Montana Task Force Weighs the Evidence For and Against Global Warming Theory

Published November 1, 2007

The Montana Environmental Quality Council, a bipartisan committee consisting of the governor, state legislators, and members of the general public, convened on September 13 at the state capitol to weigh the evidence regarding global warming.

The council, whose statutory purpose is to “encourage conditions under which people can coexist with nature in ‘productive harmony,'” will make recommendations next year to the legislature and the governor regarding what actions, if any, the state should take to address global warming.

Balanced Lineup of Experts

During the September 13 session, the council heard from four global warming experts. Two speakers, University of Montana climate professor and United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lead author Seven Running and former Montana state climatologist Joe Caprio, testified that global warming is a crisis for Montana and requires immediate attention.

Heartland Institute Senior Fellow James M. Taylor, managing editor of Environment & Climate News, and Phil Farnes, a scientist with the U.S. Soil Conservation Service who also works with Montana State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forestry Services Lab, testified that global warming is not a crisis for either Montana or the Earth as a whole.

Temperatures Contested

Running began the session with an Al Gore-type slideshow supporting his assertion that global warming is already hitting the Earth very hard and hitting Montana even harder.

While addressing a host of global warming subtopics, Running emphasized that temperatures in Montana are rising rapidly, that severe drought and related forest fires are unavoidable consequences of global warming, and that summer stream flows across Montana and the western United States are declining due to reduced mountain snowpack.

Farnes presented charts in response showing Montana temperatures may have risen in the past 100 years but that most or all of the warming occurred prior to 1930. Similarly, Farnes presented data showing reduced stream flows in recent years merely return the region to the stream flows that existed for much of the twentieth century, prior to abnormally high summer stream flows earlier this decade.

Warmer Winter Nights

Caprio testified that global warming is causing a moderation in the coldest of Montana winter nights. He also noted flowers are blooming slightly earlier than they were during the colder 1960s.

Taylor then presented charts showing a vast majority of official temperature stations throughout Montana show essentially stable or cooling conditions. For the few stations that do show twentieth century warming, most of the warming occurred prior to World War II, Taylor demonstrated.

Fewer Droughts, Forest Fires

Taylor also presented findings from the refereed scientific literature showing the Earth’s moderate twentieth century warming has produced more precipitation, moister agricultural soils, and a decline in droughts and forest fires.

Taylor then presented scientific studies showing the increased winter precipitation associated with moderately rising temperatures has resulted in mountain snowpack holding steady or even increasing throughout the western United States.

Challenging Assertions

Taylor pointed out that in support of the assertion that Antarctica is dramatically warming, Running presented a chart that addressed only the West Antarctic Peninsula. Taylor then cited directly from the scientific literature data showing the vast majority of Antarctica is getting colder and accumulating snow and ice mass.

Taylor also read from the scientific literature contradicting assertions by Running that sea level is rising dramatically, that global warming is causing more intense hurricanes, and that Greenland is undergoing severe melting. Taylor also pointed out how many of the charts presented by Running contradicted the assertion that global warming is an accelerating crisis.

“I applaud the Montana Environmental Quality Council for seeking thorough and comprehensive scientific and economic information prior to making any recommendations regarding global warming,” said Taylor.

Taylor said he is more than willing to return to Montana or travel to any other state to present the true scientific and economic facts about global warming.

James Hoare ([email protected]) is an attorney practicing in Rochester, New York.