What do we have to lose?

January 7th, 2011

On December 15th 2010 The National Atmospheric and Space Agency released the global temperatures for the preceding month. The measurements were compiled and presented by The Goddard Institute of Space Studies. The same month that saw a political shift in the US government was also the warmest in the past 130 years. Once December’s temperatures are factored in, 2010 could tie 2005 as the warmest since humans have been collecting accurate data. The temperature is measured at 6300 meteorological stations and from satellite readings of ocean surface temperature. Northern Europe was 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) cooler while the Hudson Bay region of Canada was more then 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer. Where as we had a cooler, wetter summer in Montana, central Russia experienced record high temperatures. The global temperature for 2010 supports the fact that the rate of warming has not declined.



Between 1900 and 2006 Western Montana experienced a +1.33◦C (2.4◦F) rise in annual average temperatures, which is 1.8 times greater than the +0.74◦C (1◦) rise in Global temperatures. The data was collected at 9 weather stations throughout Western Montana and reflects the decrease in extreme cold events (-20 ◦ C; 0 ◦ F) and intensification in high-temperature events (32 ◦ C ; 90 ◦f). As we shovel off the walk in freezing temperatures one would not sense our region as warming. Yet when a century’s worth of data is reviewed we see a significant warmer trend. How the increased temperatures will affect our region is, of course, the big unknown.



We can take this data and look at it in a variety of ways. By outright denying it and referring to it as “mythical” or fabricated is to dismiss the scientific method and it’s importance to our lives. Another view is to accept the data and work with it in the bigger picture and try to understand how it will affect out lives.



Agriculture is Montana’s largest industry with $2.4 billion in annual revenue. The very nature of agriculture is connected to the weather and the moisture that comes with it. The past summer and the record wheat harvest are a positive indication of a wetter half-decade in our region. The changing climate and how it affects agri-business is serious stuff. If we want to protect our most vital industry, knowing of and preparing for a changing environment is of great importance.



What does the United States stand to loose if we do not address climate change? The ideas, innovation and technology needed to keep the global population 6.89 billion people (and growing) fed, clothed and sheltered are going to have to address the warmer environment. As the population continues to increase, the demands on efficiency and productivity will need to keep pace. This is an opportunity for Montana to generate jobs in the energy and technology sectors. From a business perspective, adapting to climate change is an emerging market that will experience competition from around the world. Humans have always used tools to adapt and shape the environment to their benefit. If we don’t get after designing, marketing and selling the next set of tools we’ll be left behind.



In December, Speaker Elect John Boehner eliminated the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. Energy and climate are not partisan issues. They affect all of us. As voracious consumers of all things oil, our nation would do well to lead in this pressing issue. Dismissing it will not make it go away, nor is it sound leadership.



The data regarding the planet’s temperature is not up for debate. As the late New York Senator “Pat” Moynihan pointed out, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” 

Posted in Daily Chronicle