Growing up in Colorado, whose tagline adorns the signs at the state line—Welcome to Colorful Colorado!—we were proud that the words of the song America the Beautiful were written by Katharine Lee Bates, who spent the summer of 1893 teaching at Colorado College and was poetically inspired by a trip up Pikes Peak outside of Colorado Springs.
These days, the "purple mountain majesties" might be well be more of an orange glow of forest fires, which—long suppressed and amped up by human impacts to ecosystems and the climate system—have roared back with devastating effects in recent years. Much of central Colorado, especially the Front Range near the urban corridor north and south of Denver, is projected with a one degree Celsius (1.8 degree F) increase to have a sixfold increase of wildfires in the mountains and a nearly fourfold increase in the prarie grasslands and urban forests of the metropolitan areas.
Colorado is politically a purple state, fairly evenly balanced between blue Democrats, mostly in Denver/Boulder and ski towns, and red Republicans in rural areas and Colorado Springs, with a mix of independent-minded, Libertarian-leaning swing voters scattered throughout the state. While the Governor and state legislature are now in Democratic hands, President Obama, while winning over Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, received fewer votes than the ballot measure legalizing recreational use of marijuana.
As a classic purple swing state because of its mix, Colorado was an attractive case study for Anthony Leiserowitz and his colleages at the Yale Project on Climate Change Communications to study Climate Change in the Coloradan Mind, funded by Skoll Global Threats and the Energy Foundation. The findings are another confirmation that, as Leiserowitz has written before in his study of peoples' knowledge about climate change, most people are confused about the causes and effects of climate change, never having had a formal course in climate change, relying instead on bits and pieces of (sometimes conflicting) information to form an uninformed opinion.
A few highlights of the study: