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Utah Governor Calls Climate Science "A Little Debatable"

Gov. Gary Herbert responded to a reporter's question about climate impacts on Utah's water Thursday. This photo is from a past KUED news conference.

Governor Gary Herbert says he’s still not sure people have a role in causing climate change.

A reporter asked Utah’s Republican governor on Thursday whether Utah’s lean snowpack and possible water shortages are the result of climate change.

“I believe in climate change,” he said at KUED’s monthly news conference. “I think the climate does change. And it’s been colder. It’s been warmer, and we see climate change for a variety of reasons.”

But Herbert went on to question the prevailing scientific view that human activities like burning fossil fuels have a significant role in altering climate patterns.

“The science is probably a little debatable out there. You hear people on both sides of the argument. For me, it doesn’t matter from the standpoint of we just need to understand, hey, we’re not getting as much snowpack. We’d better prepare for it and do what we can to adjust.”

Herbert dismantled the small staff of state environment employees who were working on the state’s climate strategy when he took office in 2009, and he later pulled Utah out of the Western Climate Initiative. A champion of Utah’s coal and petroleum industries, Herbert said Thursday Utah’s clean energy portfolio is expanding in case scientists prove the fossil fuel-climate link.

Meanwhile, Utah universities are contributing to world understanding about climate change, including a recent scientific paper showing the role greenhouse gasses played in the extreme weather on both coasts this winter.

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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