Environews, Minis

Roads, Inland Port, coal and wasteful water projects

By Amy Brunvand

The window of time to deal with climate change has narrowed to an urgent 12 years according to a new report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The report says global temperatures are already 1°C higher than in pre-industrial times; 1.5°C rise will create serious problems; 2°C would result in catastrophic sea-level rise, the collapse of ecosystems, and mass migration of climate refugees.

Utah is already experiencing serious climate change effects including less snowpack, prolonged drought, hotter summers, a longer, more intense wildfire season, and beetle-killed forests. Warmer temperatures and agricultural runoff result in harmful algal blooms in lakes and reservoirs.

The Great Salt Lake ecosystem that supports millions of migratory birds is threatened by human water development. If GSL dries up, the Wasatch Front is likely to become unlivable due to toxic dust storms.

Utah’s ski industry is losing early and late season tourism, and is pushing for more development higher up in the canyons.

Demand for water is driving wasteful projects such as the Lake Powell pipeline. The water storage reservoir in Lake Powell was at 60% capacity by the end of 2017; the projection for 2018 is 46% capacity.

As a center for refugee resettlement, Utah could end up receiving climate refugees forced to flee from sea level rise.

In the 2018 General Session, the Utah Legislature passed HCR 7, a resolution to acknowledge the impacts of climate change on Utah citizens. However, the State’s commitment to growth for the sake of growth and fossil fuel boosterism is generally incompatible with reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In September, the BLM issued a Record of Decision in favor of building utility corridors to support a vast expansion of tar-sands strip mining on leases owned by Enefit American Oil (an Estonian company) in the Uinta Basin.

A giant inland port that the Utah Legislature forced on Salt Lake City seems intended to export coal, and will significantly increase truck traffic and air pollution.

Road building such as the West Davis Corridor focuses on increasing the number of cars in motion, not on better ways to get places without driving.

None of this unconstrained industrialization is helpful to reduce Utah’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions to foster resiliency in the face of climate change. We can do better by giving more consideration to environmental values.

Global Warming of 1.5° C: ipcc.ch/report/sr15

This article was originally published on November 5, 2018.