Most people in Idaho believe climate change will not impact them. They think polar bears may be in trouble, or that people that live along the coast may have problems, but they don’t think it will cause problems in Idaho anytime soon.
In reality, climate change is already impacting most of us in one way or another. Anyone who buys insurance is seeing the cost increase. More storms, more fires, more floods; about 5 times more severe weather events than we had 50 years ago. This means higher insurance premiums.
Federal agencies are having to cut back on road maintenance, campground maintenance and nearly everything else because they are spending nearly half of their budget fighting fires. City, county, and state governments are having to increase taxes and/or reduce services with the added costs from severe storms.
Lyme disease, the Zika Virus and West Nile Virus have moved north as the weather has warmed. Pine beetles and other bugs now kill more trees causing lumber prices to climb and the warmer weather is leading to larger and hotter wildfires. More bugs equals more problems with diseases, and more cost trying to kill the bugs.
More invasive weeds are expanding as the summers get hotter and drier. Native plants are slowly being crowded out. Landowners and land managers are spending more money every year trying to hold back weeds that continue to advance as conditions get warmer.
Food prices will climb as many agricultural lands are flooded in the spring, and then subjected to severe drought during the summer. Farmers that irrigate will have an increasingly hard time getting enough water most summers. Ocean acidification is reducing seafood production. Many commercially fished ocean species are in perilous decline, and as they decrease, the cost of seafood rises.
Hunters and anglers are seeing changes as extreme swings in the climate impact wildlife populations. Last winter it was the heavy snow that killed many animals. Trout populations decline as water temperatures become hotter. Most of Idaho’s sockeye salmon died last year because the rivers got to hot. Steelhead and chinook salmon now struggle to find cold water as they attempt to migrate back to Idaho. Moose populations across much of North American are declining as tick infestations expand, stressing the animals to the point of death.
Airlines are having to cancel flights because it’s too hot to take off.
And in many areas of the United States it’s simply too hot to enjoy being outdoors in the summertime.
Climate change is no hoax. It’s real, the impacts are beginning to be felt by many of us, and burning fossil fuels is the cause.
Climate change doesn’t have to be bad news. We just have to start addressing the problem. There is a simple, conservative, market-based solution. Place an annually increasing fee on fossil fuels, return that fee as a monthly dividend to every household, and put a border tax on carbon based fuels. Over two-thirds of Americans would come out ahead, our economy would improve, and we would immediately start reducing our input of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
Contact your Congressman and tell them it is well past the time we should take action.
Mike Larkin of Pocatello has worked in natural resource management for over 30 years and has degrees from Utah State University and the University of Idaho.