“After the final no there comes a yes and on that yes the future of the world hangs” ~Wallace Stevens
Local Impacts of Climate Change
The climate has changed in Montana but people and governments around the world and here in Montana are embracing solutions and reducing their carbon footprints. As we work for more clean energy, more efficiency and more effective laws to slow and eventually arrest these changes, please use this local-impacts information sheet to discuss this urgent issue with legislators.
What follows is a 2015 document from The Climate Reality Project titled, “What does climate change mean for Montana?,” that lists some of local impacts of climate change.
By mid-century (2041-2070) in the Northern Great Plains, the number of days per year exceeding 95° F is expected to increase by 19 to 28 days or more under low and high emissions scenarios, respectively, above the 1971-2000 average of seven days.
Since 1955, average temperatures in Montana have risen about 4° F in spring, 3° F in winter, and more than 1° F in summer.
At higher elevations, in the Rocky Mountains in the west of the state, temperature increases have been three times greater than the global average over the last century.
Average annual temperatures statewide are projected to increase four times faster than the last five decades, rising by 5° F by 2040; summer temperatures are projected to increase by 7° F or more.
The spring of 2011 was Montana’s all-time wettest, with record rain and snowmelt flooding much of the Crow Reservation due to the overflowing of the Missouri River. The state historically receives less than 15 inches of precipitation annually.
The number of heavy precipitation days is predicted to increase by one day or more by mid-century, especially in the Rocky Mountain West that lies beyond the traditional agriculture zone.
More than 70 percent of the Plains’ land area is devoted to agriculture, but crop suitability may change with increased temperatures and extreme heat events, increased droughts, decreased soil moisture and water availability, and invasive weed and pest species.
The increased number of warm days has altered flowering patterns in the Plains—the pollen season for ragweed extended up to 16 days between 1995 and 2009.
The Great Plains region is expected to see a shift in habitat locations and an increase in susceptibility to West Nile Virus as a result of a changing climate.
The namesake icons of Glacier National Park may be completely melted by 2020 due to increased temperatures and increased rainfall over snowfall.
What is Montana Doing About It?
In 2009, Montana released the state’s Climate Action Plan, outlining 54 recommendations to help lessen the state’s contribution to climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
Montana is one of 29 states that have a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) policy mandating that a certain percentage of the state’s electricity come from clean energy sources.
The RPS covers nearly two-thirds of the state’s electricity sales, requiring utilities with more than 50 customers to obtain at least 15 percent of their electricity sales from sources of renewable energy (excluding large hydroelectric projects) by 2015, and for every year thereafter. The state gets a significant amount of its electricity from hydropower, but also generates six percent from wind energy. More than 42 percent of the state’s electricity came from renewable energy in 2013.
Montana has enacted a Mandatory Utility Green Power Option policy, requiring that the state’s regulated utilities offer their customers the option of purchasing certifiable, environmentally-preferred electricity generated by renewable sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass.
At the end of 2013, there were 645 megawatts (MW) of wind capacity, enough to power more than 160,000 average Montanan homes with 20 MW of capacity under construction. The state has tremendous wind energy resources. If fully exploited, wind could provide nearly 100 times the state’s annual electricity needs.
The Good News……!
If Montana and the rest of the world take action and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions dramatically, through the promotion of clean energy, many of the worst impacts will be avoided. Clean energy and efficiency retrofits needed to address this crisis create jobs that cannot be outsourced, benefitting us all.