The terms “climate change” and “global warming” seem too innocuous to me. It should be called “end of half the species on Earth” or “Miami disappears” or “disease, famine and war.”
But I doubt that even those phrases would change the thinking of candidates Ryan Zinke and Greg Gianforte. Both have waged a nonstop war on the euphemistic “war on coal.” And both ignore public acceptance, albeit slow, of carbon emissions’ impact on the planet, or the market conditions that are leading to coal’s demise.
Zinke’s love of coal is well-documented and today, in my local newspaper, it was Gianforte playing the Colstrip card.
If they could read the writing on the wall, and were seriously concerned about the town of Colstrip and its workers there, they’d be advancing alternative economic development, retraining and job placement. There’s plenty of time to do so: the dirtiest half of the Colstrip generating plants aren’t scheduled to close until 2022, leaving the other two units running until, well, who knows.
There will be jobs available in Colstrip, for a while, to clean up the toxic legacy of the mining and burning of coal. Coal ash, contaminated groundwater and strip mines will all need remediation. That’s not a longterm solution but that’s the legacy of the extractive resource industry in Montana. There are 16 Superfund sites in our state.
The other legacy of extractive resource industries is their boom-and-bust cycles. Montana’s bubbles burst with unremitting regularity: starting in Alder Gulch in the 1860’s and continuing to this day. Why folks think that coal would be any different is strictly cognitive dissonance.
In the long run, Zinke’s and Gianforte’s retrograde solution to coal’s demise is doing more harm than good for the people of Colstrip, the Montana economy and the planet Earth.