Mountain West Shows Reluctance About Global Warming

Oct 10, 2018

A new report from a United Nations' committee predicts climate change will wreak major havoc if action isn't taken by 2030. To ward off the catastrophic wildfires, severe weather and the displacement of millions of people, the report calls for an immediate reduction in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

That means doing things like burning less fossil fuels and eating less meat. But these behavior changes might be especially challenging for parts of the Mountain West where coal, big trucks and cattle are a celebrated part of the culture.

Samuel Western writes about the Mountain West. He said rural parts of the region are often reluctant to embrace climate change because it doesn't come up that often in everyday conversation.

"If you live in a more urban environment you are exposed to more ideas, but we tend to live fairly siloed in Wyoming," said Western. "And a lot of people come here for that very reason."

Western doesn't anticipate those non-believers becoming proactive, but he said they'll adapt. If consumers overall decrease their demand for coal or cattle, that's when communities that produce those products will be more likely to reinvent themselves.

"When you don't feel them in any economic or social way, it's very easy to question the narrative of the common good."

A recent study from Yale University found that roughly 70 percent of people in the U.S. believe global warming is real. Meanwhile, in much of our region, the number is below with Wyoming at 60 percent, Utah at 66 percent and Montana at 65 percent. Colorado, however, tops the national average at 72 percent.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

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