New Report Outlines How Climate Change Impacts Health in Montana

Dec 09, 2020

Climate change is already affecting the health of Montanans, a situation that will likely worsen in the coming years, according to a new report published by a group of Montana University System scientists and Montana physicians.

The report, “Climate Change and Human Health in Montana: A Special Report of the Montana Climate Assessment,” or C2H2, will be published Dec. 8. C2H2 is a special report of the 2017 Montana Climate Assessment produced by the Montana University System’s Institute on Ecosystems, Montana State University’s Center for American Indian and Rural Health Equity (CAIRHE) and Montana Health Professionals for a Healthy Environment, with support from the Montana Healthcare Foundation.

"Climate Change and Human Health in Montana: A Special Report of the Montana Climate Assessment" was published Dec. 8, 2020.

The report brought together researchers, clinicians, public health experts, climate scientists, tribal experts and community leaders from throughout Montana to focus on ways climate change impacts the health of Montanans, both now and in the future, said physician Alexandra Adams, director of CAIRHE and lead author of the report.

“In contrast to the Montana Climate Assessment, which focused on agriculture, forests and water, this report is about people and their health,” Adams said. “It builds on the Montana Climate Assessment by adding what has been learned from numerous health-related studies to analyze health impacts of climate change to the people of Montana.”

Co-author Robert Byron, an internist with the nonprofit Montana Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate, said it is easy for the public to think mistakenly that climate change is something occurring to other people somewhere else in the world, or sometime in the future. “C2H2 presents evidence for ways that climate change is already impacting the health of Montanans and will increasingly do so in the future,” he said.

Byron said the assessment highlights the most likely climate impacts — heat, wildfires, drought and flood — on physical and mental health, and recommends important steps that communities, health professionals and individuals can take to lessen those impacts.

Another co-author, Mari Eggers, a research assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in MSU’s College of Agriculture and Center for Biofilm Engineeringand a member of the Gallatin City-County Board of Health, added that the C2H2 assessment presents evidence for a number of health impacts from climate change and lays out actions that help prepare for and minimize those impacts, with an emphasis on sharing of information and working collaboratively.

Because more than 60% of Montanans live in rural areas, the assessment looks at ways that climate change will affect people living in both urban and rural settings.

“The key messages and recommendations of the report were developed to be useful to people wherever they live in Montana,” according to Bruce Maxwell, professor in the Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences in the College of Agriculture and director of the Montana Institute on Ecosystems and co-author of the 2017 Montana Climate Assessment, as well as the C2H2 report. “Everyone has a role to play.”

“We’ve learned from the current pandemic that advance planning for health emergencies is essential to reduce the economic impacts of unexpected events,” said Cathy Whitlock, an MSU professor in the Department of Earth Sciences in the College of Letters and Science and MUS Regents Professor. Whitlock is lead author of the 2017 Montana Climate Assessment and one of the co-authors of this special report. “C2H2 fills an important gap by providing critical information that can help Montanans prepare for climate surprises ahead.”

“Climate change is already impacting the health and well-being of our people,” said Mike Durglo, a representative of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation and a contributor to the C2H2 report. “Wildfires have caused hazardous air quality conditions, and extreme weather events create dangerous conditions and limit access to health care and other critical services. The climate crisis and the ecological changes that it brings threaten traditional customs, including our access to first foods through hunting, fishing and gathering, and our ability to conduct ceremonies and spiritual practices.”

The full C2H2 report will be available at

Contact: Susan Higgins with MSU's Center for American Indian and Rural Health Equity at 406-209-3613 or