Climate Change & Aspen: An Update on Impacts to Guide Resiliency Planning & Stakeholder Engagement

Climate Change & Aspen provides an overview of observed and projected future effects of climate change on the City of Aspen, Colorado. Climate impacts are detailed along with planning needs and adaptation strategies for six sectors: recreation and tourism, ecosystems, public health and safety, built environment and infrastructure, energy, and water.

Chapter 2 of the report presents observed changes to the climate in the region and in the City; Chapter 3 looks at possible future conditions under different climate change scenarios. The region is anticipated to experience a rise in average temperatures by between 5.3 to 9.7 degrees F by 2100 under low and high emissions scenarios. 

Chapter 4 discusses potential impacts to six sectors:

  • recreation and tourism - changes in precipitation patterns will reduce skiable conditions and harm ski-based tourism, climate change could also alter recreational fishing, and increased risks of wildfires.  Responses could include investments in new ski lifts and snowmaking equipment.
  • water - the report notes that changes in streamflow are uncertain because of the uncertainty in changes to precipitation pattern, but the report notes that precipitation trends will change in time and more precipitation will fall as rain rather than snow, which will affect groundwater and surface water supplies. Higher average temperatures will also affect stream temperatures.  Climate-related shifts and growing populations will put pressure on water supplies.  Potential responses include increasing water efficiency and conservation measures and adaptively managing water resources.  
  • ecosystems - anticipated changes include upward shifts in plant and animal distributions, the greater potential for pest outbreaks with impacts to forest ecosystems, and greater risks of forest fire size and frequency.  Potential responses include adaptive management of species and ecosystems, conservation of key habitats, creation of migration corridors, reduction of human-related stressors, and landscape-scale forest management and planning.
  • public health and safety - anticipated impacts to public health include decreased air quality and increased incidence of vector-borne diseases.  Possible adaptations include assessing risks to higher risk populations, addressing preexisting health concerns, assessing and improving building codes and regulations to reduce public health hazards, and improved early warning systems.
  • energy - risks to the energy sector include changes in supply as a result of changes in streamflow and impacts to hydroelectric facilities and changes in energy demand.  Response strategies include increasing building energy efficiency, diversifying energy supply through renewable sources, and demand side management.
  • infrastructure and the built environment - potential challenges include changes to heating and cooling requirements and impacts from extreme events (like flood, landslide, and wildfire).  Possible responses include revising building codes to address changing hazard risks and integration of resilience and mitigation strategies in planning and design of energy intensive infrastructure.

Chapter 5 summarizes input that the research team received for stakeholder interviews.  Stakeholders interviewed included city and county administrators, local business owners, resource managers, conservation planners and advocates, and other professionals working in key sectors.  Stakeholders were asked about changes that they had observed, issues of concern, actions that are underway, and desired future actions to prepare for future impacts.   

Chapter 6 offers possible responses to help the community build resilience to future anticipated changes.  Selected examples of climate adaptation planning are highlighted as examples of best practices for the City to follow as it continues to expand on its work to prepare for impacts.  

Publication Date: December 2014

Author or Affiliated User:

  • James Arnott

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  • Adaptation plan
  • Assessment

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