Colorado Climate Vulnerability Study

The Western Water Assessment (WWA), in collaboration with Colorado State University, conducted this climate vulnerability study for the state of Colorado. Drawing from existing data and peer-reviewed research, the assessment summarizes the key impacts in seven sectors: ecosystems, water, agriculture, energy, transportation, outdoor recreation and tourism, and public health. It also details current adaptive capacity and potential strategies in those sectors to meet future climate challenges - providing a background for preparedness planning. 

The report was commissioned by the Colorado Energy Office in accordance with the Colorado Legislature’s HB13-1293. This 2013 legislation required the appointment by the executive branch of a climate change position to assess climate change issues in the state, as well as an annual climate vulnerability assessment to be provided by participating state agencies.

The report provides a brief summary of the 2014 report “Climate Change in Colorado” which synthesizes observed climate and projected future climate for the state of Colorado - and was also produced by the Western Water Assessment in partnership with the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Chapter 3 details the demographic, land use and economic factors that could impact the state’s vulnerability to climate. 

Each of the focal sectors are discussed in respective chapters with an overview, key climate impacts and vulnerabilities, along with recommendations for preparedness, and future research needs. 

While this study does not provide specific steps related to adaptation or preparedness planning in a given sector, a template is provided that state agencies can use to develop a preparedness plan, which includes and describes the following steps:

This resource was featured in the February 20, 2015, ASAP Newsletter.

"Be honest, you can't stop wondering how climate change will affect the great state of Colorado, and what are key potential vulnerabilities for the state. Look no further than this vulnerability assessment that identifies potential climate related vulnerabilities in ecosystems, water, agriculture, energy, transportation, outdoor recreation and tourism, and public health. Although not focused on adaptation, it does provide a template for preparing for impacts and reducing vulnerabilities in these sectors."

1) provide leadership from the highest possible levels
2) assign responsibility for climate preparedness planning
3) catalog long-term planning and short-term operation areas relevant to climate
4) connect with experts
5) engage with stakeholders
6) conduct a vulnerability assessment if needed
7) analyze risks based on probabilities
8) set a vision and goals for a preparedness plan
9) develop and implement a preparedness plan
10) monitor impacts and refine plan as needed

For more guidance on conducting a sector-specific vulnerability assessment, the report provides an additional template describing how to conduct a preliminary analysis of vulnerabilities to specific climate changes.


This assessment was compiled by researchers at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), the University of Colorado Boulder, the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at Colorado State University, the North Central Climate Science Center, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

CIRES is a partnership of NOAA and the University of Colorado Boulder. WWA, at CU-Boulder, is a NOAA Regional Integrated Sciences & Assessment (RISA) program. The North Central Climate Science Center is a partnership with the Department of Interior and Colorado State University.

Publication Date: January 2015

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Eric Gordon
  • Dennis Ojima
  • Amber Childress
  • Theresa Jedd
  • Roberta Klein
  • Jeff Lukas
  • Rebecca McKeown

Related Organizations:


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment

States Affected:


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