JIM ROBBINS: This was all forest here. And now it’s a lot of smashed pieces of wood here and pine needles and occasional patches of weed that we’ll have to spray next year.
SAM: So Robbins says when people are faced with these kinds of images daily, in their own backyards, it becomes a lot harder not to believe in climate change.
ROBBINS: There’s a saying that there are no atheists in foxholes. I think there’s something along that line happening here. I mean, there are still some people who refuse to believe it. But I think there’s been an erosion of that disbelief and it’s changed pretty dramatically.
SAM: And a lot of people don’t want to call it global warming simply because it’s such a politically charged term. They basically equate it with Democrats like Al Gore. People they’d never vote for.
Helena’s Mayor Jim Smith definitely falls into that category. But Sarah, he told me something I’d never heard before. He said when your community is threatened, the political debate over climate change no longer matters.
SMITH: Whether this climate change is man caused or just the natural order of things, I don’t know and I don’t have a lot of time to ponder that important question. We just got to deal with the situation on the ground here regardless of what the cause is. So we’re doing that.
As you might expect, Joe Romm has much more to say, connecting the dots between climate change, bark beetles, and threatened forests in the West. And needless to say, this sort of thing stands to worsen if carbon emissions go unchecked.
As the US Senate begins to consider comprehensive climate policy, let’s hope that certain powerful western senators—cough, Max Baucus, cough — are paying close attention to their home states. Turn your attention away from the airless hyperpolitics of DC lawmaking and you can see that there are serious dangers in failing to reduce emissions very soon.