Routledge: We must face and address economic and environmental problems directly

Root Routledge (Courtesy Photo)

Northwest Colorado counties, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt, are at the crossroads of a new 21st Century future, transformed by the threats and opportunities our climate crisis presents. With the fossil fuel industry, especially coal, providing so many working family jobs and revenue to the communities of these counties, they are representative of frontline communities across America who will be seriously impacted by our country’s transition to a carbon-free economy.

These workers, who have raised generations of families on decent incomes, are not the enemies of the future. They are simply caught at the crossroads of a rapidly changing global reality, as their old jobs and income are lost to energy transformation away from fossil fuels. It is the existential threat of global warming and resultant climate chaos that we must fight in order to secure climate stability, with a viable future for our children and grandchildren.


We need compassionate federal, state and local policy with empathy for the people of front-line communities that will help them through this transition in a just and fair way. Politicians of denial, like Republican Scott Tipton, cannot prevent these mega-changes by trying to sustain an economically dying industry. Climate change is the greatest market failure in history, since there has never been a cost on the carbon pollution at the core of the carbon-based products it produces and uses to generate electricity, and to run our economy. So-called “free-market” dogma cannot self-correct this problem, driven by the single-focused goal of growing corporate profits from the extraction and burning of fossil fuels; without concern for the damage it’s doing to the planet. We need a carbon-fee policy that returns fees, collected at the source, equitably as a monthly dividend to all legal residents of the country.

To ignore its cause with an “all of the above” energy plan, as Tipton suggests we pursue “to save fossil fuel jobs,” is myopic and delusional. Promoting these failed “Business As Usual” policies benefits only fossil fuel corporations, since these policies—not the workers—are the cause of our problems.

With courage and good systemic federal policy we must face it directly and address it. That is what I’m focused on, as the only 2020 Democratic candidate for Tipton’s 3rd Congressional seat with a strategic focus on climate. Along with Medicare For All, an economy that works for everyone, a healthy democracy and other progressive policies that focus on the well-being of ordinary American people, we can realize a just transition.

This threat is rapidly bearing down on us. We are out of time. The rate of global warming is actually accelerating toward a collapse of climate stability and massive destruction of global ecosystems, water resources and food production. The past five warmest years are the warmest five on record; with strong polar feedbacks causing extreme polar temperatures and rapid loss of ice and ice-shelf disintegration. Western Colorado is one of the fastest heating areas in the country. Large areas of the planet are either on fire, experiencing drought and increasingly violent weather events and flooding, or are losing land to rising sea-levels.

Reality calls for a massive effort at the scale and urgency of the problem. Not only do we need to quickly bring GHG emissions to zero; we need a systemic approach that gives compassionate consideration to all the interacting and intersectional societal factors of this impact. That is the essence of the comprehensive Green New Deal. As an industrial consultant grounded in reality, who knows industry and understands climate and ecosystems, I offer our best shot at turning the corner toward a viable future.

Root Routledge, PhD, is the founder of Alpine Analytics, an industrial consulting firm in Durango. He is a 2020 candidate for U.S. Congress, Colorado’s 3rd District. His website is:

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