Guest Opinions

Idaho must take climate change seriously

Thank you, Idaho Statesman, for your series on climate change in Idaho. The articles contained much good information, although in places, heavy lipstick was painted on the climate change pig, to include spotlighting North Idaho vintners doing a bang-up business due to the warming planet, and the headline “Warming planet doesn’t necessarily mean disaster here.” Since I’ve been working on climate change in Idaho, it has been hard not to notice the outright denial of the problem in our state, or at least a marked tendency to gloss over the catastrophic effects that are headed our way, or already here.

Did you notice some scary stuff in the articles? Here are a few projections for Idaho: agriculture altered, salmon closer to extinction, climate refugees, decreased snowpack, lower flows and higher temps in mountain streams, Idaho forests turned to grasslands and destroyed by fire, insects and drought, serious water issues, decreasing food production, increasing extinction. I was surprised by Shell Oil and Monsanto being held up as climate role models. Just how out of touch are we in Idaho?

Which brings me to the last installment of the series, focusing on the Idaho Legislature. Legislators in powerful positions that could develop policy that would help Idaho with climate change rely on Rush Limbaugh as an information source, and also on The Heartland Institute, which is the primary American supporter of climate change denial, rejecting the scientific consensus that global warming is happening and that it’s human driven. Although it was not mentioned, I would guess that many of Idaho legislators denying climate change are influenced by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), funded by the billionaire Koch Brothers who make their money on fossil fuels, and have a direct financial interest in denying climate change. Follow the money, Idahoans. The Democratic legislators mentioned apparently recognize climate change, but are drained of any faith they can do something about it in their minority position. Well, Idaho is not alone. As reported in the British publication The Guardian, “the Republican Party stands alone worldwide in its rejection of the need to tackle climate change ....”

Why don’t our legislators consult with some of the experts mentioned in the series? Such as: John Abatzoglou and Jeffrey Hicke, professors at U of I; Ken Miller with Snake River Alliance; Aimee Christensen, investments professional; NOAA scientist Cliff Mass. Experts like these could help the Legislature develop policy in Idaho that might guide us through the debacle of climate change. Rush Limbaugh, the Heartland Institute and ALEC have no interest in the welfare of Idahoans. Their god is money.

News flash: Idaho is part of the Earth, and subject to the effects of climate change that will be experienced everywhere. While we may have some advantages in dealing with climate change, we must face the problem and devise solutions now, before the damage is irreversible. Much of it already is.

So what can we do? First, we must act individually and as families to decrease carbon emissions. From my research, the most effective steps we could take would be to change our diets by limiting beef and dairy, reduce emissions caused by transportation, and convert to solar if possible. Also, we must watch our Legislature and elected officials closely, and require them to develop policy in Idaho that reduces global warming, to include furthering the development of solar and other clean energy. Our Legislature and elected leaders, mostly Republicans, have run our state according to their own interests for too long. This must change. This is not about politics — it’s about survival.

Alyson R. Martin, J.D., of Boise, is a Climate Reality leader for Climate Reality Project and founder of