Heat wave – no joke for Idaho

Hot enough for you?

That overworked, but cheerful greeting continues to make me chuckle. It’s a wonder we can still joke about 100 degree plus weather.

2018 is on track to be the fourth hottest year on record for the U.S. That would mean that 18 of our 19 hottest years  will have occurred since 2000.

And, it is expected to get worse.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts Idaho’s summer and winter temperatures will increase another 5 F degrees (range of 2-9) by the next century.

I’ve had this secret dream that Idaho would do okay during the coming climate changes. All that melting Arctic Ice could bring us more rain!

What’s a little more heat if we have plenty of water?  In time, we would build cities higher in the mountains.  Temperatures in the mile-high city, i.e. Denver, are 10 to 15 degrees below those in cities only half-a-mile up.

Our biggest problem would be all the coastal dwellers crowding into our mountains.

My bubble just burst.

The wildfires–particularly in California–are proving that It’s not how much water we get that matters; it’s how much we can store. Traditionally we’ve stored water not only behind dams, but as mountain snow.  At one time, Idahoans could leave footprints on snow-covered northern slopes in July.

Those days are past.  Now warmer, wetter springtimes are feeding undergrowth which later dries out and fuels summer fires.

Last week there were 84 wildfires burning that had consumed more than 1,000 acres each. The annual number of these big wildfires has more than doubled since 1970.  And the fire season is about 10 weeks longer.

According to an EPA report on climate change in Idaho, wildfires are only one of our worries.

Dairy cows don’t produce as well in hot climates.

Potatoes don’t thrive in heat. Maine is Idaho’s competition, not California.  (Wheat, hay, and barley yields may actually increase,.)

Warmer water and lower flows will threaten “salmon, steelhead, trout and other coldwater fish.”

Lower flows could also mean less hydroelectric power.

Warm weather will increase the need for irrigation just as competition for water gets more  intense.

Expect more mosquitoes and ticks along with more West Nile and Lyme disease.

The Great Basin desert may expand.  Burned forests may not regrow but become grasslands.  Some grassland may become desert.

It could be a problem.  It will be.

Many of us exerted pressure on our legislators so they’d okay talk of climate change in science classes.

Can we get the same enthusiasm behind getting legislators to take some steps to prepare for a hotter, drier future?  Or behind electing new legislators who care a bit?

January 24 Ilana Rubel introduced House Concurrent Resolution 31 authorizing a committee to study the impacts of climate change “on Idaho’s agriculture, water resources, wildlife and public health” and to study the potential policy options.

January 25 it was sent to the House Ways and Means Committee never to be mentioned again.

It’s not that legislators have done nothing.  They did grapple with the weighty problem of finding a substitute tax so vehicles that use little or no gasoline will help pay for roads.

State committees have come up with solid ideas to make transitioning to advanced education easier for students and to encourage excellence and accountability in our K-12 schools.

Surely, a committee of experts should at least be studying what the rest of the country is doing to alleviate the problems we’re all facing and searching for solutions that’d fit Idaho.

Note this editorial by Judy Ferro published by Idaho Press – 2018

 

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