In Montana’s hot, smoky moment of truth, the Republican governor is focused on streamlining regulation to encourage innovation. Advocates for climate action say that’s not nearly enough.
etween an expansive drought bringing rivers and soil moisture to alarmingly low levels, a series of heat waves that have set scores of temperature records across the region, and a fast and furious start to a wildfire season that’s obscured many Montana horizons behind a haze of smoke, this summer has announced itself as a tipping point for conversations on climate change.
The ways that politicians — Republicans in particular — talk about climate change is undergoing a shift as well, with a growing number of conservative policy makers acknowledging the scientific consensus on the role humans play in the warming climate.
Among them is Montana’s Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte, whose responsibility for issuing disaster declarations gives him a front-row seat to many of the impacts researchers have long warned of. He’s issued two such, regarding drought and wildfire, in the past six weeks.
“When you start affecting health, finances and quality of life, people will take action and politicians will have to follow. We are in an incredible moment of crisis, and this crisis should not be wasted.”
CLIMATE CONSULTANT ANDREA ZANON
As Montana’s top executive, Gianforte has the ability to influence energy policy and set statewide targets for emissions that experts say are significant contributors to the drought, heat waves and wildfires ravaging the West this summer. The actions he takes or doesn’t take during his time in office will help define the state’s role in addressing those impacts.
According to the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which is based on more than 14,000 studies and approved by 195 governments, immediate action to reduce greenhouse gases is required to spare the planet’s population from the most dire outcomes. The report, released Aug. 9, establishes a connection between human influence and climate change impacts seen in the American West, including an increase in heat extremes and droughts. Baylor Fox-Kemper, a professor of earth, environmental…