By Amanda Paulson

Kellie Falbo is tackling climate change one step at a time. That means lowering carbon emissions by driving a biodiesel vehicle, keeping a vegetable garden, and composting with worms.

Sure, those efforts by themselves won’t make much difference globally. But sitting in the Happy Lucky Tea House, which is proudly “serving up world change” (according to the awning outside), she sees a constellation of small steps here in the heart of Colorado’s Larimer County that can ripple outward to address an overwhelming challenge.

About 30 miles southeast, in neighboring Weld County, Steve Wells looks out over very different picture.

More than 600 oil and gas wells dot the flat grasslands that extend to the horizon of his 35,000-acre ranch. Many of them involve hydraulic fracturing – the controversial drilling practice that Larimer County’s largest city, Fort Collins, tried to ban a few years back.

He gets angry when he talks about the activists who would like to ban fracking but who have never come to talk to him or bothered to see that the water hasn’t been damaged and that wildlife is thriving. The income from those wells has made an enormous financial difference for Wells, whose grandfather started the ranch in 1888, allowing him to contribute to local charities, such as a local food bank and a women’s shelter.

As for man-made climate change? He doesn’t believe it is happening.

When it comes to global warming, the border between Weld and Larimer Counties might as well be a fault line.

They are two quintessentially Colorado counties – Weld stretching eastward from the shadow of the Rockies onto the wide and empty skirts of the high plains, while Larimer gathers up the cities that cluster against the foot of the Rockies north of Denver.

But their different character speaks to a broader divide nationwide. Weld voted for Mitt Romney in 2012; Larimer voted for President Obama. Larimer life rotates around Fort Collins, a college town as home of the local state university; Weld considered seceding from the state in 2013.

They are blue and red America in miniature, and their different approaches to climate change mirror the rift within America itself.

Polls show that the partisan divide is wider on climate change than any other issue. In 2001, the gap between Republicans and Democrats on whether climate change is real and human-caused was 17 percentage points. This year, the gap stands at 41 points. Just 43 percent of Republicans now believe climate change is human-caused, compared with 53 percent back then.

What has happened? How has public opinion become more fractured even as scientists have moved toward consensus?

Views of science play a role, as does the willingness to take an economic hit to affect the global temperature a degree or two. But Colorado shows how the divide on climate has become as tribal as politics itself…

…About 42 percent say they wouldn’t pay even a dollar a month, according to a September poll conducted by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. But 57 percent of respondents say they’d pay some monthly fee to curb emissions (often $20 or $50).

Those are the people that Falbo wants to reach.

She founded a nonprofit to promote sustainable living, saying she saw a need for education about the individual actions people can take to live more sustainably…

Continue reading at Christian Science Monitor…

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