Community, Environmental Politics
As the climate shifts…
Our city and county officials are gearing up for change.
We can plainly to see that already climate changes are impacting our everyday lives in northern Utah. Over the past three years we have experienced unprecedented harmful algal blooms in bodies of water across the state, we have suffered through extended heat waves, and choked through thick particulate pollution emanating from record-breaking fires across the western United States and concentrating in northern Utah. To compound these problems, we are also experiencing an extreme and prolonged period of drought.
That Utahns recognize the impacts of the changing climate is confirmed by a 2017 poll commissioned by the Salt Lake Tribune and the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, which revealed that 71% of Utahns understand that climate change is real and that 64% recognize that the changing conditions are made worse by human activities. Given this reality, and the knowledge that these impacts will only grow over time, numerous people and organizations are taking action now to deal with the impacts facing us.
Local organizations are working to provide information to the public and develop concrete steps that address the issues impacting our lives in mostly negative ways due to the changing climatic conditions. This focus is primarily on the rapid warming of our environment; Utah is warming at about twice the rate of our global average. Several organizations, cutting across traditional sectors make up the Utah Climate Action Network. The network hosts Climate Action Week, an educational opportunity that build the public’s knowledge of climate-related issues. Climate Action Week took place last month.
Salt Lake City’s Sustainability Department has developed a comprehensive climate adaptation plan addressing mitigation, adaptation, and resilience for climate-related issues. The city adopted “Climate Positive 2040” in 2016 that details steps towards achieving 100% renewable energy for the community by 2032 as well as an 80% reduction, from a 2009 baseline, in greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.
With concerns about rising temperatures, extended heat waves and water availability, the Salt Lake County Health Department has developed its own “Adaptation Plan for Health.” The Health Department also hosts an annual Climate & Health Symposium, started in 2015. This event, to be presented again in the fall of 2019, brings together researchers and experts in climate-related issues to provide information on public health and environmental impacts for our region.
Many additional organizations, cutting across the public, nonprofit and private sectors, are currently engaged in addressing the impacts of Utah’s changing climate. These efforts include reaching out with information to the general public and engaging in specific activities to plan and prepare for the continuing changes. We can already see these changes taking place and impacting our lives in ways that cannot be ignored.
I encourage you to learn more and become involved with some of these efforts to ensure that we can continue to thrive in our state’s beautiful yet fragile environment.
Further information can be found at www.slc.gov/sustainability/climate-positive/; www.utahclimateactionnetwork. com/
Royal DeLegge is Salt Lake County Health Department’s Director of Environmental Health, an adjunct professor at Westminster College, and Utah Clean Cities Coalition’s chairman of the board and CEO. He is on the advisory board of CATALYST’s Clean Air Solutions Fair.