Climate change, caused in part by the burning of fossil fuels, is threatening the natural resources we depend on and the way of life we value. It's time our representatives enact legislation that curbs greenhouse gas emissions and creates a more sustainable future for our children and grandchildren.
Glacier National Park has been one of the best places to study the effects of climate change. It is also a place to study how national parks have resulted in significant economic gains for gateway communities. In one way or another, most of us benefit from the economic engine that is Glacier National Park.
The rapidly receding glaciers of Glacier National Park are one of the most publicized effects of climate change. Glaciers, responsible for jewel-colored lakes and amazing vistas, inspire awe in park visitors and locals alike. However, glaciers are also a vital part of the ecosystem, providing water to mountain and downstream communities. Decreasing water availability along with rising water temperatures mean aquatic species such as bull trout will have a much more uncertain future.
Alpine meadows are also expected to change rapidly over the next several decades. Another mainstay for park visitors, alpine meadows host an incredible array of species such as pika, mountain goats, grizzly bears and various wildflowers. In addition to less water availability, warmer temperatures are allowing treeline to expand into the alpine, decreasing the habitat these species depend on.
The impacts of climate change extend far beyond the borders of Glacier National Park. The Montana way of life has the potential to be affected in several ways: higher temperatures, increased drought and flood potential due to changes in seasonal patterns, longer and more frequent wildfires, decreased biodiversity, and an increase in pest infestations and exotic weeds.
The good news is that we already have the scientific and technical know how to begin to solve this problem. We also have federal legislation being considered in the Senate that will not only create a market for these technologies, but also reduce emissions by targeting big polluters such as oil companies and electric utilities. This bill is the Climate Security Act, also known as the Warner-Lieberman bill, and has garnered bipartisan support.
The proposal uses a cap-and trade-system. This approach puts a ceiling on the amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted. Polluters that go over that cap
buy permits, while polluters that are under the ceiling sell their allowances. The incentive will be for polluters to invest in pollution control technologies, energy efficiency, and alternative energy. The cap-and-trade system has been used effectively to reduce sulfur dioxide, another air pollutant.
There will also be a substantial amount of revenue generated by these auctioned allowances. Auction revenues will be invested in various programs including alternative energy research, increased vehicle fuel efficiency, mass transit, low-income energy assistance, "green collar" worker training, and funding for wildlife affected by climate change.
Sen. Max Baucus has been a key supporter of this bill and Sen. Jon Tester has indicated he will support it as well. Our senators know that climate change is not something we can put on the back burner. This legislation will provide a road map of solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, provide for the development of alternative and renewable energy, and fund fish and wildlife habitat restoration.
Montanans are ready to move on
this issue. We know that if we act quickly,
we not only have the ability to curtail the most damaging effects of global warming, but will also create opportunities that will reinvigorate our economy and allow us to become more energy independent. Call or
e-mail Baucus and Tester and tell we appreciate their support for the Climate Security Act and to stay the course before the Senate vote on June 2.
Michelle Tafoya is the clean air and climate coordinator for the Glacier Field Office of the National Parks Conservation Association. She writes from Whitefish.