MISSOULA — Montana former U.S. Sen. and U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus hosted an annual speakers series Thursday night at the University of Montana.
Past topics have included China/US relations and have featured journalists.
This year the topic is climate change and featured an environmental heavy hitter — former Vice President Al Gore.
His face was projected onto two screens at the ALI auditorium in the University of Montana education building during the in-person event.
Gore participated via Zoom in a dialog with Baucus and Director of the Max Baucus Institute Sam Panarella.
The topic was one Baucus himself wasn’t always too sure about.
“To be honest, several years ago, I wasn’t too sure we’d get the job done, and that’s as a state, country, world, to sufficiently address climate," Baucus told MTN News.
But now, his perspective has shifted.
“I'm changing my mind now. I'm much more optimistic. I'm much more inspired. Hey, we're gonna do this, but it's really got a lot of effort. So I leave tonight, very encouraged or inspired," Baucus said.
Gore arguably brought climate to the forefront of many minds with his 2006 book "An Inconvenient Truth", later developed into a documentary.
Climate change was localized to Montana during the event with questions about public lands and the state's eight federally recognized Tribal Nations.
Blackfeet Environmental Program Director Gerald Wagner — the National Tribal Environmental Caucus Chair — drove to Missoula from Browning for the event.
“We've got to have a seat at the table so we can be part of the solution," Wagner said.
Wagner said that Native Americans need to be involved in solutions because they already face the impacts of climate change.
“We can't just pick up and move. A lot of people can leave the hurricane, go up in the mountains, you know, leave the mountains go down to the beach. This is all we got. We can't pick up and move. Are they going to give us any more land? No. So we are invested in trying to take care of what we have left." - Blackfeet Environmental Program Director Gerald Wagner
But the youth is ultimately what inspired this year’s event.
“There was none other [topic] more than climate, younger people care about it. So I thought I'd invite Al Gore to come and speak to us," Baucus said.
Amy Croover, the Montana State Director for the Nature Conservancy — the events co-sponsor — said a partnership with Baucus Climate Scholars has been beneficial.
"It is always great to be in a company of folks that are willing to show up and act on behalf of nature," Croover said.