Get used to it folks. These long, hot, smoky summers are here to stay indefinitely because the climate doesn't change that quickly.
The slow buildup to today's distressing conditions in the West — perennially low snowpack levels, shrinking rivers, drier fuel and bad fire years — can't be reversed overnight, even with quick action.
"Even if we started today we're still going to see fires (on a scale like this year) for the next couple of decades because it's going to continue to get warmer and drier," Deborah Kennard, a Colorado Mesa University environmental science professor, said last week in a story by the Sentinel's Dennis Webb that looked at Colorado's future with respect to the climate.
Unfortunately, we're not starting today to take action on climate change. In fact, the Trump administration is moving in the opposite direction by unraveling Obama-era policies meant to lower the country's carbon footprint — in the face of alarming evidence of a heating planet.
According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2018 is on pace to be the fourth hottest year on record. Only three other years have been hotter: 2015, 2016 and 2017.
The Trump administration on Tuesday proposed rewriting pollution standards for power plants across the country, a move that could keep aging coal-fired plants running longer.
Let's call it what it is — the latest attempt to bolster the nation's coal industry. The Environmental Protection Agency's "Affordable Clean Energy" rule would replace an Obama-era rule that set strict carbon dioxide limits for each state and encouraged utility companies to shift to natural gas and renewable energy to slow the pace of global warming.
Within these rules and reversals, climate science has become a partisan fulcrum for political policy-making. Instead of picking "winners and losers" among the country's energy suppliers, why not let the marketplace decide?
If the Trump administration wants to promote abundant coal (and ignore its pollution), fine. But let's employ something that reflects the true cost of using any energy source — some form of carbon pricing.
One idea that we've already said is worth exploring in depth is something known as "carbon fee and dividend" — a policy promoted by the Citizens Climate Lobby.
The goal is to charge those responsible for the release of carbon emissions the cost of these greenhouse gases on the climate and public health. The program wouldn't restrict carbon emissions but would provide market-force incentives to reduce them.
Companies would be taxed on the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases generated by mining or drilling and by the production of goods that have embedded energy costs. The carbon fee would give companies a choice: they could invest more in renewable energy and become more energy efficient or pay increasingly higher fees, which would be reflected on the prices they charge consumers.
The fees would be collected and distributed directly to Americans. This is the dividend, which helps offset the financial pain of paying more for goods and services under a carbon pricing plan.
According to a study by Regional Economic models, Inc., CCL's plan would cut greenhouse gas emissions 52 percent over 20 years and add 2.8 million jobs to the American economy.
The fee would be assessed at the moment goods enter the economy and start around $15 per ton and go up $10 a year from there until total U.S. CO2-equivalent emissions have been reduced to 10 percent of U.S. CO2-equivalent emissions in 1990.