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Colorado professor, co-author of climate change study says Trump's rejection is 'irresponsible'

Posted at 9:40 PM, Nov 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-29 00:43:16-05

BOULDER, Colo. -- More potholes, more cracked pipes and more money out of your pocket to pay for it. Scientists say those are the real-world impacts of climate change and you might start seeing them before the year 2020.

The grim warning comes from a CU professor, who was part of this year's Climate Assessment report released under the Trump administration. He's hoping his work can inspire change and silence the skeptics.

President Donald Trump said he doesn’t "believe" the dire report which includes the economic impact of climate change on the U.S. released by his administration on Black Friday. Those words from Washington stung more than a thousand miles away for a professor at CU Boulder. He wrote about climate change effects he said we are seeing right now on Colorado’s infrastructure and our daily ways of life.

Professor Paul Chinowsky co-authored a chapter in the national climate study after spending two years studying our roads, railways and bridges.

"To dismiss scientific evidence shows a complete lack of national leadership,” said Chinowsky. “We complain about the potholes, cracks that we have now? Climate change is making that worse."

The heat softens and breaks down our asphalt roads; flooding can wash them out. If we don’t fix them, Chinowsky said, our cars and buses will need more repairs. And bus fares could increase to compensate for the repairs, for example.

"It’s every person having to absorb $100 here, $1,000 here. This makes real impact on the everyday person," said Chinowsky. “It’s an uneven impact. People on the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder have to pay more.”

The heat also shuts down our railways, Chinowsky said, making it difficult for cargo trains to deliver goods, such as our oil and gas and our pipelines.

"We kind of rely here in Colorado (on the weather) in that we stay cold for a certain amount of time... well, as we warm, we get a freeze-thaw cycle. Same thing that causes potholes, causes cracks in pipes," said Chinowsky.

Heat affects the physics of planes during take-off, meaning those Amazon deliveries or quick trips to the grocery store may not always get us what we need.

"So the things that we are used to as (being) every day, in the future... that future is a year from now, no more than five years from now. It (Amazon delivers, quick trips to the grocery store) may not happen," said Chinowsky.

It all sounds terrifying, but Chinowsky said there is a real opportunity to start the conversation, for state leaders and agencies to enact change and to look to more alternative forms of energy, not necessarily a popular topic in a state with a strong oil and gas industry.

"Colorado really is facing a decision point. We are a state that traditionally does not like taxes,” said Chinowsky. "At some point we've got to say, 'if we don't want our infrastructure to fall apart, we have to provide more funds.' We are going to have to pay taxes."

Lawmakers in Colorado are already taking action. Xcel Energy agreed to close two coal plants, a move that by itself, will cut our state's coal use in half.

Incoming Governor Jared Polis is promising to go "renewable only" by 2040.

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