The House Natural Resources Committee debated a bill introduced by Rep. Joe Read, R-Ronan, Monday that calls on the state to find that human emissions of carbon dioxide are not causing climate change, and to adjust its educational and tax systems accordingly.
“CO2 has got a bad rap,” Read said at the outset. “CO2 has been treated as a poison.”
According to the International Journal of Emergency Medicine, carbon dioxide can be deadly. "Concentrations of more than 10% carbon dioxide may cause convulsions, coma, and death'' in humans, said a 2017 journal article on carbon dioxide poisoning.
The first section of Read's bill challenges the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations-affiliated association of thousands of scientists around the globe that produces annual reports summarizing the current state of scientific knowledge on climate change.
Its most recent report, published last October, stated with “high confidence” that “human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1 (degree Celsius) of global warming above pre-industrial levels. … Global warming is likely to reach 1.5 (degrees Celsius) between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate” and “impacts on natural and human systems from global warming have already been observed.”
According to NASA, 97 percent of active climate scientists agree that recent warming is likely due to human activities.
But Read’s bill states that “claims that carbon associated with human activities are invalid; and … nature, not human activity, causes climate change.”
It requires the superintendent of public instruction to report to the Legislature’s education interim committee on climate change curricula in Montana’s public schools, and requests the Commissioner of Higher Education to provide a report for the state’s universities. It also requires the Montana Department of Revenue to report on the use of tax incentives to alter human behavior in response to climate change.
In 2011, Read introduced a bill declaring climate change beneficial to the state. This year, he’s introduced a bill that would prohibit the state from enforcing federal greenhouse gas regulations.
David Klemp, air quality bureau chief for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, spoke against both that bill and this one for the same reason: It would keep state government from taking part in any future nationwide push to limit carbon emissions, forcing Montana businesses to deal directly with federal authorities.
“We believe the state of Montana is best suited to improve air quality requirements,” he said, predicting that Read’s bill “removes the state of Montana from this role.”
Malcolm Gilbert with the Montana Environmental Information Center echoed those concerns, telling the committee that a situation “where we won’t have control over our rules and our regulations won’t sit well with your constituents.”
Speakers from the Northern Plains Resource Council, the Montana Audubon Society, Montana Conservation Voters and the Montana Public Interest Research Group also spoke in opposition.
The only two proponents were Bigfork resident Ed Berry and his wife Valerie. Berry told the committee that a “simple physics model,” based on the presence of Carbon-14 in the atmosphere debunked human causation of climate change; Read’s bill heavily references that model.
During a lengthy question-and-answer session that followed, committee members Marilyn Marler, D-Missoula, and Rob Farris-Olsen, D-Helena, respectively pressed Berry on the sources of the information for the study, and whether he had published a peer-reviewed article about this topic. Berry referred them to data and a “preprint” of an article on his personal website.
While Read's stance is at odds with the scientific consensus, he remained committed to it in his closing remarks. “The climate is changing, I’m just saying CO2 is not the culprit.”
He surmised that in reality, efforts to reduce carbon emissions are ”a war against coal when you look at it, it’s a war against petrochemical fuels. It suits their ultimate goal so that’s why I brought this bill.”