Working to keep the West special

Colorado Communities for Climate Action: Now 34 members strong!

Colorado Communities for Climate Action, launched just three years ago, has already grown to include 34 local governments. CC4CA is a 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.

CC4CA, which has its own website, is a potent new force pushing for climate action in our state and nation. The coalition is guided by its member organizations, and beginning in January 2020 began operating as a freestanding organization of local governments organized under Colorado law. Initially, CC4CA was a program of RMCO. With CC4CA's new legal standing, RMCO staff continues providing the same expert and administrative support as before, although we no longer are the legal home of the coalition. Learn more here.

Major legislative successes in the 2019 Colorado legislative session -- with more to come in 2020

The 2019 session of the Colorado General Assembly was the most successful yet in bringing about meaningful, binding actions to reduce the state's contribution to human-caused climate disruption -- and CC4CA's effective advocacy played an important role. Most consequential is the enactment of HB19-1261, which finally gives Colorado a clear statutory framework for tackling climate-changing pollution. The new law sets statewide targets for reducing heat-trapping pollution (by at least 26% reduction by 2025, at least 50% by 2030, and at least 90% by 2050) and gives the Air Quality Control Commission a mandate to put in place the binding rules that will be necessary to meet these targets. Only a few other states have passed such legislation – notably California, with the enactment in 2008 of its pioneering AB 32, which has driven many actions there showing how much a state can to do reduce climate change. With the new law, now Colorado, too, can do its share.

For more on last year's legislative successes, see this posting by Colorado Communities for Climate Action. Through our expert and administrative support to CC4CA, RMCO continues working this year, in the General Assembly and otherwise, to move Colorado into the forefront of state governments in addressing climate disruption.

RMCO board member picked to head Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

Congratulations to Jill Ryan -- who was a member of the board of directors of RMCO (until resigning following her appointment) and an Eagle County commissioner -- on being picked by new Governor Jared Polis last year to serve as executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment! In this important new role, Jill is now able to do more than ever before to protect our climate, our environment, and our health. We obviously think this is an excellent choice!

Congressional Quarterly leads with RMCO in special report on climate change

For Earth Day 2018, Congressional Quarterly, a Washington publication covering policy and politics, published a special report on climate change that drew heavily on RMCO. The special report's title, "A slowing unfolding crisis," is a quote by RMCO president Stephen Saunders, and the lead article began first with information from an RMCO report and then with comments by Stephen framing how climate disruption affects us all.

RMCO report on climate change in Colorado River headwaters

In 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.”

RMCO's Stephen Saunders 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 report: More extreme heat in Denver metro area

In June 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 report: Projected climate extremes in two Colorado counties

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,” RMCO's Stephen 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

In August 2016, as the nation observed 100 years since the establishment of the national park system, RMCO pointed out that we were the first to identify 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, later officially endorsed by the National Park Service. 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. See 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.

Report: Rocky Mountain Forests at Risk

In 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.

RMCO is unique is how we have partnered with mainstream institutions that can have the most impact -- from local governments to water providers -- and working with them to help them do more to tackle climate change. We also document the local impacts of climate change in this region, to build support for protecting the climate. In these ways, we complement the work of more traditional environmental groups with a focus on grassroots advocacy.

Colorado Communities for Climate Action

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, was originally set up as an RMCO program, and RMCO continues to provide expert and administrative support to the coalition. CC4CA has its own, separate website.

CC4CA has taken the place of the earlier Colorado Climate Network, which also was administered by RMCO.

Local Resilience Project

A major project of lasting importance by the Colorado Climate Network, a RMCO program that predated Colorado Communities for Climate Action, is the Colorado Local Resilience Project, which was co-convened by CCN and the Colorado Municipal League. In 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.

Many of the report's recommendations have not yet been implemented and are still relevant.

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 22 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.


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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. Shortly after, the director of the National Park Service agreed—and began his first congressional testimony after being confirmed for office by quoting our conclusion. He then went on to lead the development of 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 region worthy of protection from climate disruption.