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Changing Climate Prompts New Warnings, Local Planning

Utah State University

  The world’s leading climate scientists and policymakers met in Japan over the weekend and released their latest assessment of global warming. They agree the climate is heating up because people burn so much fossil fuel.

Here in Utah, leaders are brainstorming about how to deal with the changing climate.

Vicki Bennett is Salt Lake City’s sustainability director. Last week, she gathered government leaders, environmental advocates and climate scientists to discuss what can be done locally. Bennett says planning is needed now to deal with shifting precipitation, warming and other climate changes that will affect daily life.

“We’re realizing that there’ll be some changes in our local climate,” said Bennett at the Climate Action Forum. “And so how do we start addressing that together? Because this is going to be a regional effort, we’re going to have to have to make it really work.”

Rob Davies is a physicist and educator with the Utah Climate Center in Logan. He told the forum that mounting evidence shows leaders need to act now.

“Contrary to popular misconception, nothing about this beast has slowed,” he said. “The atmosphere continues to accumulate manmade greenhouse gases at an accelerating pace.

“As a result, the earth system continues to accumulate excess energy at a rate of about four atomic bombs worth of energy every second or a million atomic bombs worth every few days. And as we continue to burn fossil fuels this energy imbalance is growing.”

Davies says communities need to adapt, but they also need to find ways to slow the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The changes ahead for Utah’s water supply – and its climate – will be discussed more at the Spring Runoff Conference. The conference takes place Tuesday and Wednesday at Utah State University.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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