Climate change threatens Utah’s environment

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Illustration by Rebecca Cho

As average global temperatures rise, many environmentalists blame global warming and climate change. Over the summer, the Salt Lake Community Health Department (SLCHD) met to discuss the impact of climate change on the environment of Utah and the health of Utah citizens.

“We have extended heat waves,” said Royal Delegee, the director of Environmental Health at SLCHD. “We have much higher average temperatures each year, and we are peaking at higher temperatures.”

Though average temperatures nationwide are on the rise, Utah is experiencing a sharper rise in temperatures than other parts of the country.

“The fact is, that Utah is warming twice as fast as the world average is, with the changing climate,” Delegge said.

In 2014, the Obama Administration released the third U.S. national climate assessment. The assessment reports that water levels in the Colorado River, Great Basin and other water supplies are up to 37 percent lower than levels before the year 2000.

“That’s scary really. I’ve lived in this state my whole life, and I don’t want to see it dry out,” said Mary Polatis, a psychology student at UVU. “I do feel like the summers are getting hotter, and maybe a little more dry.”

In addition to lower water flow, the 2014 assessment projects that Utah snowfall will decline as temperatures rise.

“That has severe impacts in terms of recreational opportunities and ski areas,” said Tyler Poulson, a sustainability manager in Salt Lake City. “People often forget that the snowpack is really our virtual reservoir, meaning that that’s the way we store water.”

With 2015 being the hottest year on record, meteorologists believe Utah’s average temperature will continue to rise.

“We need to do something. I don’t know what we can do, but we really need to do something and soon,” said Amber Dowling, a student at UVU.

In 2012, the U.S. Climate Assessment found that power plants and other industries in Utah emitted over 40 million metric tons of carbon pollution, which is more pollution than the yearly emissions of 8 million cars.

“Those are also filtering out to have impacts on our water supply, public health, air quality, a whole range of other things,” Poulson said.

Leaders acknowledge that Utah is a prime environment to utilize certain renewable recourses like solar and wind energy, but many professionals say we are a long way off from solar being a major source of energy.

“We’re one of ten of the sunniest states in the union,” said Poulson. “With that we can really transform how we’re powering our lives here.”

In addition to growing solar industries, the Climate Action Plan has given motivation for states to invest in clean energy, as well as investing in the efficiency of renewable recourses.

Environmentalist hope that with initiatives such as the Climate Action Plan, drastic climate change may be mitigated before irreversible damage is done.


2 thoughts on “Climate change threatens Utah’s environment

  1. What can we do? Take public transportation more often. Turn off your lights when you dont need them. Shorter shower times.
    Just adopt new habits. Unfortunately a great majority of Utahns don’t want to change habits.

  2. ^This person is right! Seriously, a majority of people don’t really give a crap about their water usage. They’re happy that it’s cheap and they have enough. A lot of Utahns arn’t used to public transportation, they prefer the luxury of their own cars. My friends in high school have grown up wanting their own car when the school bus is perfectly capable of taking them to school. We are talking about a change in culture. Which is something not a lot of people are willing to do. People, do your part, take public transportation, cut your water usage, adopt new habits!

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