Climate change is our new reality

A summer of hurricanes, flooding and wildfires made it clear: the climate is changing.

 

Climate change is no longer a hypothetical threat from some distant future. This summer, it showed up in force.

In Texas, Hurricane Harvey pummeled the Gulf Coast and inundated Houston, dumping many trillions of gallons of water in rain and causing so much damage it will take years for the state to recover. There is no definitive science saying that climate change causes specific hurricanes. But what we do know is that global warming has raised sea levels, which strengthens hurricane storm surges. It also increases precipitation, the real destructor in Texas. That’s because warmer air holds more water, which falls as rain — in the case of Harvey, record-breaking rain that has caused perhaps $180 billion in damage.

Montana, meanwhile, has a different problem. In the past century, the state has warmed by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat waves are more common than they once were, and drought has killed trees, dried soil and increased the risk of wildfires. The Environmental Protection Agency estimated in 2016 that the number of above-100-degree days that Montana experiences each year is likely to double. This summer, drought and dry weather have created a terrible fire season. At the time of this writing, 4,000 firefighters, 125 aircraft and 350 National Guard troops are fighting more than 40 active wildfires in Montana alone. Well over 600,000 acres have already burned there, with no end in sight.

Hurricanes and wildfires are real threats to life and property. They cost lives and money, and while they cannot be prevented, they can be prepared for. But doing so requires acknowledging that these extreme weather events are bound to get worse, and that is something our current policymakers can’t seem to do. The president insists that climate change is a “hoax” and won’t allow government agencies to even mention it.

Editor-in-chief, Brian Calvert
Brooke Warren/High Country News

In this issue, we’re asking a seemingly obvious question: What if — just what if — climate change is not a hoax? What if there is no global conspiracy of scientists (or the Chinese) manipulating data to trick people into reducing the use of fossil fuel? Who in the American West accepts the reality of climate change and is working to lessen its impact? We sent writers across the region, from the Pacific Coast to Alaska, Arizona to Wyoming, to see where and how climate change is affecting the West, its people and its politics. What we learned is that though the West is extremely vulnerable to a changing climate, it is also full of people who are determined to address it. If only that were true of our national leaders, flying over flood-stricken Texas or fire-ravaged Montana and wondering why in the heck things seem so out of control.

High Country News Classifieds
  • MONTANA DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    YOUR POSITION WITH TNC The Director of Development (DoD) is responsible for directing all aspects of one or more development functions, which will secure significant...
  • DEVELOPMENT AND OPERATIONS COORDINATOR
    Development & Operations Coordinator Terms: 1.0 FTE (full-time), Salary DOE ($45,000 - $55,000) Benefits: Paid Time Off (12-24 days/year depending on tenure), Paid Holidays (10/year),...
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org
  • CARBON RANCH PLANNER
    The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education,...
  • EDUCATION AND OUTREACH DIRECTOR
    Education and Outreach Program Director The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic,...
  • WESTERN DIVISION DIRECTOR OF FIELD PROGRAMS
    DEADLINE TO APPLY: October 29, 2021 LOCATION FLEXIBLE (WESTERN HUB CITY PREFERRED) Overview The Land Trust Alliance is the voice of the land trust community....
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER & PROJECT COORDINATOR (REMOTE)
    High Country News (HCN) is seeking a contract Graphic Designer & Project Coordinator to design promotional, marketing and fund-raising assets and campaigns, and project-manage them...
  • FILM AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INDIGENOUS MEDIA, CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DECOLONIZATION (INITIAL REVIEW 12.1.21)
    Film and Digital Media: Assistant Professor of Indigenous Media, Cultural Sovereignty and Decolonization (Initial Review 12.1.21) Position overview Position title: Assistant Professor - tenure-track Salary...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    To learn more about this position and to apply please go to the following URL.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • CENTRAL PARK CULTURAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST
    Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Salary Range: $5,203 - $7,996 Position Title: Central Park Cultural Resource Specialist Do you have a background in Archaeology...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Come live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world! As our Staff Attorney you will play a key role in...
  • ARIZONA GRAZING CLEARINGHOUSE
    Dedicated to preventing the ecological degradation caused by livestock grazing on Arizona's public lands, and exposing the government subsidies that support it.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo (friendsoftheinyo.org) is seeking a new Operations Manager. The Operations Manager position is a full-time permanent position that reports directly...
  • WATER RIGHTS BUREAU CHIEF
    Water Rights Bureau Chief, State of Montana, DNRC, Water Resources Division, Helena, MT Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that...
  • DEVELOPMENT & OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • DESERT LANDS ORGANIZER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo seeks a Desert Lands Organizer to assist with existing campaigns that will defend lands in the California desert, with...
  • IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE
    Want to help preserve Idaho's land, water, and air for future generations? Idaho Conservation League currently has 3 open positions. We are looking for a...