Whitefish’s response to climate change featured as part of national report

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Whitefish is featured in a national report that details how 18 communities are responding to climate change impacts.

The report, called How We Respond, was developed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which is a nonprofit group with a mission to “advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people.” The report also summarizes science on climate change and includes how communities are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The report is an overview of how science supports planning and also uses a series of accompanying community spotlights to look at how communities around the country are responding to climate change.

“We want to shine a light on how communities are taking action on climate change,” said Emily Therese Cloyd, director of the AAAS Center for Public Engagement with Science and

Technology, in a release. “We hope How We Respond gives communities ideas for how they can respond to climate change locally and ways that scientists and community members can work together to build stronger, more resilient communities.”

For Whitefish, the report focuses on how the city is addressing climate risks and benefits to local tourism and becoming a fire-adapted community. It share stories from Whitefish residents on how they’ve observed the impacts of climate change here and what concerns they have for the future.

The spotlight points to the Montana Climate Assessment published in 2017 that show that annual average temperatures have risen across the state by 2 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit between 1950 and 2015.

It also takes a look at the early conversations that mostly focused on water, wildfire, recreation and tourism, and the local food movement. Those conversation eventually led to a host of volunteers working on creating the Climate Action Plan that was adopted by the City of Whitefish last year.

The climate plan sets a path for Whitefish to make the transition to a clean energy economy and points to steps to improve local resilience to climate change impacts. The city in the plan committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26% by 2025 and prepare for the effects of climate change.

The plan outlines energy-savings actions as top priorities, and sets key priorities to strengthen the community’s resilience in response to a changing climate including establishing Whitefish as a fire-adapted community among other goals.

The How We Respond report says that climate change is an urgent problem with the continued ability to impact “farmers in their fields and transit riders in cities” in addition to extreme weather events along with wildfires and drought occurring more frequently. Across the country, it notes, scientists, governments, and citizens have taken up the challenge to find solutions for their communities.

Cities included range is size like large cities New Orleans, Louisiana, and Austin, Texas, and small cities like Netarts Bay, Oregon and Whitefish. Efforts outlined include work to utilize marshes to combat floods in Davenport, Iowa, and work in Fort Hood, Texas, to embracing renewable energy by transforming its energy supply, with approximately 45% now coming from solar and wind power.

The How We Respond report points out that initiatives detailed in a variety of communities represent a range of responses at the community level and offer solutions and approaches that could be used in other communities.

To view the report, visit howwerespond.aaas.org

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