At national parks centennial, climate change now seen as top risk
As the nation observes 100 years since the establishment of the National Park Service and the national park system on August 25, 1916, RMCO wants to take a moment to point out our singular role in identifying climate change as the greatest threat ever to these national treasures. That was the central conclusion of a report we released in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council in 2006, Losing Ground Western National Parks Endangered by Climate Disruption. Three years later, we expanded on it in National Parks in Peril: The Threats of Climate Disruption, again issued with NRDC. Those reports were the first times anybody voiced that conclusion. Just a couple weeks later, Jonathan Jarvis testified before Congress for his first time as director of the National Park Service and began his testimony by pointing to and supporting our reports and the evidence we amassed. We since elaborated on the risks to parks in reports on Glacier National Park, Virginia's special places, California's national parks, Acadia National Park, Great Lakes national parks, Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, and national seashores on the Atlantic Coast.
It is now widely accepted that climate change is the greatest threat to the national parks, and our pioneering identification of the framework of risks facing the parks and which parks are vulnerable continues to be followed. By the National Park Service. By President Obama. By the news media, recently in Parks face 'greatest threat' -- climate change, GreenWire, July 25, 2016; Disappearing icons: Re-imagining the national parks after climate change, KQED Science, August 1, 2016, National Park Service centennial: Climate change biggest challenge of next 100 years, Missoulian, August 24, 2016, and literally scores more of similar accounts. We feel good about our role in bringing attention to the national parks as a leading example of the risks of climate disruption. We will feel much better when we have helped bring about enough action to fully protect the parks, both through global reductions in heat-trapping emissions and through preparedness actions to protect park resources. Because we, like most Americans, love our national parks.
Upcoming RMCO Workshop on Climate Extremes Planning
On September 26, 2016, RMCO will hold a half-day workshop on planning for climate extremes, exclusively for elected officials, managers, and program staff from county and municipal governments in Larimer and Boulder counties. At the workshop, RMCO will present the results of a major new analysis on how climate change may drive increases in daily extreme temperatures and extreme precipitation in these two Colorado counties, and attendees will discuss with experts and colleagues how to factor this information into local planning and management actions. For more details, contact Tom Easley, RMCO director of programs.
Launch of Colorado Communities for Climate Action
On May 25, 2016, we announced the launch of a major new RMCO program, Colorado Communities for Climate Action. CC4CA is a new coalition of local governments working to keep our state and its communities a special place to live, to work, and to enjoy, by reducing heat-trapping emissions that pose new, unprecedented risks to our localities and residents.
The initial members of CC4CA were nine, but since have grown to 12: Boulder County, the City of Fort Collins, the City of Boulder, Eagle County, Summit County, the City of Golden, Pitkin County, San Miguel County, the City of Aspen, the Town of Vail, the Town of Telluride, and the Town of Mountain Village. With these members, the coalition starts out already representing one-ninth of all Coloradans. Other local governments are considering joining CC4CA, and the coalition's numbers should grow further.
The coalition will be a new, powerful voice for more state and federal action to reduce climate change. The program has its own website, cc4ca.org, where the news release annoucing the launch of the group can be found. The coalition is in the process of setting its initial policy agenda.
CC4CA's sharp focus on advocacy of state and federal actions to reduce climate-changing pollution is in contrast to the broader focus of our longstanding program, the Colorado Climate Network, which supports local climate programs, primarily through information on climate-related risks and addressing local climate preparedness needs (including through CCN's ongoing Colorado Local Resilience Project).
RMCO testimony on three climate bills
On April 27, Tom Easley, the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization director of programs, testified before a Colorado General Assembly committee in support of one bill to strengthen state climate efforts and in opposition to two bills designed to weaken state efforts. The bill RMCO supported would have required the state Public Utilities Commission to consider the costs of climate-changing pollution when considering a regulated utility's costs of new sources of electricity. RMCO opposed a bill that would have blocked further state work to develop a rule complying with the federal Clean Power Plan requirement, and another bill that would effectively created a disincentive for utilities to get electricity from renewable sources. None of the three bills ultimately passed.
RMCO statement on Colorado climate plan and water
On February 5, 2016, Tom Easley submitted a statement to the Colorado Water Conservation Board on the implementation of the water section of the Colorado Climate Plan released in September 2015. The statement followed a January 27 stakeholder engagement session held by the CWCB.
RMCO testimony Colorado climate action planning
On February 4, Tom Easley testified before the Colorado General Assembly in support of legislation to strengthen the law governing state government planning efforts to address climate change.
RMCO comments on draft Colorado climate action plan
On May 15, 2015, the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization submitted comments on a draft of a new Colorado state government climate action plan. RMCO was one of a relatively few organizations invited to review and comment on the draft, and was asked to do so without sharing the draft with others or commenting on its content. In our comments, we urged that the state government change its approach and allow the state's local governments to review and comment on the draft, and to make the next version of the plan -- then to be completed in June -- a draft for review by the public, local governments, and other stakeholders.
