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Testing the political wind


Montana’s Legislature has posted an online survey to measure public perceptions about climate change, but environmentalists say it’s just a ruse to slow the state’s plans to reduce greenhouse emissions.

“They’re hoping this will be an excuse to do nothing,” says Anne Hedges, Program Director for the Montana Environmental Information Center, who sees a recent online survey posted by the Environmental Quality Council (EQC) as an opposition maneuver to derail the Governor’s Climate Change Advisory Committee.

“I fear this will be a ploy by a group of people,” she laments, “some of whom call global warming ‘junk science.’”

Last November the Governor’s Climate Change Advisory Committee released its action plan, detailing 54 recommendations to reduce green house gasses through economic incentives. The online survey will test the appeal of those recommendations. The EQC, a bipartisan collection of lawmakers and citizens, constructed the questionnaire to measure the popularity of ideas ranging from technological innovation to tax incentives for alternative wood products and energy. Citizens can respond to the survey at

Hedges fears some EQC members will use the results to hamper efforts to follow through on the governor’s proposals by arguing that the Climate Change Advisory Committee is out-of-step with Montanans who don’t all accept the science behind global warming.

“Is the majority of Montana in favor of looking at global warming?” asks Carol Lambert (R-HD 39), a Republican EQC member from Broadus.

“What the Governor wants and what the people want aren’t always the same things,” she says, speculating that the survey may validate feelings among those in her remote corner of southeast Montana who oppose restrictions on energy development, a presumed by-product of the governor’s recommendations.  “I think the science is still out on this,” Lambert says.

Hedges, however, thinks questions about the science mask ulterior motives. “This is settled science,” Hedges says. “People want to continue the debate instead of finding solutions that are good for the economy.”

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