Montanans don’t have to look very far to see the effects of global warming. Our summers are hotter, and wildfires are getting more intense and destructive. Wildlife habitat is changing. Our grandchildren will probably never see any glaciers in Glacier Park. And early run-off of the snow pack means that by mid-summer, ranchers, farmers and recreationists are competing for less water in our rivers.
Montanans want to do their part to stop global warming by reducing their emissions of green house gasses, which come mainly from the production and use of energy. But the fact is that acting alone, we can’t accomplish much at all; we are just too small a part of the problem. Only the whole nation and world, acting together, can slow the pace of climate change.
We need a comprehensive Federal law to strictly limit emissions so that in Montana we know that our actions will be part of a meaningful collective effort, and not simply pointless self-sacrifice. The Governor and Legislature should do everything they can to see that a Federal law to cap emissions passes.
Unfortunately, the US Senate has simply been unwilling or unable to put in place the tough measures that are needed to solve the problem. Too often, Republican political leaders even deny, despite mounting scientific evidence, that there is a problem. The prospects for any immediate action are not good, and the longer we put off acting, the harder and more disruptive will be the action we will have to take. When the Federal government does act, we will have our work cut out for us as we figure out how best to reduce our emissions, and it would be a mistake not to start thinking and acting on the problem right now.
There are lots of possibilities here of course – driving hybrid cars, insulating homes and businesses, generating electricity with wind, switching to renewable fuels like biodiesel, and sequestering the green house gasses coming from coal-fired power plants are all examples.
There are many ways in which state government can make it easier for people to deal with emissions caps. These may involve education and training, university research, regulatory and tax changes, and financial support for families and businesses that invest in conservation and efficiency.
What if the Federal government fails to act? Then Montana will have to move forward anyway, in the company of other states that have decided not to wait. We have put in place measures are intended to reduce emissions, and although they get us going in the right direction, they don’t go far enough.
If the Federal government fails to cap emissions, Montana, either alone or in compacts with other states, will have to do so itself.