BOULDER, Colo. (CN) – Dressed in funeral black, two women welcomed attendees of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis hearing in Boulder, Colorado, on Thursday as if they were overseeing a wake for a loved one. Despite the August heat, other members of the Extinction Rebellion were costumed as clocks seconds from midnight.
As an unscheduled prologue to the formal hearing, these protesters reminded passersby that climate change is drastically changing life on Earth, and may put the very survival of the human race in question.
Inside the air-conditioned Wolf Building, Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., said America faced two options: “We’ve got to get this right, or we’ve got to get this right.”
If Colorado could pass emissions restrictions and grow its renewable energy portfolio, so too could the country. A paper House of Representatives seal taped to the judge’s platform transformed the Whitmyer Courtroom at the University of Colorado, Boulder, into a Washington meeting. The press sat in the jury box and 200 community members listened to local leaders share their successes with the federal committee tasked with creating a bipartisan climate crisis action plan.
“In lower Louisiana we’ve lost 2,000 square miles of coast. If this were Rhode Island, we’d have 49 states right now. This isn’t land with just bird and animals, this is land with people. We can’t continue this path of bipartisan fighting,” Graves said. “The scientists, the experts you have here are going to lead the innovation not just for Boulder or the U.S., but for the world.”
Heidi VanGenderen, chief sustainability officer for the University of Colorado, Boulder, quickly pointed out Colorado developed a robust plan to mitigate the impacts of climate change in the absence of federal direction.
“The escalation of state and local measures has been sparred by the lack of federal action over the last two decades,” VanGenderen said. “The select committee has the opportunity to pursue a different path.”
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis campaigned on a promise to transition the Centennial State to 100% renewable energy sources by 2040, a proposal that has been adopted and modified by 14 cities and counties statewide.
Polis’ multilane road map released in May couples growing green jobs with modernizing the public utilities commission, promoting energy efficiency, supporting local commitments to renewable energy and creating an equitable transition for all Coloradans.
“Through technological advancements and drops in prices this is already happening,” Polis said.
To accelerate the process toward more green energy, Colorado agreed to borrow against future energy savings and lower consumer prices now, rather than waiting for the market to catch up decades down the road.
“Renewable energy is less expensive today, it’s really a question of distributing the costs,” Polis said.
The main problem Polis foresees is moving Colorado’s coal counties off of coal without leaving rural cities without employment.
“We need to create a future that works for Craig, where most of the people are employed by coal,” he said.
Polis stressed the importance of federal funding to promote scientific research through the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden and the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder.
“Here in Colorado, our strong economy is consistent with a sustainable environment and we are doing some of the right things that are going to move us in the right direction,” said attendee Ken Jacobs, a founding member of advocacy group Good Business Colorado. “There are more jobs in the renewable energy economy by far than in the decreasing fossil fuel economy.”
Despite the bold talk, others remain disappointed by the lack of bold action.
“I’ve been trying to get solar on my home for four years, but to get solar I need a new roof, and to get a new roof, and I have to redo the attic,” said Boulder resident Lynn Segal, adding up the costs on her fingers. “I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know today. Why were we clapping? There was no talk of getting boots on the ground.”