There is a new conversation in Idaho about how climate change is already affecting every Idahoan, and how business leaders and natural resource managers in Idaho are responding. It comes with a clear recognition that businesses wanting to stay competitive must lead in energy efficiency, lower their fossil fuel use, and strengthen their reputations as good employers and community partners. This was a major theme of two days of presentations and workshops at the November 2017 Idaho Climate Summit.
It’s a strange contrast from the message coming from our state government. We are in the midst of a weird dichotomy where professionals from industry, the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and state land and water managers talk about on-the-ground challenges of climate change, while our political leaders treat it as a non-issue. My hope, as someone who has spent much time over the last few years working for a non-partisan solution to climate change, is that events like the Summit will begin to change the conversation in Idaho. To those Idahoans who have the idea that climate impacts are just talked about within lefty environmental circles, this Summit was a real eye-opener.
The list of speakers and sponsors of this event may surprise many of you. The speakers included representatives from the Simplot Company, Hewlett Packard, Clif Bar, Idaho Power, Micron, the Idaho Barley Commission, the Idaho Groundwater Association, and our three major universities, among many others. It was extremely inspiring to hear this diverse group of leaders from every sector of Idaho’s economy talk about climate change in a clear-headed, solution-focused, honest way. There are opportunities for Idaho wood products to replace carbon-intensive steel in buildings, for example. Another topic was the huge demand for products with lower carbon content that will be coming from California, and Idaho’s unique position to benefit from that situation.
We heard that Simplot has built possibly the world’s most efficient processing plant in Caldwell, and they are working with potato growers to develop strains that need less fertilizer and chemical input. Clif Bar has similarly built a cutting-edge energy efficient plant in Twin Falls, and gives employees incentives to buy fuel efficient cars or find alternative transportation to work. Idaho National Laboratory is focusing major resources on developing a modern grid that can use more renewable energy.
If you have been convinced that climate change is an insignificant problem hyped up for liberal political advantage, or conversely think you are part of only a small minority that cares about climate change, listening to the words of some of these speakers may change your perspective. Yes, there are discussions to be had over policy options, but there is no partisan divide over the fact that we all share a dependence on Idaho’s natural resources that provide the basis for our lifestyle.
Climate change can be frightening and depressing, to be honest, and it is extremely tempting to avoid the issue. Like death and taxes, many of us consider it not part of polite conversation. But all of us know that facing difficult truths is the only way to live a successful life. If putting overdue bills in the trash or ignoring worrisome health symptoms fixed our problems, it would be great. But the real way forward is looking honestly at our situation, and finding the best response. Often, we look back on our past challenges and realize that there were great opportunities within them. After some time goes by, we understand the changes we were forced to make put us in a much better position in our life going forward.
What if talking about common values, and finding opportunities for Idahoans to play a major role in improving our nation’s business and agricultural practices, turns out to be something we are so happy to have done?
For more information about Safeguarding Idaho’s Economy in a Changing Climate, visit their website.
Dr. Nancy Basinger has practiced veterinary medicine in Idaho for 34 years. She and her husband, Steve, currently work at MCPAWS Regional Animal Shelter. Nancy also volunteers for Citizens’ Climate Lobby.