RMCO's work now more important than ever
With an incoming president who calls climate change a hoax, climate action at the local and state levels is more important right now than ever before. Nobody else in the Interior West does what we have done for a dozen years to raise awareness and bring about action in the region, and especially in our home state of Colorado, to tackle climate change at a local and state levels. We understand that our work is now even more important, and we are redoubling our efforts.
Launch of Colorado Communities for Climate Action
In May 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 13: Boulder County, the City of Fort Collins, the City of Boulder, the City of Lafayette, 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, the group's initial policy priorities, and more can be found.
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 releases reports on projected climate extremes
The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization released two parallel reports on projected climate extremes, one covering Boulder County and the other Larimer County, both in Colorado. RMCO also released the results from the first phase of a similar analysis covering the entire Denver metro area.
The analyses show what could be an astonishing transformation of Colorado's climate. With a continuation of current trends in heat-trapping emissions, by the middle of the century Denver could average 35 days a year 95 degrees or hotter. Boulder could average 38, and Fort Collins 24. By late in the century, Denver could average 77 days that hot, Boulder could average 75, and Fort Collins could average 58.
"This information shows why we need preparedness actions to address the impacts we could face, not only wildfires and possibly more floods but also more heat waves that can threaten people’s health and even lives,” Saunders said. “It also powerfully illustrates how important it is to reduce future emissions to keep the extent of climate change within manageable limits.”
The reports covering Boulder County and Larimer County were funded by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, to help those counties become more resilient in the face of climate change's impacts on future disasters including wildfires and floods. The Denver analysis is funded by the City and County of Denver's Department of Environmental Health.
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.
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 2015, 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 CooperativeInstitute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder and Colorado State University. It is a summary of existing available data and research results from the peer-reviewed literature, and was compiled by researchers from universities and other institutions. 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. We not only advocated for doing such a report but also brought 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 introduced them to the Colorado Energy Office, which then commissioned the study.
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.
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 Islan dNational 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.
We work to keep the West a special place to live, work, and play. That will take new attitudes and new actions to tackle climate change and its disruptive impacts. See more on the mission that guides us and on what we do.
Colorado Communities for Climate Action
RMCO administers Colorado Communities for Climate Action, a new coalition of local governments advocating for state and federal policies to protect our climate for current and future generations. CC4CA has its own, separate website.
Colorado Climate Network
RMCO also administers the Colorado Climate Network, which supports local government and related climate programs in Colorado and also has a 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.