Colorado’s Carbon Boom

Environment Colorado

DENVER—Global warming pollution in Colorado increased by 38% between 1990 and 2004, according to The Carbon Boom, a new analysis of state fossil fuel consumption data released today by the Environment Colorado. This is the first time that 2004 state-by-state data on carbon dioxide emissions has been released.

“Colorado’s jump in carbon pollution is the fifth highest in the country,” said Environment Colorado Executive Director Matt Baker. “Given the implications of global warming for our state, we should be leading the country in decreasing carbon pollution– not increasing it.”

Colorado also ranked fifth in the nation for overall percentage increase of carbon pollution from the transportation sector, which accounts for more than 30% of total carbon pollution in Colorado.

“This report is a wake-up call to cut pollution levels now before it is too late. Colorado’s first step is to set hard goals for cutting carbon pollution overall, our second step is to cut carbon pollution from cars,” continued Baker. “Colorado is responsible for more carbon pollution than 175 entire nations.”

Environment Colorado’s report comes less than a week after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body charged with assessing the scientific record on global warming, released its consensus report on the current and projected impacts of global warming, including increased droughts, floods, heat waves, water stress, and forest fires in the West.

“The science tells us that we are in a hole, and we need to stop digging,” said Baker. “Yet even as scientists are sounding alarms that we must rapidly reduce pollution to protect future generations, global warming pollution here in Colorado continues to skyrocket.

Some cities in Colorado, such as Denver, have taken notice at the growing increase in carbon pollution and are taking action. “The predicted impacts of climate change in the southwestern U.S. are particularly concerning to us,” said Gregg Thomas, the Environmental Assessment and Policy supervisor in the Denver Department of Environmental Health. “Local governments around the country realize that action needs to be taken now,” continued Thomas, “which is why 435 U.S. mayors, including Mayor Hickenlooper, have signed on to the U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement. Denver, through its Greenprint Denver Initiative, is actively working toward reducing its carbon footprint.”

Using data compiled by the U.S. Department of Energy, Environment Colorado’s new report examines trends in carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel consumption between 1990 and 2004, the most recent year for which state-by-state data is available.

Major findings of the report include:

• Colorado’s carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel consumption grew from 65.8 million metric tons to 91.4 million metric tons between 1990 and 2004, an increase of 39%. Colorado’s emissions grew faster than all but four states.

• Nationwide, emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel consumption increased by 18% between 1990 and 2004. Coal-fired power plants and the transportation sector—especially cars and SUVs—drove this emissions increase.

• Colorado had the nation’s fifth highest increase in carbon dioxide emissions from burning gasoline (primarily in cars and SUVs). These emissions increased by 51% between 1990 and 2004, rising from 14.5 million metric tons to 18.5 million metric tons. Between 1990 and 2004 vehicle miles traveled in Colorado increased by 69%, while cars and SUVs became less efficient. Colorado had the third highest increase in vehicle miles traveled in the country.

“The good news is we can make progress. In March, Governor Ritter increased the Amendment 37 renewable energy goals. This will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 11% in 2020,” said Matt Baker.

Colorado could substantially reduce its global warming pollution by using existing technologies to make power plants, businesses, homes, and cars more efficient and increasing the use of clean, renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power.

“Colorado needs to be a leader, not a laggard, in protecting the Climate,” said Baker. “Colorado should follow the examples of New Mexico and Arizona and set strong science based goals to reduce carbon emissions.”

At the federal level, the Safe Climate Act (H.R. 1590), introduced by Representative Henry Waxman (CA) in the House, and the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act (S. 309), introduced by Senators Bernie Sanders (VT) and Barbara Boxer (CA) in the Senate, would limit global warming pollution to levels that current science says are needed to prevent the worst effects of global warming. The bills would freeze U.S. global warming emissions in 2010 and reduce emissions by about 15% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050.

“To protect future generations, our leaders must take decisive action to cut global warming pollution. Environment Colorado calls on our congressional delegation to join Congresswoman Diana DeGette in co-sponsoring the only bill that does what scientists say we need to do,” concluded Baker.