Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

CIRES Director Rafts, Talks Climate Resilience, with Western Senators

CU Boulder climate scientist Waleed Abdalati, a professor of geography and director of CIRES, rafted a stretch of the Colorado River Saturday with senators Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah), to talk about how Western communities can build greater resilience to climate and weather extremes.

Bennet and Romney’s staff convened enough people to fill 7 rafts with ranchers, business leaders, environmentalists, policy experts, a Tribal chairman, and others from across Colorado and Utah.

“Days like today are why I feel optimistic that we will find a way forward on our climate challenges, and why I feel strongly that the West has to lead in this endeavor,” Bennet said.

Romney agreed: “The changing climate means that we are going to have to rethink how we solve the West’s water challenges, and today’s trip was an opportunity to begin to build consensus toward addressing them,” he said.

The two-state, bipartisan team floated more than six hours along the “Moab Daily” section of the river above Moab, Utah. The run would normally take five hours or less, but low water meant a slower ride. As director of a research institute that includes experts in Western water, wildfire, weather and climate and more, Abdalati’s primary role was to lay out what scientists know about how the Western environment is already changing and likely to change in the future.

“More heat, more wildfire, more drought...” Abdalati said. “Unfortunately, our stage is set with some really challenging, and potentially devastating, physical realities, but when the creativity and ingenuity of all interested parties—ranchers, scientists, tribal leaders, water managers, political leaders and others—come together, what has the potential to be a story of devastation can become a story of great success. I greatly appreciated being a part of this diverse, committed, and distinguished group to discuss paths to success.”

CIRES is a partnership of NOAA and CU Boulder.

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