Climate Change: Impacting Our World and Our Work

More than any year in recent memory, 2020 demonstrated the necessity for collaboration. While COVID-19 presented the most salient example of why a collaborative approach to problem-solving is critical in a connected world, other global events–such as ongoing trade wars, famines, wildfires, water shortages, polio eradication in Africa, and online education–are similarly instructive. Based in Boulder, CDR was in close proximity to the wildfires that blazed through Colorado this summer. Experts attribute the increase in wildfires nationwide to climate change, a global problem of ever-increasing significance, and one that CDR navigates across all of its practice areas. Here, we’ll take a look at how CDR is bringing collaborative problem-solving to the fight against climate change in the transportation, land management, and water arenas. 

Transportation: A transformation in the mobility and transportation sector has been occurring for years. As emissions from vehicles contribute to climate change, there is a need to find creative solutions that reduce emissions and move toward carbon neutral or even “climate positive” industry norms. These ambitious goals increasingly intersect not just with CDR’s transportation projects, but also with our organizational values around building a sustainable and equitable future. 

CDR has expertise in a wide variety of transportation projects––including interdisciplinary planning and environmental processes (NEPA, PEL, CSS, etc.), and community transportation plans––yet our focus is on meeting the challenge of climate change, namely emerging mobility and multimodal planning. Communities across Colorado are planning for a more sustainable future by fast tracking projects that will prepare them for less reliance on fossil fuels and overall improved climate outcomes. Projects such as Electric Vehicle Readiness Plans, inter-city passenger rail, transit and bicycle and pedestrian-focused projects all fit under this umbrella. This is exciting news for the fight against climate change and for the future of transportation. CDR’s public engagement expertise benefits our clients and communities on these projects by allowing agencies and local governments to better understand public sentiment around change, which in turn allows impactful climate-related transportation policy to be informed and crafted with the public playing a key role. 

Land Management: Conservation, sustainability, resource management––these are common themes in CDR’s land management projects. They are crucial concepts when thinking about climate change mitigation, especially in planning for the utilization and conservation of public lands. While the human health and economic impacts are generally the first to be considered in climate change scenarios, it’s the wildlife––namely plants and animals––that will continue to bear the brunt of this human-caused phenomenon. 

With this in mind, CDR is warding off negative impacts of climate change through effective land management, not just for humans but also for our furry and botanical friends. As the facilitator for the Colorado Wildlife and Transportation Alliance, CDR works with multiple agencies, including Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), to stymie undesirable changes to the state’s ecosystem. One aspect of the Alliance’s mission is to ensure and enhance wildlife habitat connectivity through transportation planning that accounts for wildlife movement. Such planning, when implemented, allows big game animals like deer and elk to maintain their centuries-old migration patterns amid the encroachment of society. In other land management projects––whether facilitating the Master Planning process for a new state park or working to conserve and enhance the network of biospheres––CDR is continually thinking about how a collaborative approach can be leveraged toward climate change strategies and solutions. 

Water: Climate change and water are intrinsically linked. While on a global scale scientists have long been raising the alarm about melting ice caps and rising ocean levels, the flipside of the same coin are water shortages, prolonged drought, and desertification. For inland geographies like Colorado, reduced snowpack and snowmelt have led to severe drought throughout the state. CDR works with experts in the field and community leaders to develop solutions and programs in the water arena. Managing the outreach component of the State’s investigation into demand management for the Colorado River Upper Basin, CDR brings together experts and stakeholders to determine how Colorado’s growing demand for water can be adequately addressed in years to come. CDR also leads the strategic planning effort between Colorado State University and Denver Water to design the Western Water Policy Institute, which will focus on solving critical water problems through policies that rise to meet the challenge of rapid global change, including climate- and growth-induced impacts to Colorado. 

If 2020 taught us anything it’s that we have to work together when facing global challenges––and climate change is the biggest global challenge of the century. How we rise to meet it will depend on our collective ability to coalesce around a common cause, connect the best scientific data with decision-making, and develop policies at scale that lead to sustainable solutions. CDR is committed to continuing this critical work. 

Written by CDR’s Daniel Estes (