Our economy and our quality of life depend on addressing climate change
People are less likely to want to come to Montana if it means dealing with a smoky fire season and dried up rivers. With bad fire seasons becoming more common, plenty of tourist-based retail establishments are feeling the impact of climate change
By Beth Berlin
When I first moved to Missoula over twenty years ago, I was told by many folks that grew up here and whose parents grew up here that we regularly have two week stretches of temperatures reaching 20˚ below. I've seen some big snow storms, but I have yet to see more than a few days of weather that cold. And now we’re dealing with over two weeks of sweltering temperatures in the high 90's, breaking all kinds of temperature records nationally and in Montana. The weather here and throughout the country is changing and not for the better.
In Montana, as
temperatures get hotter, fires start raging earlier and earlier in the season
and continue well into the fall. The largest fire this season, the Southeast
Montana Complex, spread to over 300,000 acres.
We now know that much of the weather extremes we are seeing — like
record heat, severe droughts, destructive
widespread wildfires, and an increase in the number and intensity of severe
storm events— are due to global warming. One of the most conservative industries— the
insurance industry—bets on it by continuing to re-evaluate their rates based on
the increased risks of climate change. Bill Mckibben does a great shocking
rundown of these extreme events nationally in his new
piece in Rolling Stone.
In the newly released State of the Climate Report by the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Association (NOAA), researchers used a variety of approaches to analyze a half-dozen extreme weather and climate events that occurred last year. Each year this report provides updates on the changes in over three dozen major global climate indicators –or our planet’s vital signs –such as snow pack, surface temperatures and glacial mass that provide data that shows how our planet is warming. The 2011 report found that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations increased by 2.10 ppm in 2011, and exceeded 390 ppm for the first time since instrumental records began. 2011 was the hottest year on record with extreme weather events much more likely to occur in a warming world.
Why continue to put Montana’s $2.2 billion tourism and recreation economy at risk? My husband and I own a store that has operated for over 27 years selling and trading outdoor recreational gear. We depend on tourists for much of our income. But I can tell you first hand that people are less likely to want to come to Montana if it means dealing with a smoky fire season and dried up rivers. And when they don't come, we don't sell gear. With bad fire seasons becoming more common, plenty of other retail establishments, watering holes, lodging facilities, raft companies, and main street businesses are feeling the impact as well.
Let’s help the folks who continue to deny that the climate change is tied to extreme weather get their heads out of the sand and make this a priority issue. Our economy and our quality of life depend on it.