by Becky GINOS
UTAH STATE CAPITOL—Winters with tons of snow, winters with practically no snow – that’s Utah, right? Maybe not. There is a great deal of scientific evidence that would suggest global climate change is playing havoc on the earth.
Legislators Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake and Rep. Ray Ward, R- Bountiful have both proposed resolutions HCR001 and HCR007 to push the discussion during the current legislative session. In conjunction with those resolutions, Edwards, Ward and Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake and a coalition of Utah students hosted “Climate Solutions for a Healthy Future,” at the Capitol last week.
The panel discussion included special guests, Laura Nelson, the Governor’s Energy Advisor and Director of the Office of Energy Development, Millcreek Mayor Jeff Silvestrini, Rob Davies, a physicist at Utah State University, former Evergreen Clean Energy CEO Mark Burdge and Anna Wilder, president of the BYU Climate Change Club.
Students from around the state asked questions of the panel and had table discussions with some 19 legislators in attendance.
“I’m very committed to providing good outcomes for people,” said Nelson. “As we evaluate energy opportunities we need to consider the impact on our environment. I came to Utah on a family vacation when I was 12. I told my parents ‘this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been and I’m going to live here someday’ – and now I do. I’m committed to realizing the future for this generation and generations to come.”
Silvestrini said he’s tried to think outside the box as he’s worked to create a new city. “I’ve received calls that we should be green and sustainable,” he said. “Whether we agree about the science of climate change or not, what is the harm in doing things that lower our use of fossil fuels? Why shouldn’t we build our economy on industries that use renewable energy? There are so many things we could do that are good things anyway.”
Utah has been making good strides in greenhouse emissions but still has a ways to go, Davies said. “We have to move forward in good faith with the conversation. But planets are warming and humans are driving that. It’s an entirely human-caused phenomenon. The good news is there are human solutions.”
“Our future is filled with change,” said Wilder. “We are the future. We can bring that change. We have to face the future with knowledge rather than ignorance. It seems insurmountable and unconquerable but we all want what’s best for this earth.”
“People my age really do care about this stuff, said Burdge. “Partly because we messed it up.” The debate shouldn’t be if it exists, but that it needs to be fixed. The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones; it changed because we found solutions. Your generation is wiser, smarter and you have the information to do it. You’re going to heal it.”
Davies identified some things that are concerning in Utah. “The extreme high temperature changes and the decline in the snow pack, mostly in the lower elevations,” he said. “That is important for us in Utah because we get most of our water from melting snowpack. There is air pollution from wildfires and there’s a strong climate change link to them. The biggest risks and impacts are things you don’t see coming. What happens here in Utah is the impact of climate change.”
A student asked if it was possible for Utah to go to 100 percent renewable sources in the near future. “We may not have agreement on all the data and facts, but that’s OK,” said Nelson. “We need to look for solutions. I think we can come up with meaningful solutions because the one thing we all agree on is that we want the best outcomes for today and the future. Moving to 100 percent renewable may not be the answer. It comes down to personal choice and how can we use energy and power efficiently?”
The intention of the event was to have an open dialogue on this environmental and economic issue, said those involved.
“We’re all just living on this earth,” said Wilder. “This issue rises above (political) parties.”