Symposium highlights negative impacts of climate change in Utah

Posted at 10:06 PM, Apr 10, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY -- Do you ever notice Utah’s summers are a lot hotter than they used to be?

The Salt Lake County Health Department recently brought together leaders and researchers to discuss the impact of climate change on Utah, and on your health.

“We have extended heat waves, we have much higher average temperatures each year, and we are peaking at higher temperatures,” said Dr. Royal Delegge, who is the director of environmental health at the Salt Lake County Health Department.

Rising temperatures are trending across the globe, but if you've lived in Utah for most of your life, you've probably noticed temperatures are changing in the Beehive State in particular.

“The fact is, that Utah is warming twice as fast as the world average is, with the changing climate,” Delegge said.

A group of Salt Lake County leaders hosted a symposium this week to bring together health and climate experts.

“The Utah Climate Action Network is a collaboration among a diverse array of private sector, public sector, faith-based and university institutions,” said Tyler Poulson, a sustainability program manager in Salt Lake City.

The first goal on the list?

“A communications campaign that's really going to resonate with Utahns, that’s going to connect with Utahns in terms of the climate changes that are happening locally,” Poulson said.

Advocates say those who think they can ignore climate change are mistaken, because the impacts are everywhere.

“Those are also filtering out to have impacts on our water supply, public health, air quality, a whole range of other things,” Poulson said.

One major concern in Utah is the snowpack and the impact it has on the state’s water supply.

“That has severe impacts in terms of recreational opportunities and ski areas, but people often forget that the snowpack is really our virtual reservoir, meaning that that’s the way we store water,” Poulson said.

The good news is that leaders say Utah is blessed with plenty of renewable energy sources, like solar.

“We’re one of ten of the sunniest states in the union, and with that we can really transform how we’re powering our lives here,” Poulson said.

The network says getting members of the public involved in the conversation now, instead of later, is why hosting these symposiums is so important.

“I’m trying to learn so I can also educate the younger generation,” symposium attendee Sarah Tesfaye said. “They’re the framework of what’s going to happen in the future, and so they need to be aware of what’s happening, climate change, all the different environmental issues, and see where they can make a difference.”