With just under 1.8 million residents, Idaho is the country’s 12th least populous state but, stretching over 82 thousand square miles of mountainous land, it is also the 14th largest. Idaho is known for its rugged, beautiful terrain. It’s nickname, The Gem State, speaks to the fact that almost every known type of gem has been found in Idaho.
Over the past century, Idaho’s climate has warmed resulting in challenges. Snowpack melts earlier in the season, creating smaller streams during the summer. The water is warmer, as well, which threatens the fish who inhabit them. The meltwater is currently used for personal, commercial, and agricultural purposes, as well as for hydropower electricity generation. Its reduction is therefore extremely alarming.
An increase in frequency and severity of both droughts and wildfires coincides with a warming climate. Idaho is projected to see a 110% increase in drought threat by 2050. The state is the biggest producer of both trout and potatoes (2/3 of the potatoes in the US come from Idaho), and climate change leaves these industries extremely vulnerable.
While Idaho’s gems are plentiful, its fossil fuel resources are not. Thanks in part to this discrepancy, Idaho has harnessed its abundant renewable energy potential. In 2018, 81% of Idaho’s generated electricity came from renewable resources, the second highest proportion in the country after Vermont. Hydropower alone contributed 60% of the state’s electricity generation. Despite Idaho’s frigid winters, the state is in the lowest third of natural gas consumption per capita. The state has no coal production, though small amounts of coal are shipped in from other states and consumed by residents.
The debate in Idaho over whether or not climate change should be taught in schools has now become notorious. After three years of lobbying by educators and scientists a conservative legislature added climate change to the middle and high-school science curriculum in 2018. However, just a few months later, the state chose not to renew Idaho’s rules and regulations, reigniting the debate. Meanwhile, 78% of residents agree that schools should teach about global warming.
In 2016, Boise, Idaho’s largest city set a multi-faceted climate action plan in motion including 100% renewable energy targets for municipal operations by 2030 and city-wide by 2035. As a state, Idaho does not have a cohesive climate change action plan. However, in 2019, two weeks after being sworn in as the 33rd governor of Idaho, Republican Brad Little broke with national party leaders committing unequivocally to the reality of climate change.