Gov. Steve Bullock has announced his appointments to the new Montana Climate Solutions Council, a group dedicated to developing policies and plans for reducing carbon emissions and adapting to the changing climate.

The council’s efforts will include working toward net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the state, publishing a state climate solutions plan by June 2020 and expanding the Montana Climate Assessment.

Seven Bozeman residents will serve on the council, which has 29 members from organizations like Montana State University, Northwestern Energy, the Montana Chamber of Commerce and the Montana Petroleum Association.

“This council is formative, so I think none of us know exactly what will come out of it, but I think we all think we have to find a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change,” said Scott Bischke, a consulting chemical and environmental engineer for MountainWorks, Inc., in Bozeman.

Among the issues Bischke foresees the council addressing is how to handle the state’s coal industry and how to develop incentives to increase wind and solar generation.

Likewise, Mark Haggerty, a council member and research director for Headwaters Economics, said he foresees using his work, which focuses on why some places do better than others, to help the council think through the transition to a new energy economy.

“For me, it’s about how communities adapt to change — not just climate change — but the economic transitions happening in our state in general,” he said.

Bill Bryan, co-founder of One Montana, said the first step for the council will be coming to a consensus on how climate change affects the state. From there, he hopes council members can develop strategies for limiting the effects of climate change.

“I’ve been speaking out for a while about the governor needing a more articulated position on climate change, and I think this is a good step,” he said.

Tom Armstrong, a council member and president of the Madison River Group, is optimistic the council will develop actionable plans for reducing carbon emissions and adapting to climate change.

“Gov. Bullock is taking a very active stance,” he said. “This council is all about actions and providing solutions, which I applaud because, in this line of work, people often develop strategies and plans that just end up sitting on a coffee table.”

Armstrong, who helped create the national climate assessment while he was the executive director of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, plans to use his professional experiences to help the council expand Montana’s climate assessment. The assessment, which was released two years ago, looks at how climate change impacts agriculture, forests and water. Armstrong hopes the climate solutions council can examine other areas, such as tourism and wildlife, that are also affected by climate change.

“We need to understand what has changed and why it has changed, so we can understand what we can do to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change,” he said.

The other council members from Bozeman are:

  • Bruce Maxwell, co-director of the Montana Institute on Ecosystems and professor of Agroecology and Applied Plant Ecology at MSU
  • Lee Spangler, director of the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership at MSU
  • Cathy Whitlock, MSU Regents professor in Earth Science and fellow of the Montana Institute on Ecosystems.

Perrin Stein can be reached at 406-582-2648 or at pstein@dailychronicle.com. Follow her on Twitter @PerrinStein.

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