Analysis | Brower: Climate change puts Grand County in an ‘upbeat’ economic spot |

Analysis | Brower: Climate change puts Grand County in an ‘upbeat’ economic spot

By Patrick Brower Grand Enterprise Initiative
Patrick Brower

What is the value of a snowflake?

For those of us who live and work in Grand County, I’d say it has a huge value. It’s almost beyond comprehension. But I’ll commit and say right now each snowflake that falls in Grand Count is worth one penny each. That’s a lot of dollars in our economy here.

It goes without saying that many of us depend on the economic benefits of snowfall and cold weather. Skiers, snowmobilers, ice fisher people and sight seers all flock to Grand County because we are in the mountains and it’s colder and snowier here. It’s that simple. We have the same formula for winter and summer.

And yet, this very asset we have: the cold and the snow, is under threat because of climate change and what many call global warming.

Yes, I know there are skeptics out there, some of whom are my friends, who believe all this talk of climate change and global warming is a “hoax.” They just don’t believe what the vast majority of scientists are saying: that it’s caused by humans pumping tons of carbon into the atmosphere daily. Fine for them, but I will remember what it was like in Grand County 35 years ago (colder and snowier) and use that anecdotal reference to vouch for my belief that what the vast majority of scientists are proclaiming is the truth, including the human-caused part.

There’s even been a study conducted by a group of Colorado scientists that states the cost of climate change very clearly in relation to the ski industry. No matter what we do relating to limiting greenhouse emissions our ski seasons will be shorter and warmer. But if we don’t act to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions then close to 90 percent of ski areas in the U.S. won’t be able to survive.

Under the first scenario, where action is taken to limit greenhouse gas emissions, then ski areas may be able to survive, but with shorter seasons and less snow. If we don’t cut back, the overall survival of the ski industry as a whole is seriously in doubt.

Yes, the big impacts are 50 and even 80 years into the future. That’s hard for anyone to effectively grasp. But based on what I’ve seen, it makes sense to me.

And now there’s been a new United Nations report on climate change that states by 2040 the world will be in deep trouble. Food shortages, wildfires and the mass death of coral reefs are some of the dangers. Another one would be the continuing decline of snowfall and winter at winter wonderlands like Grand County.

That, to put it simply, would be bad for our economy here in Grand County. And if I’m in the economic development business here in Grand County, perhaps my new and number one advice for people who want to develop economically in the future would be to cut back on greenhouse gases.

That’s easier said than done. I own four cars, all of them greenhouse gas emitters (although one does get 50 miles to the gallon). We use electricity, much of which comes from coal-fired power plants, and we burn natural gas for our heat, which emits a smallish amount of greenhouse gases. I fly on airplanes, which pump carbon into the air, and I gladly have camp fires and such, also pumping carbon into the atmosphere.

I’d love to buy an electric car that I could charge with the solar energy I’d generate from solar panels in my yard, but I’ve done the math and that would be expensive. If I happened to be wealthy, I’d do it. Enough solar panels to be effective would require an investment of $20,000. Good battery in the house to store the power: $15,000. Good electric car with a range of 300 miles: $50,000 at least.

I don’t have that kind of money just sitting around. I’ll bet most other local residents have that kind of discretionary dough either.

That’s why government, our bigger institutions (schools, colleges, etc.) have to be involved in this important crusade to save our “way of life” up here in the mountains and our number one winter industry. It’s not just a crusade for our way of life — it would be for the way of life of most people on the planet.

And even if this was all a “hoax,” it is nonetheless better to use renewable energy as opposed to energy sources that can be depleted. It is a greater human value and use even if all this climate alarmism isn’t true.

But it is.

There is a silver lining in all this for Grand County. We are higher and colder and wetter than most other places in the mountains of America. So if things get bad out there and the warmth really does come, we’ll still be colder and wetter in a relative sense.

We can celebrate that, at least.

But we’d be dancing on the grave of the very life we’ve come to depend on.

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He offers free and confidential business management coaching to anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at

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