By Sherry Devlin/Missoula Current
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock led a chorus of state and regional environmental groups in condemning President Trump’s decision Thursday to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord.
In a written statement, Bullock called the move “short-sighted and dangerous” and out of step with what Montanans from all walks of life know to be true.
“Ask any Montana farmer, rancher, hunter, angler or skier – climate change is real and poses a threat to our economy and our way of life,” the governor said. “To not acknowledge that or deal with it in a responsible way is short-sighted and dangerous.”
In 2016, Bullock released an Energy Blueprint for Montana, laying out a framework for a “responsible energy future” for the state. It includes continued energy production at Montana’s coal plants, but after those plants are retrofitted to create less pollution.
Additionally, the governor’s plan builds more renewable energy facilities and encourages innovation and energy efficiency.
“In Montana, and in America, we face our challenges head on and work together to find solutions,” Bullock said Thursday. “We do not run away from them or pretend they don’t exist.”
Three other states responded Thursday night by forming the United States Climate Alliance. The governors of New York, Washington and California said they will convene U.S. states that are committed to upholding the Paris accord and taking aggressive action against climate change.
The Paris accord was intended to bring together its 195 nation-signatories – only Nicaragua and Syria had not signed before Trump’s announcement – in combatting the Earth’s rising temperatures.
The departure of the United States, the planet’s second-largest polluter and largest carbon polluter in history, is a major blow to the agreement and was panned by political, business, social justice and environmental leaders worldwide.
Same, too, came the criticism from Montana groups.
“This does not make America great again,” said Jeffrey Smith, coordinator of 350Montana. “Quite the opposite. By abdicating American leadership on climate, Trump is undercutting clean energy jobs in Montana. He’s increasing the risk of megafire, parched rivers like we saw in the Yellowstone last summer, burnt crops, and extreme weather events across the state.”
“The Paris Agreement is the backbone of international action to tackle the greatest challenge facing our society,” said Melissa Hartman, co-coordinator of Glacier Climate Action.
“Now we find the United States in the lonely company of Syria and Nicaragua in rejecting an international solution,” she said. “Our nation is better than that. This is not who we are.”
Hartman said she fears that other nations will now withdraw their support for the accord and the international effort will fall into disarray.
Compared to observed historical temperatures, average warming across Montana is projected to be about 4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050, if emissions are not rapidly reduced, the two Montana groups said.
In addition, a Montana Wildlife Federation study said doing nothing about climate change will cost 11,000 jobs by 2050, with $281 million in earnings potentially lost to stream closures, dwindling hunting opportunities, larger and more devastating wildfires, and reduced snowpack.
A separate study by the Montana Farmers Union said continuing the status quo would impact grain producers, with reduced yields costing $372 million and 12,500 jobs by 2055. For cattle ranchers, the study showed a 20 percent drop in rangeland cattle production. That’s a $364 million loss in earnings, or 2,000 jobs.
Glacier Climate Action and 350Montana are local affiliates of 350.org, an international organization that has mobilized grassroots advocates around the world to support solutions to climate change.
On its Facebook page, the Montana Environmental Information Center took aim at the president’s decision before it was announced Thursday afternoon.
“Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord will disadvantage the United States versus virtually every other country in the world,” the group said. “At stake is our future economy, our climate, and our national security. He should be ashamed.”