I am writing in response to the guest column by Roger Koopman. My thoughts are in part based on having attended the student “climate strike” on Sept. 20 in Missoula.
Koopman would have us believe that climate change is “world-class hogwash” and that “the best of America’s scientists” refute it. He also states that the students involved in the strike were participating “in a rally promoting left-wing politics.” Unfortunately, he neither appears to have adequately explored the immense body of science that strongly supports climate change as a human-driven event or bothered to accurately understand what millions of students and others around the world were striking for last month.
The changes in our climate are long-term and irrefutable. Our planet has warmed by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century and we are experiencing the effects of that warming in obvious and devastating ways. 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded and 2019 is likely to tie that record. Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent. Our wildfire seasons are longer and more destructive. Massive ice sheets in Greenland and the Antarctic are melting and sea levels are rising. The list of events is long and consists of facts, not theories or suppositions, and the vast majority of the world’s scientific community believes that they are caused by us.
The students who organized and led the rally on Sept. 20 and related events came from both the University of Montana and Missoula high schools. Their message was clear; they are justifiably concerned about their future and whether they will be able to fulfill their dreams in a world in which climate change will adversely affect their ability to do so. They are frustrated by the lack of progress by preceding generations in understanding the best science and acting on it in ways that will mitigate further global warming and the myriad consequences that will result from it.
The students were also clearly asking their educators for an education based on the best climate science and structured to enable them to be effective in dealing with a world that is likely to change dramatically in their lifetimes.
What was clearly not evident at the rally and obviously did not motivate students in multiple countries around the globe was a “left wing” politicized process. The participants clearly understood that climate change doesn’t care if you are a Democrat or a Republican, on the right or on the left. All of us are being affected adversely now and those of us who are beyond our formal student years have a responsibility to leave our children and grandchildren with the healthiest planet and brightest futures possible.
Instead of attacking students and their educational system, Koopman’s time may be better spent in an honest pursuit of the best, apoliticized science on climate change. He might then be truly able to serve all Montanans well as a Public Service commissioner.
Ned Vasquez was a family medicine physician in Lolo and Missoula for 33 years before retiring, and is the founding program director for the Family Medicine Residency of Western Montana.
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