The American West is special. The West is also changing.
Let's keep the West a special place to live, work, and play.
What Is New
Our June newsletter is now posted.
The 2013 session of the Colorado General Assembly included passage of two important climate change bills, which RMCO supported, now both signed by Governor John Hickenlooper. One bill requires the state government to designate a lead climate change official and requires annual reports to the legislature on actions to reduce emissions and prepare for coming climate-change impacts and on the scientific evidence of how Colorado is vulnerable to climate change. See RMCO's testimony in support of this bill.
The second bill requires the state's largest rural cooperatives to double the share of their electricity they get from clean sources; this is further partial fulfillment of one of the most important recommendations from the Climate Action Panel that RMCO convened in 2006, when we were the first nonprofit organizaion in the nation to engage stakeholders in developing a statewide climate action agenda.
More Extreme Weather
In a report we released last year in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization documented a doubling of extreme storms in the Midwest over the past half century. The figure below shows the pattern by decade of the frequency of storms by size over 50 years, from 1961 through 2010. For each size of storm, measured in the amount of precipitation per day, the columns show the changes in the average annual frequency of those storms by decade, from 1961-1970 on the left to 2001-2010 on the right, compared to the average frequency in 1961-1990. Small storms are unchanged, and with each step up in the size of the larger storms, their frequency went up. The most recent decade averaged 52 percent more extreme storms than the baseline period. Another way to measure this is that the trend in the frequency of extreme storms was a 103 percent increase from 1961 through 2011. The increase in extreme storms has meant more destructive flooding. Read more here.
Southwest Climate Assessment
An excellent new compilation of the science of climate change and its impacts in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah is now available. This summary of how climate change may affect the people, ecosystems, and water resources of the American Southwest is a technical input to a new National Climate Assessment that has been released in draft form.
Annual Colorado Climate Network Conference
The Colorado Climate Network, which supports local climate programs in Colorado and which is adminstered by RMCO, held its third annual conference on December 11, 2012, at the City of Aurora's municipal center. The topic of this year's conference was local action to identify, prepare for, and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Gov. John Hickenlooper delivered the keynote, in his first speech focused on climate change since becoming governor in 2011. Details on the conference are on the Network website.
Climate Change and Water
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released in December a long-awaited report detailing how climate change may affect water supply and demand in the Colorado River. The report shows, among many other things, that higher levels of emissions of heat-trapping pollution are projected to lead to greater reductions in the river's flow.
For our take on this report, see here.
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 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. Read more here.
RMCO’s reports have now 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 our reports, see here.
Most attention to public opinion on climate change focuses on whether people believe the climate is actually changing. We at RMCO think that is the wrong focus. For one thing, the climate does go through natural changes (although certainly not to the extent or at the speed we are now witnessing.) The real question is whether people accept that we humans are now changing the climate. One recent public opinion survey says 54 percent of Americans accept that basic reality, and another poll says only 42 percent of Americans do. Either total is still woefully short of a decisive majority accepting what the scientific community has been urgently declaring for more than a decade.
To see what RMCO is doing to spread the word about what a disrupted climate can do to us and what we can do about it, read more here.