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Climate change talk tonight at Steamboat library

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— When Tom Easley lived in Routt County from 1975 to 1983, he loved to hike and cross-country ski in the hills surrounding Steamboat Springs.

Tonight, he returns to talk about how the nature of those very activities could be changing along with the local and global climate.

Now director of programs for the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, Easley will appear at 7 p.m. today at Library Hall at Bud Werner Memorial Library in conjunction with Transition Steamboat to present the talk about climate change in our area.

Rocky Mountain Climate Organization is a nonprofit group that partners with local governments — the city of Steamboat Springs included — and Colorado companies to find solutions to climate disruption.

"When a lot of people think of climate change, they think of something that's happening somewhere else," Easley said. "But it's happening in our own backyards."

Specifically, Easley said to­­night's talk will concern the water cycle. He said U.S. Forest Service data show a trend of winter shortening by about two weeks from 20 to 30 years ago.

That means snowmelt is happening earlier, as is peak runoff.

The implications of that trend range from affecting the tourism and ski industries to disrupting forest ecosystems.

To work toward a change, Easley said outreach and education, like this presentation, are key.

"The reason it is so important to us is even though folks around the country say they would like to do things like have clean energy and reduce carbon emissions, when it gets right down to the debate over climate change, it's become such a polarized issue people have a hard time sorting out what is real," Easley said.

Transition Steamboat member John Spezia said people can decide on their own how to digest the data, but Transition Steamboat hopes for a new energy model for the area that can help mitigate harmful effects on the environment.

"We now have a real clear picture of how change in climate is affecting our local water needs," he said. "They have got data — it's not partisan data — and we can see what's going on. It's called climate change, and it's called being more energy efficient."

Spezia is a friend of Easley's and helped bring him here for the talk.

He said nonpartisan, educational events like this one can provide a forum for new ideas.

"In conversations like this, you want to get people to the table and tell them first to leave their baggage outside the door and think about the community first," he said. "The whole community."

— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com