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AM News Brief: The Paradox Of Energy Efficiency, Year Round Wildfire Season & 23 COVID-19 Deaths

A wildfire evacuation route sign along a road in Toll Canyon near Summit Park, Utah.
Renee Bright/KUER
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Many experts say the worsening climate crisis means the threat of wildfires is now nearly year-round. That story and more in this morning's news brief.

Tuesday Morning, Sept. 28, 2021

State

Twenty-Three More COVID-19 Deaths In Utah

Monday, the Utah Department of Health reported a three day total of nearly 3,176 new cases of COVID-19. School aged children account for 640 of those cases, and there is currently one school in the state in the red Test to Stay category. Mountain Crest High in the Cache County School district has 62 active cases of COVID-19 right now, which means all students there need to be tested for the virus. The state also reported 23 more people have died from COVID-19 since Friday. Those include three people between the ages of 45 and 64: a man from Utah County, a woman from Box Elder County and a woman from Emery County. So far, 52.3% percent of all Utahns have been fully vaccinated. — Elaine Clark

Northern Utah

Challenging The Faculty Evaluation Process At UVU

Two faculty organizations at Utah Valley University are speaking out against what they argue is an overreliance on student evaluations to measure faculty success. In a letter sent to university administration Friday, leadership of the UVU chapters of the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors said they have received numerous complaints from faculty about the practice. For Alex Simon, who teaches behavioral science and is the outgoing president of AFT UVU, the biggest issue is that relying so heavily on student reviews encourages faculty to dumb down their classes in order to solicit positive feedback. He said that ultimately hurts students. A UVU spokesperson said student evaluations are only one of many assessments used to measure faculty performance. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Reduced Emissions Comes Down To Behavior

New research has found that more energy savings doesn’t lead to a significant reduction in CO2 emissions, and that’s because of human behavior. Sociologist Lazarus Adua led the University of Utah study. It found that better home efficiency didn’t reduce emissions, and investment in renewable energy actually increased residential emissions. It’s known as the “rebound effect.” When people see they’re saving energy — they feel like they can use more of it. Adua said it’s not enough to rely on technical solutions. Instead, people will have to make adjustments to their lifestyle to really address climate change. — Elaine Clark

Region/Nation

Climate Change Could Mean Year-Round Wildfire Season

Autumn traditionally spells the end of wildfire season, but historic drought means some parts of the West are still under threat. Northern Idaho and northwestern Montana have already gotten enough precipitation to end fire season. But further south, dry conditions will probably last at least another two weeks. California isn't likely to see rain until late October. Some of the most destructive fires in recent years have come in the fall, and many experts say the worsening climate crisis means the threat is now nearly year-round. — Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau

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