Montana Ethic Project: What to expect as climate changes


Joey and Libby Early

UM ecology professor Steve Running talks about climate change and its effects on Montana.

This is the 27th chapter of the 32-part video series “The Montana Ethic Project.” This chapter features Steve Running, University Regents Professor of Ecology at the University of Montana, talking about “Montana Climate Change.” You can watch the whole video below. Here is an edited transcript of how it begins:

“Hello. I’m Steve Running, Regents Professor at the University of Montana. I’ve been in Montana since 1979. I can’t quite claim I’m a native, I was born in Spokane. I guess that means I won’t ever get to be governor. I’m at least half native at this point though.

“As I contemplate why I’m here, why I’ve stayed here my whole career, I suspect it isn’t that much different than an awful lot of the rest of Montanans. Probably every single one of us could make more money by moving somewhere else. And yet here we are.

“We stay here.”

Here is another, edited excerpt from Running’s presentation:

“Probably what I see for our future climate most clearly, though, is that it’s just going to continue to become drier. It’s not because of less snow or rain, it’s really because higher temperatures simply evaporate more water. It just dries the landscape more. The beginnings of this are already being felt. We know now we are a couple of degrees warmer than 50 years ago on average. The weather statistics bear this out. And we will progressively see our landscapes bearing this out.

Probably the most striking example we see periodically are much more dynamic wildfires. In our bad fire years you’ll get fires that will just take off at a rate that we really haven’t seen in the past. They’ve become much bigger than what we can stop. And they literally become a point of public danger that we have to be cognoscente of. This is a part of our ecosystem transitioning into the balance of this new climate. And of course, this climate is continuing to change.”

PERC_Logo_MontanaEthicPERC—the Property & Environment Research Center—is a proud sponsor of the Montana Ethic Project. To learn how PERC’s ideas can help us honor one another’s rights to land, water, and wildlife,visit

First week: Project introduction.

Second week: Richard Drake on “Terrorism and the Consolation of History.”

Third week: Mike Gear on “The Value of Athletics.”

Fourth week: Franke Wilmer on “Gender Equity.”

Fifth week: Gordon Brittan on “The Founding Fathers.”

Sixth week: Jim Posewitz on “Montana Sportsmen and the Hunter’s Ethic.”

Seventh week: The Rev. Jessica Crist on “Religion and Politics: Can They Co-exist?”

Eighth week: Chuck Tooley on “The Montana Character.”

Ninth week: Steve Bullock on “Citizens United v. Montana.”

10th week: Carol Williams on “The Imperative for Female Government Participation.”

11th week: Bob Rowe on Technological Development.”

12th weekGeorge Metcalfe on “Economic Development in Africa and Its Relationship to Montana.”

13th weekBruce Smith on “Montana’s Food Economy.”

14th week: Peggy Beltrone on “Montana Wind Energy—Business and Politics.”

15th week: Mark Solon on “Creating an Intermountain West Startup Economy.”

16th week: Bill Yellowtail on “Futuring and Native Leadership.”

17th week: Judy Martz on “Trust in the Lord and He Will Direct Your Path.”

18th week: Bob Brown on “Teddy Roosevelt’s Shadow in Montana’s Big Sky.”

19th week: Gordon Belcourt on “A Montana Native Perspective.”

20th week: Dorothy Eck on “The Montana Constitution and the Right to Know.”

21st week: Pat Barkey on “The Montana Wage Disparity.”

22nd week: Thomas Power on “Valuing Montana: An Economist’s Observations.”

23rd week: Larry Simkins on “The Culture of Safety.”

24th week: James Shanley on “Education Reform.”

25th week: Greg Gianforte on “High Tech in Montana.”

26th week: Jakki Mohr on “The Corporate Model for the 21st Century.”

27th week: Timothy James Lecain on “An Ethical Nature?”

Next week: Jamie Doggett on “The Role of the Humanities in Functional Communities.”

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