A Guest Opinion Piece on Global Warming

Guest opinion: Clean energy and climate bill needed now
Story Discussion Submitted by 12 Montana conservation groups | Posted: Sunday, June 6, 2010 12:00 am |

As oil washes ashore on our magnificent wildlife refuges in one of our most productive fisheries, unemployed workers across the country look for scarce jobs and the science of global warming becomes more compelling by the day, polls show a majority of Americans want climate change addressed and for polluters to pay their fair share.

We, the undersigned organizations, representing thousands of members throughout Montana, are part of this majority who want action now. We are united in our belief that there remains a window of opportunity to reduce the emissions that cause global warming before the costs of doing nothing overwhelm us. We call for the U.S. Senate to pass — and President Obama to sign — strong climate and clean energy legislation this year. The longer Congress waits, the more difficult it will be to reduce the “overflow” of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; doing the job will then become more abrupt, more painful, and more expensive.

Relative to the rest of the country, Montana suffers disproportionately from the climate crisis. We have an economy built around our stunning vistas, abundant wildlife, healthy farms and ranches, high mountains and creeks, rivers and lakes fed by snowmelt. Already we know that our springtime snow pack has declined as much as 40 percent in the last half century. A 2009 aerial survey showed that 60 percent of the Helena National Forest is infested with mountain pine beetles spurred on by warmer winter temperatures. Scientists have reported a link between global warming and the severity and frequency of wildfires in the American West, especially the Northern Rockies.

Given those facts, we need action now. The U.S. House of Representatives passed climate legislation last year. Currently there are a number of bills in the U.S. Senate, and now is the time to pull together the very best ideas and create a bill that does the job for our country and beyond.

We cannot wait. Without a nationwide declining pollution cap in place, we are left with sporadic, uneven, and unpredictable state efforts. Action by the federal government can produce the framework necessary to help clean energy alternatives become more affordable and attract further private investment. This will allow us to transition away from fossil fuels and protect consumers in the process.

Throughout Montana citizens from disparate walks of life are adding their voices of concern about the impact of global climate change on our economy and way of life:

* Farmers are concerned about warmer temperatures, the resulting dry conditions and increased range of insects and diseases affecting crops and animals;

* Solar, wind, and energy efficiency companies in Montana are ready to further expand their businesses, and federal action would spur on their critical job-creating activities;

* Montana veterans are concerned about oil money flowing into the coffers of unfriendly nations, pointing to growing Pentagon concern about climate-linked political instability;

* Youth graduating from high schools, colleges and universities are eager for new employment opportunities in the clean energy economy;

* Native people are concerned about the impact climate change-induced drought will have on arid reservations and tribal lands, and

* Medical professionals are speaking out about the threat from rising temperatures, cited by a leading medical journal as the top threat to public health in the 21st century.

There isn’t a day to waste. We are calling on Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester to lead the efforts to support prompt development and passage of clean energy and climate legislation that will create thousands of new jobs in Montana, protect our environment, and enhance our national security. We need this now.

— Lead author Ryan Busse, chair of Montana Conservation Voters, may be reached at 197 Riverview Dr. in Kalispell. Other groups signing off on this piece are Montana Audubon, National Wildlife Federation, Montana chapter of Sierra Club, Montana Environmental Information Center, Alternative Energy Resources Organization, Montana Trout Unlimited, Montana chapter of Climate Solutions, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environment Montana, Rural Votes and Repower Montana.

Posted in Columnists on Sunday, June 6, 2010 12:00 am Updated: 2:27 pm.

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