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 go up by one percent each year. If we limit emissions, the extent of climate change and its impacts will be less.
And we can reduce emissions.
The United States, with under five percent of the world’s population, puts out 24 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. So we can do more than any other country to reduce climate change. The West, too, is part of the problem.
The West can instead be part of the solution.
RMCO is leading the way, by working for climate action in Colorado; by supporting local climate programs through our Colorado Climate Network; 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 a dozen reports on these topics and more.
The next few pages on our programs show how. First, some highlights on what we have been able to accomplish so far. This information is also available in an online document on RMCO's current agenda of program activities.
Some Major 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.
We operate the Colorado Climate Network, which supports local governments in Colorado that have local programs to address climate change. Local governments have an essential role to play, and we help them do it better.
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 initiative, we convene and moderate the state's only group that represents the full range of issues in working together to meet Colorado's climate/water challenges.
RMCO has been the leading 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.
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 to the national seashores on the Atlantic Coast.
In other reports, we have detailed how in the West climate change means less snow and less water, and how the region has gotten hotter and drier, with a greater temperature increase than any other part of the contiguous United States. We also have documented 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 misleads because it sounds appealing.
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