THE EARTH's CLIMATE has changed since the Industrial Revolution, and there is substantial evidence that man is influencing the change through greenhouse gas production. Utah's contribution to global climate change is significant and comes mostly from carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from electricity production, mainly from coal consumption in power plants. Other leading contributors to Utah's greenhouse gas emissions are transportation, oil and gas production, and emissions from livestock and micro-
bial processes. By 1993, Utah's per capita greenhouse gas emissions were twice the global average, and Utah's total emissions were 1.2 percent of the global total. Baseline CO2 emissions for Utah are projected to be 54 percent above 1990 levels by 2010 and 95 percent above 1990 levels by 2020, mainly as a result of its growing population.
The effect of climate change on Utah is likely to be significant as well. The western United States is warming faster than the global average, and Utah's average temperature for the last decade (1996-2006) was 2 degrees F (1 degrees C) warmer than the state's average over the past 100 years. This trend is causing earlier springs, less snowfall and more rain, earlier plant blooms, and a shorter frost season, although Utah's mountain snow-pack has shown no long-term changing trends. Furthermore, climate models project that, even if greenhouse gas emissions stabilize, global average temperatures will continue to increase for centuries, and current and future emissions will affect Earth's temperature more over the next 100 years than in the past 100 years. The effect is projected to be even greater on Utah. For example, a climate model based on a 2.5-times atmospheric CO2 increase by 2100 projects that Utah's mean annual temperature will increase by approximately 8 degrees F (4.4 degrees C), whereas the global average will increase by 5 degrees F (2.7 degrees C).
Higher temperatures will likely mean earlier springs and less water storage in Utah. Earlier Utah springs will cause rainfall instead of snowfall. This will replenish the reservoirs, but the mountain snowpacks will receive less snowfall and melt earlier in the season, and the increased temperatures will increase evaporation in the reservoirs. The combination of these factors could jeopardize the state's already-taxed water supply. Climate model projections show that there may be heavier episodes of precipitation, but there also will be longer time spans between them.
This weather pattern may induce a higher chance of flash flooding and a larger amount of runoff to the rivers and reservoirs, instead of steady groundwa-ter replenishment through more frequent, but less intense, rainfall. In addition, there will likely be ecological impacts from warming rivers and lakes—animal and insect populations may migrate, and insect migration times may no longer be synchronized with the plants they pollinate. Utah's agricultural economy may also be affected. With a 2 to 5 degree
F increase, Utah's crops may thrive, but with the decreased water supply and infrequent rainfall, more frequent and severe droughts may counter the positive effects of a slight warming. Beyond an increase of a few degrees, crops may no longer endure the heat, and Utah's agriculture would need to change to accommodate the increased temperature.
Statewide, grassroots campaigns designed to educate the general public on the state of the science on climate change and its potential effect are neither common nor well received in Utah. However, over the past several years, state officials of this politically conservative state have become increasingly aware and proactive in climate discussions and policymak-ing. Recent policies have focused on energy efficiency in the form of corporate and personal tax credits for renewable energy, sales tax exemptions for renewable energy, and grants and loan programs for clean fuels and vehicle technology.
In May 2007, Utah was the sixth state to sign the Western Region Climate Action Pact, an agreement between states designed to set standards for reducing greenhouse gas emissions under a market-based program. In line with this new pact and Utah's focus on energy efficiency, Governor Jon Huntsman established a goal for increased energy efficiency in all state facilities of 20 percent by 2015. To aid in reaching this goal and in developing future policies, the governor formed the Blue Ribbon Advisory Council (BRAC). BRAC is a council of atmospheric, climate, and environmental scientists within Utah who advise the governor on the state of science on climate change. These scientists work alongside politicians and economists to evaluate the potential effect of policies designed to control and mitigate future climate change in Utah.
The scientific and political communities recognize that there is sound scientific evidence of human-induced climate change in Utah. This, in combination with the projections of future climate change and the concern over future water availability in the region, has spurred local and state leaders to take a close look at current climate initiatives and future policies. Although some of the general populace and politicians of Utah remain skeptical, many state officials are embracing advice from atmospheric scientists and cli-
matologists and are making efforts to decrease Utah's footprint on global and regional climate change.
sEE ALsO: Carbon Dioxide; Climate Models; Greenhouse Gases.
bibliography. Climate Change and Utah: The Scientific Consensus (Blue Ribbon Advisory Council, 2007); Current Utah Clean Energy Policies (Utah Stakeholder Working Group on Climate Change, 2007); Final Utah Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Reference Case Projections: 1990-2020 (Utah Center for Climate Strategies, 2007).
Summer Rupper Rachelle Hart Brigham Young University
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