Letters from the West

University of Idaho offers reliable, accessible information on climate change

If you want to see the two competing views of climate change, two videos tell the story.

The one that says climate change is a human-caused challenge that can be fixed by dramatically reducing greenhouse gases is “Before the Flood,” which you can see at the Boise State University Special Events Center at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, sponsored by the Idaho Sierra Club, BSU Sustainability Club and Climate Change Club.

Or you can watch on YouTube the one recommended by Lowman engineer and author Jeff Wright, “The Great Global Warming Swindle,” which says man-made global warming is a hoax.

Scientists at NASA, the National Academy of Sciences and at the University of Idaho know it is not a hoax. Natural resource professionals and citizens across Idaho have noticed changes in recent decades: bigger wildfires, later frosts, earlier blooming lilacs, decreased snowpack. To demonstrate how these changes connect with climate science, a group of current and former University of Idaho researchers launched the website Indicators of Idaho’s Changing Climate.

The site, found at www.idahoclimate.org, is designed to help resource managers, government agencies, nonprofit groups, community leaders and members of the public track observed changes in Idaho’s climate and its discernible effects on natural resources.

“Our goal with the project was to provide the science that Idahoans told us they need — the kind of science that helps us make sense of the changes we’ve seen already across our landscapes, and with enough detail to allow Idahoans to plan for the changes to come so that we can make informed decisions and not get caught off-guard,” said Zion Klos, who led the project while earning his doctorate in the U of I College of Natural Resources and is now a postdoctoral researcher at University of California, Santa Barbara.

The researchers compiled statewide observations from 1975 to 2010 to illustrate trends for the climate indicators that survey participants ranked as being pertinent to the state: temperature and growing season, rainfall, snowpack, stream flow, stream temperature, wildfire, plants and forests, salmon migration, and wildlife.

This is not simply science wrapped up in computer models and forecasts untied to conditions on the ground. These are the documented changes and the effects Idaho scientists have observed.

This is where foresters go to get the information they need to plant the forests of the future. This is where farmers go to plan their investments over the long term. This is where water managers get their information necessary for operating reservoirs, canals and river systems. Luckily for us they don’t get their climate news from Breitbart.com.

The Indicators of Idaho’s Changing Climate website allows visitors to explore the data. The study documents significant increases in statewide temperature, the length of the growing season, forested area burned and an earlier bloom date of lilac. Many of these statewide indicators reflect observations both regionally and globally, but provide a place-based perspective and baseline for the state of Idaho.

The climate controversy for the week drummed up by Breitbart and the DailyMail.com from the UK suggests that global temperatures have “plummeted.” The Washington Post debunked the story, but not until tweets from the Drudge Report and the House Science Committee spread the disinformation.

Rocky Barker: 208-377-6484, @RockyBarker