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Global Warming Prompts Local Lobbyists

Don Sharaf
American Avalanche Institute


Decision makers are hearing a lot about global warming this week.

The nation’s mayors backed a climate change resolution on Sunday. And, on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on the government’s power to regulate greenhouse gases, as citizen activists prepared to press Congress to deal with climate change.

Among them were, eight Utahns who were polishing the lobbying pitches they’ll be making in congressional offices this week.

“We have an amazing opportunity,” says Bill Barron, leader of the Salt Lake City chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby, “to create a way that we can address climate change in a way that can appeal to a broad group of people by showing that there is an economic benefit as well as environmental benefits to holding fossil fuels accountable for the externalized costs of burning the fuel.”

The national group has 600 citizen lobbyists visiting 500 congressional offices this week. They are promoting their carbon-tax-and-dividend proposal as a realistic and fair solution to global warming.

Activists also mounted a call-in campaign Monday to rally support for climate action.

“There really does seem to be a dawning awareness and a recognition that we are going to have to change the way that we look at the future,” says Utah clean-air activist Kathy Van Dame, “that just as the people came here in 1847 to address changes and find a new way of life, that it’s time for us to begin being pioneers again.”

In Dallas at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker rallied support from local leaders to deal with climate change in their communities.

“This to us is not a theoretical or ideological issue,” he says. “ I think what you see among mayors and local governments across the country is that we are seeing the real effects of climate change on the ground today.”

Utah has warmed about 2 degrees since the beginning of the 20th century. Becker says that’s having an impact already on snowpack and water supplies.

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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