Economist takes aim at Big Oil, politicians at Boulder climate forum

BOULDER — Economist Jeffrey Sachs, who serves as the director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, pulled no punches Thursday as he took to task the fossil fuel industry and its alleged political enablers during the Boulder Forum on Economy, Climate and Community.

Oil and gas producers, which still hold significant political sway in Colorado — if not in Boulder — have an “historic record of great irresponsibility,” he said.

The industry is enabled by support from state and federal lawmakers, Sachs said.

“We have one political party that’s … in the hands of the fossil fuel industry,” he said.

Representatives with oil and gas industry trade groups American Petroleum Institute and Colorado Oil and Gas Association had not heard Sachs’ talk as of Thursday afternoon and could not comment.

Lack of federal action to protect the environment over the past four years has put the United States behind much of the world in the fight against climate change, according to Sachs. 

“The world was moving on when we were stuck with insurrections and general weirdness in this country,” he said, presumably in reference to the controversy surrounding the 2020 election.

In many cases, Sachs said, it’s a lack of will rather than a lack of knowhow or technology that holds the United States back in its climate battle.

“We’re understanding these issues but we are not yet really getting them under control,” he said. “… We should be moving to zero carbon energy on a mass scale for the entire economy.”

Cities such as Boulder have an important role to play in protecting the environment, Sachs said.

“Make the investments needed for this transformation” away from fossil fuels, he said. 

That could mean preparing infrastructure for electric vehicles, encouraging mass transit, allowing employees to work from home to cut down on traffic, enacting building codes that require green construction techniques, leveraging relationships with utilities and collaborating with local universities to take their research and turn it into real world action. 

Boulder Mayor Sam Weaver said the city is already making important strides to “pursue the goal to be a climate leader.”

The Boulder Forum on Economy, Climate and Community is a six-part series that includes future speakers Lolita Jackson, a former climate strategist for former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Oxford University economist Kate Raworth; John Liu, a documentary filmmaker, social venture entrepreneur, and ecosystems ambassador for the Common Land Foundation based in Amsterdam; U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Boulder); and science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson. 

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BOULDER — Economist Jeffrey Sachs, who serves as the director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, pulled no punches Thursday as he took to task the fossil fuel industry and its alleged political enablers during the Boulder Forum on Economy, Climate and Community.

Oil and gas producers, which still hold significant political sway in Colorado — if not in Boulder — have an “historic record of great irresponsibility,” he said.

The industry is enabled by support from state and federal lawmakers, Sachs said.

“We have one political party that’s … in the hands of the fossil fuel industry,” he said.

Representatives with oil and gas industry trade groups American Petroleum Institute and Colorado Oil and Gas Association had not heard Sachs’ talk as of Thursday afternoon and could not comment.

Lack of federal action to protect the environment over the past four years has put the United States behind much of the world in the fight against climate change, according to Sachs. 

“The world was moving on when we were stuck with insurrections and general weirdness in this country,” he said, presumably in reference to the controversy surrounding the 2020 election.

In many cases, Sachs said, it’s a lack of will rather than a lack of knowhow or technology that holds the United States back in its climate battle.

“We’re understanding these issues but we are not yet really getting them under control,” he said. “… We should be moving to zero carbon energy on a mass scale for the entire economy.”

Cities such as Boulder…