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Images of extreme climate impacts in Boulder County. Fire, flood, invasive species

Climate Change in Boulder County

Boulder County is committed to finding ways to meet our growing energy demand while protecting the environment and maintaining economic vitality and vibrant communities. We are also committed to making sure that our residents have the information and resources necessary to use less energy, save money and make the best possible energy choices. This includes knowing how to pick the most energy efficient products and appliances, improve the efficiency of homes and commercial buildings, use alternative transportation and much more.

Local Effects

Cold Springs Fire

Boulder County and other Colorado communities are already experiencing the impacts of a warming climate.

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Health Effects

Jogger in Open Space

The change in local climate can have negative effects on the health of Boulder County residents.

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Local Effects of Climate Change

There is increasing scientific evidence that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere are exerting a profound effect on the Earth’s climate: increasing extreme weather events, changing rainfall and crop productivity patterns, and fueling the migration of infectious diseases.

Boulder County and other Colorado communities are already experiencing the impacts of a warming climate in the form of reduced snowpack, earlier snowmelt, increased risk of high intensity wildfires, extreme weather events, and an increased number of “high heat” days.

The direct effects of global warming on our quality of life in Colorado are a real cause for concern. According to the University of Colorado at Boulder Research Center, local effects of global warming may include:

  • Hotter summers. By 2050 it is predicted that more than half the summer will be at 95 degree temperatures or hotter.
  • Warmer winters, with a thinner snow-pack and earlier spring runoff.
  • More precipitation in the form of rain rather than snow.
  • Longer periods of drought.
  • More wildfires, burning twice as many acres each year as compared to before 1980.
  • Increased frequency and intensity of flooding events. Boulder County and county residents are still recovering from the 2013 Flood. Culverts, roadways, and bridges are still being repaired.
  • Widespread beetle infestations wiping out pine forests, and die-off in aspen stands.
  • Water shortages. Colorado’s precipitation has decreased 20% in the last century, and water supplies are already stretched thin. The mountain snowpack serves as a natural reservoir. Less snow, melting earlier, could leave Boulder County with less water during hotter summers.
  • Health problems. Increases in summer temperatures also cause increases in the formation of ozone. Ozone can affect human health by reducing lung function, aggravating asthma, and causing permanent lung damage in children and adults.
  • Economic impacts. It is estimated that it will cost Boulder County tens of millions in road damage from increases in heat. In addition to roads, a majority of the climate scenarios project increased water flow, which will result inforecasted millions in improvements to Boulder County bridges.
  • Impacts on vulnerable populations. In addition to health impacts, it is more of a strain on low-income residents to recover financially from the loss of a primary residence and renters have a hard time finding affordable housing.

Health Effects of Climate Change

Climate change can influence the health of those who live, work, and play in Boulder County.

  • Poor air quality can affect aggravated cardiovascular, respiratory, and allergy-related illness and lead to:
    • More doctor or hospital visits for asthma caused by more frequent wildfires
    • Increased length and severity of allergy seasons
    • Higher temperatures, leading to more high ozone days when air quality is poor
  • Death, physical injury, and exposure, which can result from:
    • Increased frequency and intensity of flooding and precipitation events:
      • The 2013 Flood resulted in 2 deaths in Boulder County, nearly 19,000 damaged homes, and more than 1,500 destroyed homes.
    • More intense wildfires that can destroy more homes:
      • In Boulder County, 6 wildfires since 1989 have destroyed 260 homes and other structures.
    • Increased frequency and duration of droughts:
      • Rising temperatures and recent droughts in the region have killed many trees by drying out soils, increasing the risk of forest fires, or enabling outbreaks of forest insects.
      • In the coming decades, the changing climate is likely to decrease water availability and agricultural yields in Colorado, further increasing the risk of wildfires (What Climate Change Means for Colorado, EPA, August 2016).
  • Dehydration, heat stroke, and aggravated cardiovascular and respiratory illness:
    • Children, the elderly, and Boulder County residents living in poverty are more vulnerable to heat-related illness.
    • In the Denver area, the annual frequency of 100 degree days has increase by more than 250% on average since 1967-1999. With continued high emissions, Denver could experience extreme heat that similar to temperatures in Tucson.
  • Vector-borne disease can result in increased number and intensity of West Nile virus, hantavirus, and tick-related diseases.
  • Waterborne disease includes giardiasis, cryptosporidiosis, and schistosomiasis.

Boulder County’s Response

Boulder County is committed to addressing global climate change at the local level. The county has completed the following actions to demonstrate this commitment and contribute to informed decision making:

  • Conducted greenhouse gas inventories for 2005 and 2011 to identify the main emission sources and to identify opportunities to reduce emissions. The latest inventory is now current as of 2016.
  • Approved by resolution the Sustainable Energy Plan (SEP) in 2008, and the county set out to implement actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The SEP is now replaced by the Environmental Sustainability Plan.
  • Adopted a Climate Change Preparedness Plan in 2012 to help Boulder County and its communities become resilient to the anticipated effects of climate change.
  • Adopted the Environmental Sustainability Plan in 2013, which was subsequently updated in 2018. The Climate Section of the plan describes community-wide climate action strategies.
  • In 2018, completed a Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Emission Reductions Strategies report with an updated greenhouse gas Inventory (with 2016 data), emission reduction opportunities, and new long-term emission reduction goals.

Contact Us

Office of Sustainability, Climate Action & Resilience

OSCAR Team Members


Boulder County Courthouse
First Floor
1325 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO 80302
Map & Directions

Hours: 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. M-F

Mailing Address

PO Box 471
Boulder, CO 80306