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Deepening a City-Wide Commitment

Boulder, Colorado

Featured image for the project, Deepening a City-Wide Commitment

Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons

This is a new service conducted for a small fee, to support ongoing TEX projects


Over 60 people from across all city departments attended the first two workshops.  The early workshops featured presentations and conversation with leading climate change scientists and climate adaptation experts including:

  • Jeff Lukas, Western Water Assessment “How WWA vetted 2-6 degrees w/extremes”
  • Katharine Hayhoe, Texas Tech University “Climate Extremes: Going Beyond Averages”
  • Kevin Trenberth, National Center for Atmospheric Research “Climate 101”
  • Gov. Bill Ritter, City of Boulder “The Role of Cities in Climate Action”
  • Cara Pike, Executive Director at Climate Access


The interactive pieces of the workshop focused on honing climate change messaging, learning about efforts underway in various departments to prepare for climate change, exploring approaches from other cities, and brainstorming cross-departmental emissions reduction and climate adaptation approaches in Boulder. One outcome of the workshop is a common benchmark to plan against – over 95% of workshop attendees felt comfortable using a 2-6 degree Farenheit average temperature change by 2050 as their planning guide and where able to understand how that average change, and the implications for variability in any given year, translated into specific local impacts.  Future workshops will drill down into adaptation and mitigation strategies that departments can use to help meet the city’s climate and resilience goals.


A whole city approach to climate change and resilience

Boulder’s climate change action plan has three complementary goals: prepare for changes that are already coming, prevent climate change from getting more severe, and ensure that all residents, especially those residents with the fewest resources, are protected the negative impacts of climate change.  To be successful, climate adaption, equity, and mitigation have to be part of the mission of all city departments– not just the usual suspects like sustainability and environmental affairs.

Boulder leaders are designing and implementing a series of workshops that build a shared commitment to climate change preparation and resilience. The interactive workshops bring together people from every city department to interact with scientists and climate professionals. Together they consider the local impacts of climate change, develop a shared understanding of the range and impacts of future changes, and explore how each individual department can prepare for those impacts.  The workshops also promise to develop new collaborative approaches where multiple city departments work together on sector specific issues that they all impact (e.g. climate impacts on forestry).  However, it could also branch out to coordinating with city residents to develop joint approaches with multiple benefits. For example, in other cities, Health and Human Services and the Parks Department have launched evening events that bring people out of their homes and into cooler parks on hot evenings. Not only does it help residents cope with heat, it builds social connectedness.


TEX staff are part of the team that planned these workshops, and TEX and Boulder plan to work together to share the workshop template with other communities. Boulder is contributing to TEX for this work, and TEX will use that funding to support work with communities who have less financial resources.



Boulder, CO at AGU Fall Meeting

The City of Boulder created a poster to share the goals and outcomes of their TEX collaboration at the 2016 AGU Fall Meeting. Click here to download the poster!


Developing Capacity for Cities to Adapt to a Changing Climate–a Case Study in Boulder, Colorado


fm16thumbnailThe City of Boulder in Colorado has undertaken many progressive climate-related initiatives, from signing the Kyoto protocol to passing a Climate Action Tax. But as the city prepared to launch its Climate Commitment document and lead a community process, it realized that one critical group that had not been fully engaged in the process was its own staff. It became clear that for organizational change to occur and for the city to meet its goals, city staff needed to develop a deeper understanding of the importance of the climate goals while also learning better how to use these goals to guide their long-term planning.

In early 2016, the city launched a year-long “Climate Leaders” initiative which comprised of a series of workshops that brought together over 70 staff members with climate scientists and experts in climate adaptation planning. The first two workshops, billed as Climate 101 and 201, reviewed the best available scientific information about climate threats and potential impacts, and worked with participants to understand how climate changes could affect diverse city functions. These interactive workshops also explored ways to help city staff feel comfortable preparing for a significantly different climate and discussed ways to communicate this information to the public.

From there the group split into two tracks. A “mitigation” track focused on the ways in which Boulder could meet its aggressive emissions reduction targets. The “adaptation” track developed integrated scenarios for citywide planning to highlight Boulder’s vulnerability to climate change and guide adaptation planning.

Bringing these two conversations together is helping city staff to explore critical linkages between mitigation and adaptation, develop common messages to build community support for climate action, and inform comprehensive climate resiliency planning.

We will describe how Boulder successfully partnered with scientists and planning experts to program a year of interactive workshops to bring diverse city staff into the climate action process. We will share outcomes from the development of the integrated climate scenarios vulnerability assessment and adaptation planning. Lastly we will share key lessons learned that will be valuable to other cities and jurisdictions engaging in similar climate action.




All updates for this project

Project Team

Community Leads


NasonMAphoto_150x190MaryAnn Nason is the City of Boulder Water Conservation and Outreach Coordinator. MaryAnn manages programs including water conservation, flood safety, stormwater pollution prevention and other water related outreach programs (wastewater, water treatment, etc.). She holds a B.A. from the University of Colorado in Environmental Studies.



SandsRphoto_150x190Russ Sands is the City of Boulder Watershed Sustainability & Outreach Supervisor. Russ currently manages a team of 6 Public Works/Utilities staff and is charge of the Water Conservation, Stormwater Quality and Utility Outreach Programs for Public Works/Utilities. The latter has not only includes flood and drought outreach efforts but increasingly focuses on building interdepartmental connections that seek to leverage and support larger city and community goals around climate, resilience and sustainability. He holds a B.S in Environmental Science from Metropolitan State University of Denver.

GuibertGphoto_150x190Greg Guibert is Boulder’s first Chief Resilience Officer. Prior to his appointment, Greg worked at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) as a risk and development project specialist to develop and manage innovative projects that address complex social and environmental challenges at the intersection of science, policy, and practice. Greg holds a Master’s of Urban and Environmental Planning from the University of Virginia and a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Vassar College in New York.



Brett KenCairn is the City of Boulder’s Senior Environment and Climate Planner. He has worked throughout the western US in community-based natural resource management and sustainable development.  As Senior Environment and Climate Planner for the City of Boulder, Brett is responsible for coordinating the development of the community climate action plan and the city organization climate change preparation strategy and participates as a team member on the city’s clean energy development team.


TEX Liaison


Dr. Rajul (Raj) Pandya is the director of AGU’s Thriving Earth Exchange. Prior to working with AGU, Raj worked as the Director of Education and Outreach at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Raj has been lucky enough to lead internships and mentor students, teach in college and high school, do research with communities internationally and in the US, and work on digital libraries. He has published in areas including thunderstorms, student learning, workforce development, diversity in science, citizen-science, and public health.