Climate Change Melts the Rockies

Washington, D.C.-A perfect storm in the Rocky Mountains driven by population growth, a warming climate, and economic development has put both the region's ecosystems and its economy in jeopardy, according to the latest issue of World Watch magazine.

"If the Rocky Mountain states want to continue to see growing, robust economies and levels of personal income as well as the quality of life that is so appealing, then the smart money is on investing to protect natural, amenity-producing areas throughout the region from the impacts of spreading development,"  writes Lina Barrera, who examines the ways in which a changing climate is affecting this vast mountain range and its surrounding areas in the first installment of the World Watch occasional series "Portraits of Climate Change."

The average winter temperature in the U.S. West has risen roughly 1.4 degrees Celsius over the last century. Residents have witnessed the manifestations of this change in smaller mountain snowpacks, an increase in rainfall over snowfall, and a rise in winter lows.

These changes put many species with specific habitat and temperature needs at risk, but they also threaten to destroy the very natural areas that are sustaining the region's economic prosperity. Energy development, water scarcity, and growing populations all have the potential to stall the steady growth this region has enjoyed to date.


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