RMCO's second comments on state water plan
On May 1, RMCO submitted comments to the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) on the latest draft of a new Colorado water plan. The RMCO comments urged that the draft should be revised to further emphasize and provide details on how climate change increases the risks to Colorado’s water supplies and water quality, and to provide an actual plan for what the Colorado state government will do to address those and other risks to the state’s water. These new comments built on those we submitted in October (see below).
Report of the Colorado Local Resilience Project
The report of the Colorado Local Resilience Project, convened by the Colorado Climate Network (which is administered by RMCO) and the Colorado Municipal League, was released on April 23, 2015. The report is a call for action -- for more steps by local governments, the Colorado state government, and others to improve the resilience of Colorado communities to climate-change-related risks, including increases in wildfires, floods, and health-threatening heat waves. Seventy-eight representatives from 30 local governments and six related local organization developed the report, with contains six conclusions and 36 recommendations, all representing a consensus of the project participants. Find out more at the separate website of the Colorado Climate Network.
Release of Colorado Climate Change Vulnerability Study
In February, the Colorado Climate Change Vulnerability Study, the first-ever state-specific synthesis of existing information on how climate change may affect Colorado, was jointly released by the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder and Colorado State University. The study was commissioned by the Colorado Energy Office in accordance with state legislation enacted in 2013, House Bill 13-1293, requiring executive branch annual reports to the Colorado General Assembly on the development and periodic update of a climate action plan and collaboration with other entities regarding climate change preparedness studies.
It is a summary of existing available data and research results from the peer-reviewed literature, and was compiled by researchers at CIRES, the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at Colorado State University, the North Central Climate Science Center, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Thirty experts from state offices, consulting groups, academia, and RMCO reviewed the report.
The study is a sector-by-sector analysis of the challenges that state residents and leaders will have to deal with in coming decades. Drawing from existing data and peer-reviewed research, the study summarizes the key challenges facing seven sectors: ecosystems, water, agriculture, energy, transportation, outdoor recreation and tourism, and public health. It also describes ways Coloradans are already grappling with these issues, and lays out a general approach state agencies could use in doing vulnerability analyses and preparedness planning. The report’s editors acknowledge that it is intended to be a broad overview, and that it should be considered as a base from which to do more detailed sector-by-sector vulnerability assessments and future preparedness planning.
RMCO played a key role in making this vulnerability study happen, by bringing together the researchers at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University who became the managers and lead writers and editors of the report and introducing them to the Colorado Energy Office, which commissioned the study.
RMCO's first comments on state water plan
The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization has submitted comments suggesting how Colorado's draft first-ever state water plan should be revised to better incorporate and address information on the impacts of climate change. A revised draft of the plan is due to be released in December.
Report: Rocky Mountain Forests at Risk
The Union of Concerned Scientists and RMCO released a joint report, Rocky Mountain Forests at Risk, detailing how a changing climate is affecting forests in this region, and how further climate change may lead to far greater impacts than those seen before. For this region, the vulnerability of our forests is one of our greatest threats, and one of the best reasons to reduce the extent to which we humans are disrupting the climate.
Local Resilience Project Launched
The Colorado Climate Network, which RMCO administers, and the Colorado Municipal League now have underway a Local Resilience Project to improve the resilience of local governments and local resources to climate change impacts such as increases in wildfires, floods, and health-threatening heat waves. See our news release here. The project is bringing together representatives of 32 local governments in Colorado, other governmental entities active at the local level (such as local health departments and school districts), and related organizations to identify ways local governments and others can work together in preparing for and addressing climate change impacts, and what they need from the state and federal governments and other sources to do so. The first phase of the project will culminate in a report, expected in April 2015, on those possible actions and needs, and a second phase will focus on bringing about those actions and meeting those needs. For more information, see a summary here at the separate website of the Colorado Climate Network.
Colorado regulation of methane emissions
On February 23, Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) passed regulations that make Colorado the first state to directly regulate emissions of the potent heat-trapping gas methane from oil and natural gas production facilities. Control of these emissions in Colorado was first recommended by the blue-ribbon panel RMCO convened in our 2005-2007 Colorado Climate Project. RMCO strongly supports the rules, and I testified on behalf of RMCO in support of their adoption by the Commission. Read more here.
New RMCO Report: More Extreme Heat in Fort Collins
RMCO and the City of Fort Collins released today a RMCO report documenting increases in hot days and heat waves in Fort Collins since 1961. Annual rates of 95 degree days and of three straight days of 90 degrees or hotter, for example, have tripled so far this century, compared to 1961-1999 rates. New climate projections prepared for the report also show large increases in these frequencies in the future, especially if future levels of heat-trapping pollution grows at about the current rate. With that medium-high level of future emissions, these 90-degree heat waves could occur five times as often as the historic rate by mid-century, and nine times as often by the end of the century.
