Local experts weigh in on climate change

Posted at 6:25 PM, Dec 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-01 20:25:28-05

SALT LAKE CITY – Global leaders are meeting in France this week to address climate change. While some are skeptical of the theory, others say science proves it is real and happening in our own backyards. Local experts weighed in on the issue Tuesday.

Hydrologist Brian McInerney says there’s been a defined pattern of climate change in Utah the past 20 years.

“The fraction of snow to rain is changing as we speak,” McInerney said. “It’s getting more rainfall is what we see during the meteorological winter then we used to see in the past, and that’s only going to increase as we warm the atmosphere.”

He predicts by the year 2035, the percentage of snow in the mountains will decrease by 40 percent.

“Areas that are 90 percent snow covered will become 50 percent snow covered, and that trend is just going to continue, so how are we going to supply water to the farmers of Utah and the people that live here?” McInernery said.

World leaders are gathering in France this week to discuss just that. President Obama is meeting with other politicians to look for ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We’ve proved that strong economic growth, and a safer environment no longer have to conflict with one another. They can work in concert with one another,” Obama said.

Lindsay Beebe with the Sierra Club, says her organization is adamantly pushing for lawmakers to enforce cleaner energies in homes, vehicles and power plants.

“There’s simple things everyone can do in terms of driving less, or, you know, keeping that thermometer just down a couple degrees,” Beebe said. “And then there’s other things - indirect things - you know, you can call your legislator, you can lobby the regulators. You can go to public hearings and voice your concern.”

McInerney believes a lot of the damage may be irreversible.

“When you put the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, they stay in the atmosphere for 1,000 years. It’s not something that precipitates out, like ash from a volcano or something that just turns over with the seasons,” he said.

But he says legislators should be willing to try different approaches to create cleaner air.

“Really, we need to have a mindset that says we see the problem, we see the science, now what are we going to do about it to the benefit of our society and our children?” McInernery said.

There are several politicians in Utah who are outspoken critics of climate change. Fox 13 reached out to a few of them Tuesday, but they did not return calls in time. But both experts say the data is clear and more needs to be done about climate change in Utah.