The heat is on

Aug 262007
Authors: James Holt

Fort Collins introduced a program earlier this month that is expected to make the city more resilient to the effects of global warming – a step one CSU professor says might be a waste of time and money.

While the global warming debate continues to heat up local policy-making, Dr. William Gray says maybe the city should keep its cool.

“Apparently Fort Collins is going to have a million dollars to plan for this climate stuff,” he said earlier this month. “I don’t know what they’re going to do. . Sounds like they’ve oversold this whole climate change and global warming thing.”

The program, Climate Resilient Communities (CRC), is being led by ICLEI – Local Governments for Change, an international association of local governments committed to sustainable development. Fort Collins recently became one of only four cities in the U.S. to take part in CRC. Those communities are considered “pilot” cities, as the program is expected to expand.

“The program is to improve a community’s preparedness for the climate impacts that they’re facing now and will be facing in the near and distant future,” said Margit Hentschel, regional director for ICLEI. ” . Fort Collins has been a leader on climate change for more than 10 years.”

Gray, a world-renowned expert in hurricane prediction and atmospheric science, is infamous for being a thorn in the side of global warming theorists, despite his strong ties to the Fort Collins community.

Ultimately, Gray said, city officials should slow down until science provides more evidence.

“I’m very skeptical global warming is coming,” he said. “. And I don’t think anyone knows how to plan for it. Whether you plan for it to get warmer or colder or wetter or dryer . nobody knows what’s going to happen in the future and I don’t know how you’re going to plan for this.”

Despite debate over whether global warming is a legitimate political concern, city leaders remain optimistic in their plans to thwart climate change.

The Debate

The City Hall kickoff event featured presentations by Hentschel and Brad Udall, director of Western Water Assessment for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).

“Anybody who is paying attention can hardly open a newspaper without seeing an article on climate change,” Udall said at the event. “It’s a problem because it affects the entire way in which our current society operates . Climate change is an enormous problem that will be with us for the next 100 years.”

And “deniers” like Gray aren’t going stop the local and national movements, Udall said.

“Good skeptics play an important role in science. They knock down theories that should not stand,” he said. “But no one has been able to knock a hole in this theory, and it becomes a stronger theory as a result.”

Despite the dispute surrounding climate change, Fort Collins Mayor Doug Hutchinson, who is also part of the statewide Colorado Climate Project, stands by the city’s new program.

“The issue is not necessarily about if global warming is an absolute fact or not. Most of these things make good sense to do even independent of that issue,” Hutchinson said. “I’m a real believer that we can approach these issues in a way that is good for the climate as well as the economy. That’s a great approach.”

The Plan

Taxpayers, Hutchinson said, aren’t funding the project.

NOAA, which funds climate research across the country, is funding the program.

The CRC program follows what they call a five-milestone system to help cities “develop their capacity to identify and reduce vulnerabilities, and thus improve their resilience,” and implements the complimentary strategies of mitigation and adaptation.

Mitigation is the process of slowing and ultimately stopping the effects of climate change, which includes implementing emissions reduction plans.

Adaptation is the process of planning to make the community more climate-resilient by addressing issues of erosion and flooding, among others.

Kenne, N.H., is the most advanced city in the program and has almost completed the milestone process. Once complete, officials there will monitor and reevaluate the city’s program, which could benefit other pilot cities like Fort Collins.

Hentschel and Udall said water management is the primary focus of the CRC program in Fort Collins.

“Adapting to climate change in water resources will be a challenge,” Udall said. “Particularly because of population change in this region. . Every drop of water in this region is claimed by somebody.”

For more information about the program, visit

Staff writer James Holt can be reached at

Graphic Idea:

ICLEI’s 5-Milestone Climate Resilient Communities Program


1. Conduct a Climate Resiliency Study

2. Prioritize Areas for Action and Set Goals

3. Develop a Climate Resilient Action Plan

4. Improve the Plan

5. Monitor and Reevaluate

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