City Council meeting
Amy Gray holds an award for Councilor Andy Pico for his belief that climate change is not a crisis.
Colorado Springs Councilor Andy Pico was awarded a "'Climate Meltdown Award" on Jan. 14 by 350 Colorado, an environmental watchdog group, for his position that climate change hasn't been proven to be human caused and does not pose a crisis.
The award, presented by 350 Colorado volunteer coordinator Amy Gray, opened a can of worms at the City Council meeting, with several councilors defending Pico's right to embrace a different viewpoint without being chastised for it.
It's worth noting the award grew from Pico's admonishment to students campaigning for effective countermeasures to combat climate change. When a student invited Pico to participate in the Climate Strike event on Dec. 6, he wrote back:
At the Jan. 14 meeting, Gray told Council the signs of climate change are "irrefutable" and accused climate change deniers of "sit[ting] on their high horse while the planet burns" and ignoring their constituents' "fight for a better future."
Besides the "Climate Meltdown Award" certificate, Gray presented Pico and Councilor Don Knight with lumps of coal.
Other residents also spoke, expressing concern over the city's plan to keep running the downtown coal-burning Drake Power Plant until 2035. One woman who lives in southwest Colorado Springs noted a marked decline in birds who visit her heated bird bath and the appearance of "a chemical film" on the bath's water, which she said "has to be coming from Drake."
Scott Anderson told Council the city should do more to invest in renewable energy. "When I go for a walk, I get tired of smelling it," he said of Drake's emissions.
One speaker accused climate change deniers of sacrificing the health of the planet and its residents to greed.
Stephany Rose Spaulding, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully against Congressman Doug Lamborn two years ago, termed climate change "the justice issue of our time."
"It will not resist attacking any one of us," she says. She urged Council to formulate a sustainability plan, especially in light of predictions the local population will balloon to 1 million in a few years. "We do not have the infrastructure for this many people... . We have to be serious about the work of the environment. We can’t afford an apology later."
Courtesy Colorado Springs Utilities
A Springs Utilities solar array at Clear Springs Ranch south of Colorado Springs is one way the city is moving toward renewables, although the downtown coal-fired Drake Power Plant isn't slated for retirement until 2035.
Councilor Bill Murray chimed in noting that Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world's largest money manager overseeing $7 trillion in assets, said in his annual letter to CEOs published Jan. 14 that "Climate change has become a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects. … But awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance.”
After about an hour of commentary, Pico finally weighed in, saying that "comments about denialism really are insulting."
He produced several graphic slides based on NASA research that he said defies climate change hysteria. "This is coming from a data source that you all are using to say we have an emergency," he said. "You need to have an open mind. If you hear about a consensus, there's no such thing as consensus in science."
He attributed many of fires in Australia to arson, not climate change, adding he has no "secret motivation."
"I'm looking at this from reality," he added.
Councilor Knight jumped in to defend Pico, saying Australia's fires have more to do with failure to mitigate for years than global warming, and scolded citizens for criticizing Pico, saying it's unfair for them to "attack a Council member just because they don't agree with that Council member." He described Pico as honorable without "vicious motives."
Councilor Wayne Williams noted the state is curtailing highway money to the region based on air quality, meaning air quality has improved, with the implication being that it's OK to keep Drake cranking for years. Drake, he noted, produces electricity cheaper than renewable sources do.
Council President Richard Skorman said he disagreed with Pico on climate change but agreed "we should have a respectful conversation."
Councilor Yolanda Avila said she's in the corner of environmentalists, and challenged Williams' point about air quality, saying, "One can argue whether those [regulations] are stringent enough."
But she, too, went to bat for Pico, characterizing him as a "man of integrity."