DENVER (AP) — Colorado is getting a climate change czar, a new position signed into law this week after a debate that included biblical references and tongue-in-cheek praise for the Weather Channel.
The state official, yet to be named by the governor, will be tasked with studying the impacts of climate change in Colorado. The czar will make recommendations on how to prepare for everything from larger wildfires to shorter ski seasons.
"We're hopefully going to try to do something to move Colorado along to respond to the scientific fact of climate change," said Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, who sponsored the bill.
Not everyone is sold on the idea, and Republicans who opposed the bill expressed skepticism that climate change is human caused.
Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, called the bill a political statement and the position symbolic.
"I believe that it's a little bit unnecessary and a little bit arrogant for Colorado to have a climate control czar. I just believe that we aren't that big a part of the problem," he said during debate in the House last month.
"I call that recognizing reality," Rosenthal said about the intent of his bill. "I don't think it's symbolic at all."
The position would be at least part-time and have "climate change" in the title. The appointed official may be a current state employee who will take on the additional responsibilities, which include making an annual report to lawmakers.
A fiscal analysis prepared for lawmakers projected the new climate change position wouldn't require any extra money. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the bill into law earlier this week without a public ceremony.
New York state has an office to study climate change, and Pennsylvania has a climate-change manager within the state's department of environmental protection, said Glen Andersen, energy program director at the National Conference of State Legislatures. Other states have climatologists, although their mission may not necessarily be the study of climate change.
In pitching his bill to his colleagues, Rosenthal cited a story from the Bible.
"All of you may recall the biblical story of Joseph. He became an adviser to the pharaoh after he correctly foretold seven good years, followed by seven lean years. So the pharaoh took the advice, he stored the grain, and Egypt survived. Let's take the story of Joseph and the lesson and prepare Colorado for the future," he said, then quipped: "Joseph, by the way, is unfortunately not available for this position."
During debate on the bill, Colorado Springs Republican Rep. Janak Joshi questioned Rosenthal about why the state needed a government employee to study climate changes.
"We already have the Weather Channel," he said. "Anybody who wants to see the climate change, turn on your TV and watch the Weather Channel. You can see the climate change, you can predict it. You can see how it was (the) day before, you can see what it will be tomorrow ... It's on my iPhone. I check it all the time — what is going to be the climate change?"
Although Rosenthal chuckled at some of the comments from his colleagues, he said climate change is a serious issue that must be dealt with.
"That anyone can deny that climate change is a scientific fact, that I find astounding," he said.
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