COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Colorado Springs Utilities hit a major step to begin August when the last coal shipment to be used at the Martin Drake Power Plant was dropped off. As the plant retires, it will no longer generate electricity from burning coal after the end of this month.

“That’s an enormous milestone for us,” said Ted Skroback, a public affairs specialist for the Utility.

It comes in the face of state goals passed in 2019 that require companies to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050, though in planning Skroback says, CSU already had similar plans in place.

“They’re our own goals as well to make sure that we can meet and exceed the regulations that are already in place or anything that might come about in the coming years.”

The legislation set the base year as 2005 to measure emission reductions against and in the 16 years since that time, CSU has already reduced emissions by 35 percent by transitioning power transmission to solar panels, wind energy and bridging the gap with natural gas.

In the report released Monday from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it showed indications that those reductions across the globe are beginning to have an effect.

“The worst-case scenario seems less likely than it did six or seven years ago and that’s largely because the amount of coal being burned globally is on the decline,” said Sean Sublette, a meteorologist with the group Climate Central, a non-profit, non-advocacy science and communication organization.

However, the report also shows that the “best-case scenario” as Sublette describes it, is not likely either due to the amount of warming already taken place and the emissions already poured into the earth’s environment.

Graph from the IPCC report showing 2,000 years of estimated surface level temperatures on the left and the last 170 years on the right. it shows more warming in the past 50 years than the preceding 2,000 years.

“It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land,” the report states, “Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.”

The report notes that over the last four decades, each was warmer than the last and all of them were warmer than any decade since 1850. That’s led to the retreat in the world’s glaciers and warming ocean temperatures.

“This report brings a bit more emphasis on the effect climate change has on weather events that occur that we all experience.” Russ Schumacher, the state’s climatologist based at Colorado State University.

Schumacher says, while some regions are experiencing more precipitation while others are seeing less, events like heat waves experienced this summer are an example of the changes.

In Colorado, the weather has been less impacted so far, but how weather events, like snow, add up is concerning.

“Human influence very likely contributed to the decrease in the Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover since 1950.” the report states.

That snow cover, or snowpack, in Colorado, is crucial to keeping moisture in high-mountain forests to stave off the threat of wildfires. Three of Colorado’s largest fires occurred in 2020 burning 138,007 acres, 192,560 acres, and 208,663 acres. Prior to 2002, Colorado had never experienced a fire larger than 100,000 acres.

In that year, one of the most substantial droughts gripped Colorado and set off a mega-drought lasting 20 years for the Colorado River Basin, a water source for more than 40 million Americans in the Southwestern United States.

In 2021, the two major storage reservoirs, Lake Powell and Lake Mead, are at the lowest levels ever seen since dams created the reservoirs in the 1930s and 1950s respectively.

“Certainly this has been a drought from the traditional perspective of lack of precipitation, but the increase in temperatures has made it worse because when the air is warmer, it’s thirstier and so that pulls more water out of the ground, the forest, the crops,” Schumacher said.

The Climate Center at Colorado State updated the decade’s “normal” temperatures, created by analyzing temperatures in locations over the past 30 years. The report confirms locally what the IPCC report stated globally: that temperatures are warmer than they were before.

“With respect to climate change, we can certainly see the changes from the previous 30 year period to this 30 year period,” he said.

The report narrows the worst case and best case scenarios from its last report in 2013.

“There is still a lot to be written in the next 20 to 30 years,’ Sublette said, “Which will go a long way in determining how much warming actually takes place by the end of the century.”

Chart from the IPCC report showing projected increases in temperatures depending on how much more emissions are created.

The impacts grow worse as the climate warms from more emissions are put into the atmosphere. The outcomes are dependent on human behavior and how much emissions are increased, or ideally reduced.

“If more aggressive measures are taken in the near future, it is still very well possible to avoid those really bad scenarios. But, if things go in the other direction, then there are some really, really bad scenarios still in play.” Schumacher said.

This report focused on the science of what has been observed and what several models project will happen, models that have been given more data since 2013 in observing and actively warming climate.

“This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels before they destroy our planet,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a press release following the report.

There are no policy suggestions, that will come in a report released in 2022.