For an explanation of the data shown in this figure and more on this report, see here.
Report Details Climate Change Impacts on Colorado Water
The Rocky Mountain chapter of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a group of 80 Colorado business leaders who promote policies that are environmentally and economically sustainable, released today a report recommending the strongest goal for water conservation in Colorado yet proposed by any group.
The centerpiece of the report’s recommendations is that the Colorado state government establish a goal of reducing per capita water use by municipal and industrial users by 25 percent by 2025 and by 50 percent by 2050, compared with 2010 levels. This would follow similar actions by the state governments of California and Utah, but the report’s recommendation for a state goal calls for more water conservation in Colorado than any other group has yet proposed. The report details, though, how the recommended reductions are both achievable, based on water savings already achieved in Colorado and other western states, and needed to reliably and sustainably meet Colorado’s future water needs.
The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization provided for the report information and analysis on climate change effects on Colorado’s water resources, which underscore the need for actions of the type recommended by the E2 chapter. “This report pulls together for the first time in one easily readable document all the ways in which climate change is already affecting Colorado’s water supplies and likely will disrupt them more in the future. It lays out the facts, from lower supplies of water to higher demands for water, and how that combination could trigger statewide water restrictions under interstate compacts,” said Stephen Saunders, the president of RMCO. “This is what every Coloradan should know about how climate disruption and interstate compacts would work together to create future water shortages—if we do not act to head off that risk.”
Climate Change and National Parks
RMCO is the national leader in identifying how a disrupted climate threatens national parks and other special places. Our latest report, released in August 2012 in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council, documents how an altered climate threatens the seven national seashores on the Atlantic Coast: Cape Cod in Massachusetts, Fire Island in New York, Assateague Island in Maryland and Virginia, Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout in North Carolina, Cumberland Island in Georgia, and Canaveral in Florida. This report is the ninth in a series of reports in which we have documented climate change risks to national parks.
The national seashore report includes new analyses showing how sea level rise of three feet could inundate much of the seashores. The figure below shows in red how nearly all of the Virginia unit of Assateague Island National Seashore (which overlaps Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge) would be submerged by a higher sea. On the right are the seashore/refuge lands (in beige) and some of the key features that would be lost. This area is visited by two million people a year, whose spending supports 2,000 local jobs.
A Special Region
The American West is special. The West is also changing.
Less snow and water.
We work to keep the West a special place to live, work, and play.
Colorado Climate Network
RMCO administers the Colorado Climate Network, which supports local government and related climate programs in Colorado and has its own, separate website.
Local Resilience Project
The latest major project of the Colorado Climate Network is the Colorado Local Resilience Project, co-convened with the Colorado Municipal League. In the first phase of that project, 78 representatives from 30 local governments and other local organizations (such as health departments) prepared a report on what can to done to protect local communities and resources from climate change impacts, such as wildfires, heat waves, and floods. The Colorado Climate Network is now working on implementation of the report's recommendations.
One of the key ways in which RMCO spreads the word about climate disruption and its impacts is through our carefully researched, richly detailed, and easily readable reports. We now have prepared and released 16, most in partnership with other organizations.
Our reports have been covered by 18 of the 25 largest-circulation newspapers in the nation, as well as on national and local television news shows and on hundreds of other radio, press, and Internet outlets. For more information on the news coverage of our reports, see here.
RMCO was the first nonprofit organization in the nation—and still the only one—to convene a stakeholder panel which developed a statewide agenda for climate action. The panel's recommended goals for reducing emissions of heat-trapping pollution were adopted by Governor Bill Ritter, Jr., as official state policy, and many other recommendations were included in the state's Colorado Climate Action Agenda or enacted by the Colorado General Assembly.
RMCO was the first to call climate change the greatest threat ever to our national parks. The director of the National Park Service later agreed —and quoted the RMCO conclusion in his first congressional testimony after being confirmed for office, and then developed a NPS climate change response strategy.
RMCO was the first organization to consistently label what humans are doing to the climate as climate disruption—not global warming, which is subconsciously misleading, as "warm" in nearly every other context has a positive connotation. The phrase "climate disruption" has since come into broader use by, among others, President Obama's advisor on science and technology.
All photos on our website, unless indicated otherwise, are copyright by and courtesy of John Fielder. One of today's best photographers of the extraordinary landscapes of the Rocky Mountains, he captures what makes this a special region worthy of protection against climate disruption.
RMCO has formal partner organizations in our coalition of local governments, government agencies, businesses, and nonprofit groups that work together to assess and address climate change in the interior West. Other organizations interested in joining us can contact our director of outreach, Suzanne Farver.