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Environment / Sustainability

CSU and the National Climate Assessment

May 7, 2014
By Kate Hawthorne Jeracki

CSU faculty not only authored several regional chapters of the third NCA, but also provided technical input and expertise throughout the process.

This map, from the Third National Climate Assessment, shows areas where demands of all users exceed the available water supply by at least 40 percent. CSU faculty gathered and analyzed the data for the Great Plains and the Southwest, two of the most greatly stressed regions. <em>(Click to view larger image.)</em>The findings of the third National Climate Assessment released this week closely reflect current conditions in Colorado.

More high-heat days in the summer? Check. Heavier precipitation and more frequent floods? Check. Drought and water restrictions? Check. More devastating storms in summer and winter? Check.

“Climate change is here and now,” said Dennis Ojima, university director of the North Central Climate Science Center,  professor of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability in the Warner College of Natural Resources, and senior researcher in the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory. He was one of the lead authors of the Great Plains chapter of the NCA.  “This report documents the effects of climate change throughout the nation and what we are doing to deal with these changes.”

Climate change has significant impact on the Colorado economy, especially in the areas of agriculture/livestock production; water management; energy demand and production; brewing; tourism and recreation; wildlife habitat; wildland-urban interface; fire management, to name a few.

Challenges and opportunities

“Climate change is presenting both challenges and opportunities for Colorado, both in the mountains and on the plains,” Ojima added. “This is not an alarmist report. We can use the findings of the National Climate Assessment to help our communities be better prepared for the impacts on agriculture and water management, for example. If we understand the findings in a pragmatic way, and embrace them in our future decision making, I’m confident that we can meet the inevitable challenges that we face.”

CSU Vice Provost for Undergraduate Affairs Kathleen Pickering also contributed to the Great Plains chapter with Ojima. Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Center, was a lead author on the Southwest chapter, of which Colorado is a part. Shannon McNeeley, also part of the North Central Climate Science Center and the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory in the Warner College, was a contributing author on the newly added chapter on adaptation to inevitable changes.

CSU faculty also provided technical input and expertise throughout the NCA process.  A few of the contributors include:

·         Monique Rocca, Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Warner College of Natural Resources; Lee H. MacDonald, retired CSU NREL research faculty, and Peter M. Brown, affiliate faculty in ESS, contributed technical input to Fire-Climate Interactions in the Rocky Mountain Region.

·         Jill Baron, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, contributed to Impacts of Climate-Nitrogen Interactions.

·         Stephen Mumme, professor of political science, contributed to Climate Change and U.S.-Mexican Border Communities.

·         Jennifer L. Peel, Colorado School of Public Health, CSU Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, contributed to the report’s examination of the health effects of climate change.

Part of land-grant mission

Not only does CSU have some of the nation’s best experts in natural resources, water and climate, but involvement in the NCA also furthers the land-grant mission of the university to be engaged in broad issues affecting society.

Several new chapters have been added to the NCA this year, and CSU researchers have had input to nearly all of them: Response Strategies: Adaptation, Mitigation, and Decision Support; Indigenous Peoples; and sectoral “cross cuts” such as Energy, Water, and Land Use, among others.

Colorado State University has been involved in gathering and analyzing data for the National Climate Assessment since the first assessment was completed in 2000.

The complete 2014 National Climate Assessment is available at