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What Will You Do This Month?

New Data Underscores Urgency To Combat Global Warming

Last month I ended my column with a request for each of us to make one simple change every month that reduces our impact on this planet. 

While I was working on remembering to pack a cloth napkin with me for lunch, instead of using paper, a report by the Rhodium group noted that U.S. Carbon Emissions rose sharply. 

My cloth napkins seemed rather insignificant when the estimate was an increase in emissions by 3.4 percent in 2018 – when we need to be decreasing quickly and drastically. 

This increase still occurred while the U.S. had retired a record number of coal plants. Unfortunately, natural gas was the fuel of choice to replace the energy from retired coal plants versus replacing with renewables. While natural gas is cleaner than coal it is still a carbon-emitting fossil fuel. The U.S. saw a demand for electricity and more natural gas was used to supply the demand. 

Other causes of the increase can be attributed to the transportation sector, as well as buildings and industry, which both showed a rise in emissions. 

Will it be enough?

The City of Denver’s 80 x 50 action plan is designed to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2050. As noted last month, the world has about 12 years left to take radical measures to combat climate change, or risk irreparable consequences. 

I am left wondering if Denver’s plan by 2050 will be enough. We simply don’t have until 2050. Every single planning document, including Blueprint Denver and Comprehensive 2040, should have climate change as its driving principle. 

As noted in the 80 x 50 plan, cities are responsible for more than 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) globally. Denver’s plan takes a tiered approach with a road map to reach the 80 percent reduction by 2050. 

The approach focuses on three sectors which the city views as the best opportunities to reduce GHG emissions: buildings, electricity generation and transportation. 

Some of the key takeaways for buildings include requiring periodic improvements to improve efficiency in older buildings, setting minimum energy standards for rental properties and to continue to increase building code to net-zero energy for new builds. 

Small changes, big results

The city has also set a target to decrease energy use in single-family homes by 10 percent by 2025 and 20 percent by 2035. According to the Green Building Council, buildings account for 39 percent of CO2 emissions in the United States. Heating, cooling, lighting and electricity to power appliances contribute to most of those emissions. 

Each one of us can make small changes in our homes to reduce our impact, which will save money while decreasing the harm we are causing.

Recently, I was contacted by another environmental activist interested in bringing community solar to the Park Hill Neighborhood. While I don’t have an immediate answer on how to do that I was thrilled by his outreach and happy to see that Denver’s plan mentions developing low-income community solar and other renewable energy programs. 

In addition to community solar, the city is working toward accelerating the adoption of electricity storage systems and smart grid technology. What will you do this month to reduce your home’s energy use? Or to improve your home’s energy efficiency?

The city’s transportation goals include adopting Clean Car Standards, supporting electric vehicle workplace charging stations and expanding safe biking and walking infrastructure. They have set a goal that by 2030, fully 40 percent of all vehicle registrations should be electric. We should demand that the Bus Rapid Transit system scheduled to travel Colfax be powered by 100 percent electric buses. Each one of us should commit to regularly utilizing public transit.

Green space disappearing

While Denver’s goals are to be applauded, it will need to deal with the ever-growing heat island effect, which will proportionately grow our cities energy demands. The Denver Post recently reported that green space in Denver is “disappearing faster than most other cites” and “the dwindling of nature in Denver could lead to potentially overwhelming increases in storm-water runoff, and is causing worsening heat-wave impacts.” 

In addition, the Post reported that it is now estimated that Denver has increased its paved-over portion by 48 percent. These are not good statistics if we hope to meet our climate goals. 

In order to help Denver reach its goals citizens will have to commit to making changes as well. My change last month may seem small, however I will continue to make a small or big change each month. 

Please join me in making changes and share what you have been doing. Send your updates to

Tracey MacDermott is chair of the board of Greater Park Hill Community, Inc. Active in the Registered Neighborhood Organization for many years, MacDermott was the 2012 recipient of the Dr. J. Carlton Babbs Award for Community Service. She was trained as a Climate Reality Leader in 2017, and is currently the Statewide Chair of the Climate Reality Project for the 100% Committed Campaign. 

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