Climate Change

Utah must respond in earnest to the developing climate crisis.  After consulting with energy experts, these are our recommendations.

1. The Utah Medical Association and the Utah Physicians for Healthy Environment have formally requested that the Governor develop a plan to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions.  Our plan requests that the State reduce its greenhouse gases 25% by 2020 by  transitioning of our electricity generation from fossil fuels to renewable sources.

2. We urge the adoption of a program we call “55, 65, 75″.  This means reducing the speed traveled on highways down to 55, turning thermostats down to 65 in the winter and up to 75 or higher in the summer.

3.  Utah should adopt and enforce the most current energy efficiency code for homes and buildings. Utah should  establish reimbursement rates for home owners and businesses that wish to generate their own electricity from clean sources. This reimbursement should be sufficiently favorable to make it truly feasible for the average home owner and average small business owner.

The driving forces behind the new world economy, lead by China, have dramatically shifted from fossil fuels to renewable energy.  If Utah’s economic platform remains dependent on dinosaurs, literally, we will lose any ability to compete in the new paradigm. In a recent study, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission demonstrated that $340 million invested in aggressive energy efficiency programs would save $1.3 billion annually, create 9,000 jobs, reduce overall state electricity use 1.6% and prevent 12 million tons of CO2 reaching the atmosphere.

4.  The Utah Medical Association and UPHE have formally recognized that public education is critical to modifying behavior regarding greenhouse gas emissions.   Today we request that the state board of education formally incorporate the teaching of greenhouse gas science into the core science curriculum of public junior high and high school.  We cannot think of a more important scientific concept for our children to understand.

5.   We appeal to the public for rapid adoption of other lifestyle changes.

  • We  ask consumers to, wherever possible, buy local.
  • We ask homeowners in the state to convert lawns to gardens, fruit trees, nut trees, and shade trees with the goal of decreasing dependency on out of state and out of country food sources and augmenting the natural carbon sink that trees provide.   According to the US Forest Service, large diameter, long-lived, leafy trees tend to be the most beneficial in regards to carbon sequestration. Tree species is a strong determining factor regarding carbon sequestration. Trees vary between being fast or slow in storing carbon. Tree species also vary in how much they output harmful volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) such as isoprene, which produces the greenhouse gas ozone. Therefore, we encourage the selection of tree species that are long lived, rapidly sequester carbon but which also do not have a high output of VOC’s. Those types of trees capable of being grown in Utah are listed on this [slide].
  • We encourage a sharp reduction in meat consumption.  The average American adult eats a half a pound of meat per day, far in excess of protein requirements.  Meat is by far the most carbon intensive of all food commodities.
  • We appeal to the public to begin serious water conservation in our homes and businesses. Utah should adopt and enforce a formal water conservation program far more extensive than the status quo and similar to other desert cities throughout the world.  Water is the limiting factor to growth and survival in the West and will become even more so with this evolving climate crisis.

6. It is long overdue that we divert highway construction funds into more  mass transit infrastructure and provide heavy incentives for mass transit use.

7.  We ask the state to develop a strategy to save regional farmland from housing development and water diversion schemes that threaten future agricultural production.  As the climate crisis deepens and the price of fossil fuels inevitably climbs, especially oil, the importance of producing “local” commodities will steadily increase.  That will make regional agriculture even more valuable and important to near by population centers.

Today, parents sacrifice for many years in the hope that their children will have a better future by going to college.  Most adults learn to adopt personal habits that science has told them is in the interest of their long term personal health, even though the short term benefits may be imperceptible.   Most adults don’t smoke because it will kill them tomorrow, but because it may kill them 30 years from now.  Scientists know that we are creating an atmosphere that will endanger us all, with as much certainty as we know that smoking causes cancer.

The climate crisis should be thought of this way:  the Earth is our home, it has developed a heavy smoking habit and we have been lighting the cigarettes.   We must open the windows, put away the ash trays, hide the matches and stop supplying the cigarettes.

We are realistic yet optimistic about Utah doing it’s share.  Over 160 years ago, our pioneer ancestors completely uprooted their lives and came to Utah.  They built communities from scratch that many of them knew they would not live long enough to benefit from.  They wisely stored food, clothing, and all the necessities for life in the event of some kind of catastrophe. They sacrificed virtually all they had for the greater good. We are at a similar point in history now.  We ask for community sacrifice in the interest of safeguarding life as we know it.  It is inconceivable to us that our pioneer ancestors wouldn’t sacrifice now to safeguard the future health for their children and grandchildren.