Working to keep the West special

RMCO report on climate change in Colorado River headwaters
February 2018

On February 7, 2018, the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization released a report documenting how climate change may affect the water and snow resources in the headwaters region of the Colorado River. The news release announcing the report is here.

The report, Climate Change in the Headwaters: Water and Snow Impacts, prepared by RMCO for the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, summarizes existing information on how climate change puts at risk water and snow resources and the many economic and social values that depend on them in six Colorado counties—Eagle, Grand, Gunnison, Pitkin, Routt, and Summit counties.

Rachel Richards, Pitkin County commissioner and chair of the NWCCOG Water Quality/Quantity Committee, said, “The headwaters of the Colorado River has some of the most important water and snow resources not just in Colorado but across the entire nation, and it’s essential that we understand how climate change puts these resources at risk, along with our local economies, recreation opportunities, and the quality of life here.”

Stephen Saunders, the RMCO president and the lead author of the report, said, “Future climate change will be determined by future levels of heat-trapping emissions. If emissions keep increasing unchecked, the science says there will be major disruptions of the snow and water resources of this headwaters region.”

RMCO comments on state climate plan
November 2017

On November 3, 2017, the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization submitted comments on the state government's draft update on its Colorado Climate Plan. RMCO urged that the updated plan include new actions to improve local resilience to climate-change-related risks and address climate change impacts on water. RMCO also endorsed separate comments from Colorado Communities for Climate Action (which is administered by RMCO), which recommend more state government steps to reduce heat-trapping emissions.

RMCO report: more extreme heat in Denver metro area
June 2017

On June 8, 2017, the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and the City and County of Denver's Department of Environmental Health released two new RMCO reports on what climate change may mean for the Denver metropolitan area. One report details major increases in extreme heat if heat-trapping emissions are not checked. A companion report identifies projected changes in precipitation.

Based on an analysis of 44 million individual projections from the latest climate models, covering four possible scenarios of future emission levels, this analysis may be the most thorough and detailed analysis yet of projections of future climate extremes in any single locality in the United States.

Details are here.

RMCO: analyze climate change impacts on needs for water
April 2017

At a meeting of the Colorado Water Conservation Board's Climate Change Technical Advisory Group, Tom Easley, RMCO's director of programs and a member of CCTAG, again urged that the state government undertake a quantified, and understable assessment of how climate change may drive increases in demand for water by agricultural, municipal, and industrial water users. RMCO has been advocating for such a report for years, including in our three sets of comments as Colorado's new State Water Plan was being developed. Much has long been known about how climate change may disrupt the supplies of water, but very little is yet known about what a markedly hotter climate may do to increase the water needs of crops, livestock, lawns, power plants, and more. RMCO believes this new analysis should be included in the CWCB's upcoming update of the Statewide Water Supply Initiative.

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 15: Boulder County, Fort Collins, Westminster, Boulder, Lafayette, Eagle County, Summit County, Golden, Pitkin County, San Miguel County, Aspen, Vail, Basalt, Telluride, and Mountain Village. With these members, the coalition starts out already representing one-eighth 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,, 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
September 2016

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.

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 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.

At national parks centennial, climate change seen as top risk
August 2016

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: Rocky Mountain Forests at Risk
September 2014

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.


A Special Region

The American West is special. The West is also changing.
More heat. Less snow and water. More wildfires. Fewer forests.

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.

Local Resilience Project

A major project of the Colorado Climate Network (subsequently replaced by Colorado Communities for Climate Action) 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.

RMCO Reports

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 20 reports, 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.


To sign up to get our monthly electronic newsletter in your in-box, email us. See our latest newsletter here.

RMCO's Firsts

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.

John Fielder

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.