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Rep. Neguse, Sen. Bennet underscore need to combat climate change

Fires, drought bring consequences front of mind in Boulder County
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Congressman Joe Neguse, bottom right, speaks with panelists including Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, center, about the cost of climate change on Wednesday.

With crews still responding to the NCAR fire that forced thousands of people to evacuate over the weekend, a panel on Wednesday stressed that these types of events are part of the growing cost of climate change in Colorado.

While the NCAR fire has been mostly contained with no damage to structures or lives lost, the early spring fire combined with the recent destruction of the Marshall fire has made the impacts of Colorado’s changing climate all the more visible to legislators and their constituents.

Wednesday’s virtual panel on the true cost of climate change was hosted by the Colorado Fiscal Institute and the Environmental Defense Fund and featured Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and Congressman Joe Neguse as panelists.

Neguse represents Colorado’s second congressional district. The congressman pointed out that the district has seen in the last 18 months the largest and second largest wildfires in Colorado history — the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome fires — along with the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history, the Marshall fire.

“If that’s not a wake up call, then I don’t know what could be,” Neguse said. “It is clear to me and it’s certainly clear to my community that the true costs of climate change are far more significant than even many climate scientists would have predicted, and we’re living that right now.”

Louisville Councilmember Kyle Brown spoke on the community impact of the changing climate, with his city losing 554 homes in the Marshall fire three months ago.

“The Marshall fire really made this not a rhetorical question anymore,” Brown said. “This is real for people. People have been impacted by a climate change-fueled event that, growing up here in Louisville, I could have never imagined.”

Bennet echoed Neguse and Brown’s urgency with the NCAR fire still smoldering south of Boulder. 

“Colorado is literally on fire as a result of climate change,” Bennet said.

The two legislators outlined their work on a federal level addressing the effects of climate change like drought and wildfire, including work that has allocated billions of dollars to protect Colorado watersheds and build forest resiliency. Bennet emphasized their intention to start preventing major fires before they happen, rather than paying to recover from the disaster.

Representatives of the agricultural and outdoor recreation industries in Colorado also spoke to the impacts of climate change, from drought threatening crop yields to poor air quality preventing recreationists from going outside.

“What we’re experiencing right now are the symptoms — the wildfires that are more intense and more prevalent, and the transition from wildfire season to wildfire year,” Neguse said. “Fundamentally we have to address the root cause, which is the existential threat of climate change.”

Neguse and Bennet are also working to pass the climate provisions in the federal budget. If passed, the provisions would provide unprecedented tax incentives for clean energy innovation along with impressive funding increases toward forests and conservation.

“This is just the start,” Bennet said. “We need to do so much more.”

While the Build Back Better Act has not made it through Congress, Neguse said they are working to use the part of the bill focused on combating climate change to create a separate but similar initiative. He said he was cautiously optimistic that it could pass, though the legislation still needs work.

During the panel, the Colorado Fiscal Institute also highlighted a new website,, that allows Coloradans to see the risks posed by extreme heat, drought, wildfires and ozone pollution in their own neighborhoods.