Climate scientist Steven Running says the challenge of climate change will "basically pervade the world for the coming century, and the sooner we get to work, the better it’ll be.” Credit: photo courtesy Steven Running

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In this week’s Montana Lowdown podcast, we interview Dr. Steven Running, who contributed research to a 2004 report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. An international body of the United Nations, the IPCC is composed of scientists and other experts working to assess the science of climate change. The panel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, and its work helped inform former Vice President Al Gore’s book and film “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Running, Professor Emeritus of Ecosystem and Conservation Sciences at the University of Montana and a former NASA scientist, shares an outlook on the subject that’s sobering but measured. Drawing on decades of research, Running views the changing climate as a global challenge that’s urgent, but manageable.

He tells Montana Free Press editor-in-chief John S. Adams it bothers him when the press reports “things like, ‘We have until 2030 to fix this, and if not it’s too late.’ Because in reality, there’s no single threshold of when we’re over the edge … This is a big problem. It’s going to basically pervade the world for the coming century, and the sooner we get to work, the better it’ll be.”

Running says he sees immediate opportunities to address the crisis, both globally and in Montana. And he pushes back on claims that favorable local weather is proof that climate change fears are unfounded. 

“The day will come when there’ll be a reckoning for everybody on this …,” Running says. “This is a long, long term dynamic, and it isn’t going to turn bad or good in just a year or two. It’s going to be over decades and decades.”

This Montana Lowdown podcast is published in conjunction with a week-long international journalistic effort to maximize coverage of the climate crisis in the lead-up to the United Nations Climate Summit on Sept. 23 in New York City. You can follow more climate reporting from around the world with the hashtag #coveringclimatenow on social media.

Alex McKenzie has worked with a diverse array of start-ups and nonprofit organizations. He is a former record producer and music journalist, has additional experience working in agriculture and food security, and previously operated his own dairy business. He lives in southwest Montana. Follow him on Twitter.