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Severe Job Losses Predicted Due to Climate Change

Montana's summer harvests could suffer if nothing is done to combat climate change, according to a new report. (Pixabay)
Montana's summer harvests could suffer if nothing is done to combat climate change, according to a new report. (Pixabay)
February 26, 2016

GREAT FALLS, Mont. - Montana could lose thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in lost earnings by 2055 if nothing is done to slow climate change, according to a new report.

The study, released Wednesday by the Montana Farmers Union in collaboration with Power Consulting, said the Treasure State can expect 5 percent to 10 percent less rain in the summer, five to 15 more days above 95 degrees, and 20 to 40 fewer days below freezing in winter.

Report co-author Dr. Donovan Power, former chair of economics at the University of Montana, said the state cannot afford to ignore the problem.

"Implicitly, the cost of doing nothing in the face of ongoing climate change is often assumed to be zero," he said. "That's a very precise quantitative assumption that I think we know is wrong."

The report said the hotter temperatures will lead to less water for irrigation and, thus, a shorter summer growing season. It warned that farmers will have to combat new types of weeds and pests.

Erik Somerfeld, who grows wheat, barley and hay near the town of Power, said some of the changes are here now.

"Guys are already changing their farming practices," he said, "and they're trying to do what they can to mitigate the decreased rain and the hotter temperatures that are occurring."

Chris Christiaens, legislative director of the Montana Farmers Union, noted that the report warns that rangeland cattle production could drop 20 percent.

"When it gets to be 95 degrees, cattle do not gain as fast; they don't gain as much," he said, "and so, the potential losses to the livestock industry are pretty significant."

The report also predicted a possible 25 percent decline in grain production.

The report is online at montanafarmersunion.com.

Suzanne Potter/Dallas Heltzell, Public News Service - MT