Wind Turbines

BOISE — Nearly 50 Idahoans signed on to a two-page ad that ran in the Idaho Press on Sunday calling on Idaho officials at the state, local and congressional levels to take action on climate change.

Robert Huntley, a former Idaho Supreme Court justice and 1998 Democratic candidate for governor who spearheaded the ad, said, “We are going to try to put it in papers throughout the state. And then we’re going to take it on up to various national organizations and suggest that they get such a movement going on in all the states of the United States of America.”

The ad, which earlier ran in the Idaho Statesman, calls on Idaho’s congressional delegation, governor, all state legislators, county commissioners and city councilors to answer four questions about climate change, including whether they’ll agree to take action to protect Idaho’s citizens from its effects.

“Unless today’s leaders act swiftly, comprehensively and correctly, it is very likely that the quality of life for all will be greatly compromised,” the ad states, “and we will see land loss and even more powerful storms along our coasts, and inland, fires, floods and drought, heat stroke deaths, accelerating extinctions, mass starvation, mass migrations, wars, social collapse and more.”

The lead signer in the latest ad is former Idaho Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick. Other signers include Boise software developer and blogger Tom von Alten; veterinarian Nancy Basinger; retired Hewlett-Packard executive and business consultant Lisa Hecht; and more.

Rick Just, a historian and author who worked for the Idaho Department of Parks & Recreation for 29 years, said he signed on after a friend who shared his interest in climate issues did the same.

“I thought, well, we’ve tried everything else. This seems like something that might have some effect,” he said. “Who knows? … I think a thousand little things will maybe add up to something someday.”

Von Alten, a Boise engineer and software designer who blogs at fortboise.org, called Huntley “an irresistible force,” and said he’s increasingly concerned that current leaders in Idaho are “doing worse than nothing, really” to address climate change.

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Several of the signers, including Huntley, von Alten and Minnick, are members of the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and Huntley until June 30 was chairman of the fellowship’s climate action team; others have been active with the Citizens Climate Lobby, a nonprofit with 555 active chapters around the world. But Huntley said the ads are a citizen-driven effort that’s independent of any organization, religious or political.

“I’ve read some of the scientific papers that have come out, and I really think that this is an existential problem,” Huntley said. “If we don’t get on track on this, we’re going to have terrible consequences. And it’s got to happen within 11 years, that we turn this thing around.”

That comes from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2018 special report, which warned that humankind had less than 12 years to avoid potentially irreversible climate disruption; it’s now down to 11 years. At this year’s U.N. General Assembly in late March, the general assembly’s president, Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces of Ecuador, warned, "We are the last generation that can prevent irreparable damage to our planet,” and said, “2019 must be the year of climate action at all levels.”

According to the report, worldwide carbon emissions would have to be reduced by half within the next 11 years to avoid the Earth's atmosphere warming by a total of 1.5 degrees Celsius; it's already gone up 1 degree since the Industrial Revolution.

After the Idaho Press, Huntley said he’s hoping to run the ad in the Lewiston Tribune, the Post Register in Idaho Falls, the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello, the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, the Coeur d’Alene Press and possibly also the Bonner County Daily Bee and the Idaho Mountain Express in Ketchum. Each ad will include local signers along with backers from around the state, he said.

“The way everybody gets into this thing is they pay $100 bucks to have their name in the ad,” Huntley explained. “We keep collecting names as we go along.”

“A lot of people say, ‘We’ve got to do this for our grandchildren,’” Huntley said. But, he said, the need is much more urgent. “We’ve got to do this for ourselves.”

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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