Earlier this year, the Idaho Falls Post Register reported that some of Idaho’s policymakers were taking their cues on climate science from talk show hosts and tabloids.
Not from climate scientists who have documented global and local impacts associated with a rapidly changing climate.
Not from farmers who have seen firsthand how changes in precipitation and temperatures are impacting their yields.
Not from land managers who have seen changes in fire seasons that have challenged even the most seasoned fire crews.
Nonetheless, the Idaho State Board of Land Commissioners proposed to boost the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) budget to respond to the well-documented changes that are leading to longer and more costly fire seasons.
For instance, in 2015, across the state of Idaho 740,000 acres burned. Costs to Idaho alone exceeded $50 million. The first significant fire in the state was reported near McCall on Mar 9 and the last fire ignited near Idaho City on Oct 10.
In light of reality, the Land Board and IDL proposed a boost to the fire budget, and extension of key firefighting positions from 5 to 8-months. Last week, the Idaho State Legislature’s budget committee approved that request.
The proposal still must be approved by the full House and Senate, however the support from the budget committee is a key hurdle.
Ultimately, responding to the symptoms of climate change will not be enough. Idaho must do more to promote renewable energy, energy conservation and reduction in air pollution if we want to stem the tide of climate change in Idaho and across the globe.
Fortunately, Idaho has an opportunity to clean up the largest single source of climate pollution-coal power plants. ICL answers nine key questions about this plan and refutes the idea protecting air is bad for Idaho.