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Climate Change Strategies Already At Work In Salt Lake City

Maj. D.J. Gibb
Utah Army National Guard


The UN climate change panel issued its latest status reportthis weekend. The group says the world must act swiftly to avert the risks in a rapidly warming planet. IN Utah, local efforts are already underway.

A few years ago, Salt Lake City began brainstorming the ways global warming might make life tough for residents. Staff tried to imagine the challenges of dealing with climate-related threats like droughts, heat waves and windstorms. They then came up with strategies to reduce greenhouse gas pollution which also save energy and conserves water.

“The thing that we want to do when it comes to adapting to future climate,” says Salt Lake City Sustainability Director Vicki Bennett, “is to look at what the future might hold and what can we do so we can have the most livable city in that future.”

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker serves on the White House’s Climate Change Task Force. The group is expected to reveal a tool kit later this month communities can use to minimize the risks posed by a changing climate.

Meanwhile, the University of Utah’s Global Change and Sustainability Centeris also working on practical approaches. Center Director Jim Ehleringer says past reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have detailed how fossil fuels are the biggest part of the problem.

“I think the message that came through this time is that there are ways that we can solve this problem,” he says. “And things such as alternative ways of generating electricity, alternative ways of transportation are things for us to begin to consider now.”

Ehleringer says everything from rooftop solar power to mass transit to smart urban planning can help.

The latest IPCC report says burning fossil fuels and industrial processes account for nearly 80 percent of the climate pollution between 1970 and 2010.

The report also says emissions like these will continue to change the climate. And they will “increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”

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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