, is an environmental activist in Colorado and a homeowner in Fort Collins. Twitter: (at)GaryWockner