Skip Navigation

Research & Commentary: Heartland Brief Details the Minimal Impact, and Positive Benefits, of Climate Change on Idaho

September 19, 2019

Minimal Impact From On The Gem State From Climate Change, Mostly Beneficial

A new Policy Brief by James Taylor, The Heartland Institute’s director of the Arthur B. Robinson Center for Climate and Environmental Policy, argues that climate change has had “minimal impact” on Idaho and that most of that impact has, in fact, been beneficial to the Gem State.

In March 2019, state legislators passed a resolution in a Idaho House Environment, Energy, and Technology Committee hearing giving authority to an interim committee “to study the effects of climate variability on Idaho’s state agencies that are responsible for resource management” and “to make appropriate recommendations to address climate issues.” The Brief, Taylor writes, is intended to provide “Idaho-specific climate information to help inform lawmakers so that they can craft the best possible climate-related policies on behalf of the people of Idaho.”

Taylor begins by noting that while there has been modest warming, it has been beneficial. The Earth is becoming greener, deserts are shrinking, and extreme weather events are decreasing in frequency. Most importantly, fewer people are dying as a result of colder temperatures, which kill 20 times more people than moderate or higher temperatures.

This mild warming has produced many benefits for Idaho. For example, agricultural growing seasons are longer, helping Idaho farmers set crop yield records nearly every year. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the 2018 Idaho potato crop set new records for total production and yield per acre,” Taylor notes. “The 2018 projected record follows a record set in 2017 for total Idaho potato production value, despite the fact Idaho farmers planted 5 percent fewer acres with potatoes in 2017 than they did in 2016.”

Taylor also emphasizes that Idaho’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, both total and per capita, are already some of the lowest in the country. Only 10 states emit less CO2 per person than Idaho, while just six emit less total CO2. This is mostly because 60 percent of Idaho’s electricity is provided by emissions-free hydroelectric power.

“According to calculations included in the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research climate models,” Taylor declares, “a complete elimination of U.S. CO2 emissions would lower global temperature, versus business-as-usual scenarios, by a mere 0.14 degrees C by the year 2100.” Moreover, Taylor notes, “Idaho produces less than 2 percent of U.S. CO2 emissions. Even under an optimistic scenario, completely eliminating Idaho CO2 emissions would lower global temperature by only approximately 0.003 degrees C by the year 2100, an amount too small to be measured or noticed.”

“Weather and climate data show climate change has had a minimal impact in Idaho,” Taylor concludes, “and to the extent modest climate changes have occurred, the bulk of the impacts appear to have been beneficial. Even if Idaho were showing signs of substantial climate change and/or negative climate change impacts, Idaho has already dramatically curtailed its carbon dioxide emissions, which means state government action to curtail carbon dioxide emissions or otherwise address climate change would have extremely minimal climate impact.”

The following documents provide more information about climate change and fossil fuels.

Climate Change and Idaho: A Scientific Assessment
This Heartland Policy Brief by James Taylor, director of the Arthur B. Robinson Center for Climate and Environmental Policy, seeks to provide Idaho-specific climate information to help inform lawmakers so that they can craft the best possible climate-related policies on behalf of the people of Idaho.

Climate Change Reconsidered II: Fossil Fuels
In this fifth volume of the Climate Change Reconsidered series, 117 scientists, economists, and other experts assess the costs and benefits of the use of fossil fuels by reviewing scientific and economic literature on organic chemistry, climate science, public health, economic history, human security, and theoretical studies based on integrated assessment models (IAMs) and cost-benefit analysis (CBA). (Also see the “Summary for Policymakers” of Climate Change Reconsidered II: Fossil Fuels:

Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science
Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science is an independent, comprehensive, and authoritative report on the current state of climate science, published in October 2013. It is the fourth in a series of scholarly reports produced by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, an international network of climate scientists sponsored by three nonprofit organizations: the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, the Science and Environmental Policy Project, and The Heartland Institute. (Also see the “Summary for Policymakers” of Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science

Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts
Released on April 9, 2014, Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts is an independent, comprehensive, and authoritative report on the impacts of climate change on plants, terrestrial animals, aquatic life, and human well-being. (Also see the “Summary for Policymakers” of  Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts

The U.S. Leads the World in Clean Air: The Case for Environmental Optimism
This paper from the Texas Public Policy Foundation examines how the United States achieved robust economic growth while dramatically reducing emissions of air pollutants. The paper states that these achievements should be celebrated as a public policy success story, but instead the prevailing narrative among political and environmental leaders is one of environmental decline that can only be reversed with a more stringent regulatory approach. Instead, the paper urges for the data to be considered and applied to the narrative.

The 100 Percent Renewable Energy Myth
This Policy Brief from the Institute for Energy Research argues that a countrywide 100 percent renewable plan would put the U.S. economy in jeopardy. The brief investigates the intermittency, land requirements, capacity factors, and cost of transition and construction materials that limit the ability of the U.S. to adapt to 100 percent renewable energy.

Legislating Energy Poverty: A Case Study of How California’s and New York’s Climate Change Policies Are Increasing Energy Costs and Hurting the Economy
This analysis from Wayne Winegarden of the Pacific Research Institute shows the big government approach to fighting climate change taken by California and New York hits working class and minority communities the hardest. The paper reviews the impact of global warming policies adopted in California and New York, such as unrealistic renewable energy goals, strict low carbon fuel standards, and costly subsidies for buying higher-priced electric cars and installing solar panels. The report finds that, collectively, these expensive and burdensome policies are dramatically increasing the energy burdens of their respective state residents.


Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this subject, visit Environment & Climate News, The Heartland Institute’s website, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database.

The Heartland Institute can send an expert to your state to testify or brief your caucus; host an event in your state; or send you further information on a topic. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of assistance! If you have any questions or comments, contact Heartland’s Government Relations department, at or 312/377-4000.