Montana is melting and its politicians refuse to do anything about it
The Robertson Draw Fire burns near the Shetler property. (Courtesy Paul Thomas)
It’s almost impossible to believe, but while Montanans are melting in record-high, triple-digit temperatures in June, mining and burning more coal as well as drilling and burning more oil and gas continues to be recklessly promoted by our politicians who are apparently blind to the severe drought, blistering temperatures, and insect infestations as the climate-destroying cycle of fossil-fuel production and consumption continues.
Given the increasingly negative effects on our overheated planet, one might wonder how it’s possible that we are still being told we’ll magically transition to a carbon-free society by 2050. That’s 29 years from now and the planet is already warming much faster than previously predicted in ways that weren’t even contemplated, let alone quantified. The resulting feedback loops are now widening the impacts far beyond temperature and sea level rise as Siberian and Alaskan permafrost melts, releasing vast quantities of methane, a far more potent global warming gas than carbon dioxide.
In turn, that traps more heat, melts more permafrost, and, well, you get the picture.
Closer to home the impacts are likewise undeniable. Last week’s column discussed the dire situation for Montana’s brown trout and other coldwater fisheries as our rivers and streams, already suffering from early snowmelt and low flows, are increasingly dewatered for irrigation, causing water temperatures to shoot up to lethal levels for trout. If anyone doubted the enormity of the problem, this recent article detailing the lowest levels of brown trout in 20 years in the famed Madison River should put such doubts to rest.
And of course here come the wildfires — totally unabated by the phony “thinning” or even clearcutting of our vanishing state and national forests.
Faced with these multiple climate crises, what are Montana’s politicians doing? Well, our Republican-dominated legislature spent enormous amounts of time and energy trying fruitlessly to “save” the outdated environmental disaster of the Colstrip power plants — even going so far as to attempt to interfere in longstanding contracts between private corporate entities and telling power plant owners Montana’s attorney general will demand certain maintenance that they must perform.
We may not know what the future holds, but there’s one thing of which we can be certain — it will be worse thanks to our politicians who, ignoring science and increasing impacts, are addicted to the dead-end path of producing and burning more fossil fuels.
George Ochenski writes from Helena.
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