When political ideology clashes with sound science, science is often the loser.
During the 2017 Legislature, we saw that play out in two very different events. Back in February, a House panel stripped five paragraphs from Idaho’s K-12 science education standards because they contained language about climate change and humans’ negative effect on the environment.
Then in the middle of March, more than 600 citizens came to the Capitol for a public hearing about climate change.
In the first event, state lawmakers, who have no expertise in science, used political ideology to tinker with science standards written by actual scientists.
In the second event, local scientists presented peer-reviewed, scientifically vetted data describing the process of climate change and the negative effects it will have on the great state of Idaho.
As one of the scientists said at the climate change hearing, “Ice doesn’t have a political agenda.” In other words, a warming atmosphere doesn’t care if you believe that it’s happening or not — ice becomes water at 32 degrees either way.
What does that prescribe for Idaho? Longer, warmer summers will contribute to longer fire seasons with bigger fires, impacting our state’s air quality and threatening tight budgets. An earlier snowmelt will create challenges for water managers, which will impact farmers, particularly those with junior water rights. A shorter snow season will have major impacts on ski areas such as Bogus Basin, where a quarter of its receipts are collected between Christmas and New Year’s.
These are existential threats to Idaho’s economy and quality of life. The science behind climate change is voluminous — crossing scientific disciplines, international borders and surviving peer-review and intense scrutiny.
The verdict is in. And it’s time we prepare for the impact of climate change while we act to prevent any further harm to our livelihoods and Idaho way of life. However, before we can take a step forward, we must have a Legislature that is willing to discuss the issue without seeking the blinders of political ideology.
Idaho deserves to be governed by politicians who defer to the facts established by the process of scientific discovery and verification. It’s not about winning an argument or demonstrating the righteousness or foolishness of any political party. It’s about the future of the place we call home.
I believe that’s something we can all support.
Rialin Flores is the Legislative Associate at Conservation Voters for Idaho, which works to hold elected officials accountable for their votes on the environment.