If, for shivering Montanans, the winters of the recent past have seemed colder and summers inordinately cooler, they would be right.
The average monthly temperatures in Montana have been declining at a pace of 0.4 degrees F each decade, since 2005, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The data also reveals that Montana has been experiencing a modest increase in precipitation since the early 1900s. Although interrupted by periodic drought during recent years – not historically unusual – the long-term increase in precipitation has continued into the new century.
Also, climate change has been a benefit to Montana.
To the degree that there has been warming, “Satellite measurements of global vegetation intensity show Montana is benefitting from global greening more than almost any other region of the planet.”
The Heartland Institute recently announced these findings as the result of research done by James Taylor and Anthony Watts in a policy brief entitled “Climate Change and Montana: a Scientific Assessment” (NOAA). The document provides Montana-specific climate information for lawmakers to assist in dealing with Gov. Steve Bullock’s executive order of July 1, 2019 creating the Montana Climate Solutions Council, charged with preparing the state for climate change impacts and to create a plan to reach net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2035.
The data reveals that Montana has warmed very little during the past century, and not at all during the past 15 years. “NOAA temperature records show a modest warming trend has occurred in Montana since 1985, at a pace of 0.2 degree Fahrenheit per decade,” but the most accurate and advanced temperature-gathering stations which became operational in 2005, show Montana temperatures have dropped at a pace of 0.4 percent per decade.
“It is counterfactual to claim humans are causing a recent increase, or any increase at all, in recent Montana temperatures,” the report emphasized.
What modest increases in temperature that have occurred, along with long- term precipitation increases, have benefitted Montana, as indicated by increased crop production (wheat, corn, barley, oats, potatoes, sugar beets, hay) that has set new records, almost every year. And, in fact there is much to indicate that warming temperatures are a positive to human existence and especially so in Montana since warmer climate “would provide greater opportunities for tourism, exercise, and recreation in Montana,” concludes the report.
Warmer temperatures also result in fewer human deaths than does colder weather.
The authors warn that while Montana has suffered economic losses and struggled, unnecessarily so, from government –imposed climate programs focused on restricting the production and use of coal and oil, the state should prepare for what is likely to be another wave of activism targeting another aspect of the state’s basic economy – livestock production. “This also threatens to disproportionately harm Montana, which is an important beef and sheep producing state,” said the report, noting that Montana ranks seventh among the 50 states in beef cattle production and eighth in sheep and lamb production.
Climate activists have outlined an anti-livestock agenda in the UN which claims that “The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”
In September 2018, the UN published an article – “Tackling the World’s Most Urgent Problem: Meat” — summarizing the views of the winners of the UN Champions of the Earth Award, saying, “[Our] use of animals as a food-production technology has brought us to the verge of catastrophe. The destructive impact of animal agriculture on our environment far exceeds that of any other technology on Earth.”
The state faces these political attacks despite the fact that Montana CO2 emissions contribute very little to national and global emissions.
“Only eight states emit fewer total CO2 emission than Montana.”
Montana produces less than 2 percent of total US CO2 emissions. According to calculations included in the US National Center for Atmospheric Research climate models, immediately eliminating all of Montana CO2 emissions would lower expected global temperature by only approximately 0.003 degree C by the year 2100, “an amount too small to be measured or noticed.”
Montana gets most of its electricity generation from emissions-free hydroelectric power.
“While attempts by Montana policymakers to restrict or eliminate CO2 emissions will in no measurable way reduce global temperature, such efforts would inflict much economic suffering on the citizens of the state.”
“…even if Montana were showing signs of substantial climate change or negative climate change impacts, Montana has already dramatically curtailed its carbon dioxide emissions, which means state government action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions or otherwise address climate change would have extremely minimal climate impact. However, these actions to restrict greenhouse gas emissions would unquestionably limit Montana natural resource production, thereby reducing government revenues, raise energy prices for Montana consumers and businesses, and deal a crippling blow to Montana’s livestock and crop production.”
Restricting or discouraging oil or coal production would harm the economy and kill jobs. “In 2017, more than 1,100 workers, many with high salaries, were directly employed in coal production in Montana. Total annual coal-related payrolls in Montana amounted to nearly $100 million and there are many other jobs dependent on the coal industry…”
“Eliminating Montana’s fossil fuel sector would also put a strain on state and local government income. In 2018, the state collected $60 million from its Coal Severance Tax. Additionally the coal Gross Proceeds Tax collected $17.3 million, of which $9.1 million went to local governments.
“Other coal-production-related taxes lifted state revenues from that sector to greater than $110 million. The state also collects another $65.5 million from the Oil and Gas Production Tax.”
The report takes direct issue with the 2017 Montana Climate Assessment (MCA), which Gov. Bullock said was the basis for his climate change initiatives to restrict CO2 emission.
The MCA is “deeply flawed,” state the authors. “…the assessment was biased from its inception,” they state, pointing out that its participants – the Nature Conservancy and the Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO) – had previously declared biases prior to becoming participants in the assessment, and any contributions from “credible and credentialed voices in the scientific and scholarly community offering solid data calling alarmist narratives into question” were not invited to participate.
“MCA’s authors cherry-picked data outside of their proper context and misleadingly presented such data to display an alarmist picture of climate change and its effects in Montana.”
They called a “glaring error” the MCA’s conclusion that between 1950 and 2015 Montana temperatures have increased 2- 3 degrees F. Comparisons were made using extreme data in ways for which there was no reason to present it, “unless the presenter is seeking the most alarmist storyline possible to mislead readers about the long-term temperature trend,” they said. “Any temperature history beginning in 1930, 1940 or 1960 would show a 1-2 degree temperature increase, which is in keeping with the Montana temperature history reported by NOAA. A temperature history beginning in 2005 would show no warming at all.”
In a review of earth’s history of climate change, the authors stated “Modest recent changes in global climate is well within natural variability”…. in fact during the current period between “ice age epochs,” which have occurred every 100,000 years or so, the temperatures have been cooler than in previous “interglacial warm periods.”
“During the past 150 years, Earth has slowly emerged from the Little Ice Age. This warming, which began before the invention of coal-fired power plants and automobiles, has brought immeasurable benefits. Crop production sets new records almost every year. Satellite instruments have measured a dramatic greening of the Earth. Deserts are receding and plant life is increasingly taking root in arid regions of the globe. Extreme weather events are becoming less frequent. Lower temperatures, which kill far more people than moderate or even high temperatures, are becoming less frequent.”