Working to keep the West special

RMCO's Programs and Accomplishments

Protecting ourselves from a disrupted climate and its impacts is necessary to keep the West such a great place to live.

Climate change is too big for Westerners to stop all by ourselves. But we can do our share to reduce it. And with all that we have at stake, we have good reason to lead the nation by showing what can be done.

That will take understanding, leadership, and action by public officials, businesses, private groups and individuals -- by all of us.

The good news is that many predicted effects of climate change are based on an assumption that emissions of heat-trapping gases will keep going up as in the past. If we limit emissions, the extent of climate change and its impacts will be less. And we can reduce emissions.

RMCO is helping to lead the way, by working for climate action in Colorado; by supporting local climate programs through Colorado Communities for Climate Action; by promoting climate preparedness actions to deal with the challenges of a changing climate, particularly its effects on western water supplies; and by working to protect national parks from a disrupted climate. We also have published 20 reports on these topics and more.

Some RMCO Accomplishments

In our Colorado Climate Project, we were the first nonprofit organization to do what only state governments had done before -- convene a blue-ribbon panel of stakeholders to develop an agenda of actions to reduce our state's contributions to and vulnerability to climate disruption.

The central recommendation from our Climate Action Panel was to set statewide goals to reduce Colorado's emissions of heat-trapping gases by 20% by 2020 and 80% by 2050 -- goals which were adopted by then-Governor Bill Ritter Jr. as official state policy.

Other panel recommendations that have been adopted include a state-sponsored report with projections of temperature and precipitation changes in Colorado, and a 50% strengthening of the state's requirement for how much clean, renewable sources investor-owned utilities must use to generate electricity.

Our Climate Action Panel's recommendations also included the first outline of actions in any interior western state to meet the region's major climate-change challenge--how to meet our water needs in a hotter, drier climate. Now, in our water preparedness work, we work for actions to identify and address climate change impacts on Colorado's water, in part by convening and moderating the state's only group that represents the full range of issues in working together to meet Colorado's climate/water challenges.

We operated the Colorado Climate Network through 2017, until that program was effectively replaced by a new, more robust program we helped create, Colorado Communities for Climate Action, a coalition of 32 local governments advocating for state and federal actions to protect our climate. Local governments have an essential role to play, and we help them do it better.

On a program of national scope, RMCO has been the leading nonprofit organization in the nation in pointing out how the national parks that Americans know so well and love so much can be disrupted by an altered climate. This is one of the best ways to illustrate that climate change is not just about ice caps and polar bears, but also about special places that are near and dear to millions of Americans.

We were the first to call climate disruption the greatest threat ever to our national parks, first in a 2006 report focused on western national parks and then in a 2009 report addressing national parks across the country. The director of the National Park Service then began saying the same thing, and the National Park Service began doing much more to identify and address climate-change threats to these special places.

We have detailed the particular threats to Glacier National Park, three special places in Virginia, the national parks in California, Acadia National Park, the national lakeshores on the Great Lakes, Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, and the national seashores on the Atlantic Coast.

In our other reports, we have detailed how in the West climate change means less snow and less water, how the region has gotten hotter and drier, how Rocky Mountain forests are being disrupted, and how the water and snow resources of the Colorado River headwaters region will be affected.

We also have documented projected future increases in climate extremes in the Denver metro area and in Boulder and Larimer counties in Colorado. And we've reported on a major increase in extreme storms in the Midwest, where storms dumping three inches or more of precipitation in a single day have more than doubled in annual frequency in the past half century.

In all this, we are effective messengers. One example: We were the first organization to consistently talk about climate disruption--a more accurate and effective phrase than global warming, which is inadvertently misleading because warmth is an appealing concept.

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