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Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox: ‘Clear Evidence’ Of Changing Climate In Wildfires

Utah Fire Info
Plumes from two fires in central Utah, the Coal Hollow Fire on the left and the Hilltop Fire on the right. Flames from both are scorching tinder-dry central Utah.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox acknowledged Wednesday that climate change is playing a role Utah's devastating  fires this season, including a fast-moving blaze in drought-stricken Sanpete County.

“There's very clear evidence of a climate change — that the climate has been changing for a long time,” he said, echoing the climate-science talking points of some Republicans. “Certainly, this feels much more like the new norm when it comes to fires.”

Cox lives near the fast-growing Hilltop Firein Sanpete County and has been monitoring the blaze all week.

He said dry weather is a factor this year. Forest management is, too, and that’s why he’d like to see more spending on preventing wildfires.

But, Utah is limited in any response, he said, because the climate is “global.”

“There are pieces the state of Utah can do, and we’ll talk with people,” Cox said. “We'll have those conversations with those that understand it a lot better than I do and see what can be done to do our part to help improve.”

Utah lawmakers passed a first-of-its-kind resolution,sponsored by a Republican, earlier this year that recognizes climate change. The measure says sound science should be a priority when addressing the causes of the changing climate and supporting positive solutions.

Earlier in the week, Republican President Donald Trump tweeted that California’s deadly wildfires were a result of mismanaging water. A top fire official in California countered that it's the changing climate that is leading to more severe and destructive fires.

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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