Summertime – and the climate is heating

Denver may see a month of 100-degree days by 2080.

It’s early June and temperatures in Denver are already in the mid-90s. Climate modeling predicts a lot more of those days to come.

Today’s Denverite has a good piece about summertime getting hotter and what Denver and the State of Colorado are doing – and not doing – doing to combat climate change.

“If humanity doesn’t slow down its emissions of greenhouse gases, Denver could see a month of 100-degree days every year by the end of this century…


Denver's Colorado Blvd on a hot summer day
Colorado Boulevard shimmers under the heat on a Saturday afternoon. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)


Denver’s hottest summer on record was 2012, when there were just six days above 100 degrees. That could be the norm by the 2040s, according to the new report conducted by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and released by the city. And by the late century, the norm could be 34 of those triple-figure days each year…


Denver’s hottest summer on record was 2012, when there were just six days above 100 degrees. That could be the norm by the 2040s, according to the new report conducted by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and released by the city. And by the late century, the norm could be 34 of those triple-figure days each year... That’s according to a study publicized by the city of Denver today, laying out a challenge that cities and states increasingly are taking into their whole hands. In this post, we’ll explain how the city and state are preparing for that potential future.
Denver’s summers are getting hotter

Hotter summers create health threats for Denver residents

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released a study on “heat vulnerability” in Denver neighborhoods.  Denverite recently reported on what heat vulnerability means for Denver residents:

“Colorado historically has not had a “high risk for heat-related illness and death,” according to a CU-Boulder and Colorado State University report.” 

However, an increase in nighttime temperatures could put Denver at risk of the kind of unrelenting heat waves that put people at risk — and the city isn’t adapted to that kind of weather, according to the city staffers working on this project.”

“Fifty percent of our homes don’t have air conditioning,”Liz Babcock, manager of air, water and climate for the city Department of Environmental Health, said. And by 2050, typical summer temperatures are expected to match the very hottest summers that we saw in the late 20th century, according to a CU-Boulder and Colorado State University report.”

Denver hot spots for climate-related heat vulnerability
Denver hot spots for climate-related heat vulnerability

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, heat-related impacts of climate change include:

“Prolonged exposure to extreme heat can cause heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat stroke, and death, as well as exacerbate preexisting chronic conditions, such as various respiratory, cerebral, and cardiovascular diseases.  These serious health consequences usually affect more vulnerable populations such as the elderly, children, and those with existing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.  Socioeconomic factors, such as economically disadvantaged and socially isolated individuals, are also at risk from heat-related burdens.  As global temperatures rise and extreme heat events increase in frequency due to climate change we can expect to see more heat-related illnesses and mortality.  Public health systems need to be prepared for extreme events and responses will demand a concerted effort among the public health community, the medical establishment, emergency responses teams, the housing authority, and law enforcement in order to quickly identify and serve the populations vulnerable to extreme heat eventses and mortality.

What are Denver and Colorado doing to combat climate change?

“Cities can do a lot. We are 2 percent of landmass globally, but we account for 70 percent of greenhouse emissions,” said Liz Babcock, manager of air, water and climate for the city.

“When we make our buildings significantly more energy efficient, when we improve our transportation systems, there is a lot we can accomplish.”

The State of Colorado and City/County of Denver  are focusing on getting more renewables into utility portfolios; energy efficiency in commercial and residential buildings; transitioning to electric vehicles; and building climate change considerations into land use and transportation planning processes.

“Colorado also has a Climate Action Plan that calls on the state to prepare for drought; to reduce carbon dioxide emissions; and to promote lower-impact methods for transportation and agriculture.”

Denver has ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals, as did Colorado under Governor Bill Ritter.  But today, not so much: “Gov. Hickenlooper last year floated the idea of a 35 percent cut to greenhouse pollution from power plants by 2030, but the idea quietly disappeared after oil-and-gas backlash.”

We are still waiting to hear if Hickenlooper will sign Colorado on to the “We Are Still In” coalition of states, cities, universities and businesses promising to continue the U.S. Commitment to the Paris climate accord.  At this date, We Are Still In represents 120 million Americans and $6.2 trillion in the U.S. economy.


What are Denver and Colorado not doing to combat climate change?

Carbon pricing: “California and a number of East Coast states have instituted “carbon pricing” markets, which create financial incentives for groups to reduce emissions.

They generally allow companies to meet carbon limits by paying other groups to lower or mitigate carbon emissions. (It’s complicated; check out this story about how one company is using it to replant burned forests in Colorado.)”


Fuel standards:  “California and Oregon have introduced requirements for “cleaner blends of gasoline to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” the L.A. Times reported.

“That hasn’t really been a high priority in Colorado in terms of a sort of a mandate like that,” Overturf said.

“Those types of policies don’t tend to play that well in the West…”


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With newly-elected President-Elect Biden and VP-Elect Harris coming in January, the need to "save EPA" is much less urgent. This is not to imply all clear skies ahead - there is much re-building to do, there will be negative pressures on the new administration, and we will likely have policy differences in the future. However, we are hopeful that these differences will be discussed rationally, using science as a basis for moving forward, and keeping EPA's mission of protecting human health and the environment in the forefront.

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