Utah: Still the right wing place

Our guest blogger is Auden Schendler, Executive Director for Community and Environmental Responsibility at Aspen Skiing Company. Named a “Climate Crusader” in TIME magazine’s 2006 special issue on climate change, Auden once worked for Amory Lovins at Rocky Mountain Institute (as I did). You can read his full bio here.

When you drive into Utah from Colorado, there’s a sign that says: “Utah: Still the Right Place.” For years, the sign has been edited with red spray paint to read: “Utah, Still the Right Wing.” New word from the Beehive State suggests the grafitti should remain.

Here’s a report from today’s Salt Lake Tribune:

Utah House passes resolution doubting climate science (02/10/2010)

The Utah House of Representatives adopted yesterday a nonbinding statement expressing deep doubts about climate change science and urging the federal government to desist from efforts to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. The resolution was passed by a 56-17 vote after the removal of references to a “climate data conspiracy” and climate change “gravy train” that were included in the original statement.Rep. Kerry Gibson (R), the sponsor of the resolution, said he believes humans have little influence over climate change and government regulation would impose staggering costs.’I’m afraid of what could happen to our economy, to our rural life, to our agriculture, if such a detrimental policy continues to be pursued for political reasons,’ Gibson said.

Gibson may not know that one of the most important industries in his state is worried about the consequences of not taking policy action. Park City commissioned a third party science analysis to see what the future held for them without action on climate.

From the report Climate Change in Park City: An Assessment of Climate Snowpack, and Economic Impacts:

Our economic modeling results indicate that projected decreases in snowpack will have severe economic consequences for the region. By 2030, the estimated decrease in snowpack is estimated to result in $120.0 million in lost output. This lost output is estimated to result in an estimated 1,137 lost jobs and $20.4 million in the form of lost earnings (or labor income). By 2050, the potential impacts range from $160.4 million in lost output, $27.2 million in lost earnings, and 1,520 lost jobs (low emissions scenarios) to $392.3 million in lost output, $66.6 million in lost earnings, and 3,717 lost jobs (high emissions scenario).

More for Gibson: here’s what’s going to happen to agriculture, another of his concerns, without action on climate. (From the report Hotter and Drier: The West’s Changed Climate, another science meta-study):

In Utah, ongoing drought has qualified most of the state for disaster relief during several years. In the summer of 2007, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture declared 24 of 29 Utah counties primary disaster areas due to drought, wildfire and flash floods. In 2003, the USDA declared all 29 counties primary disaster areas due to drought, insect infestation, and high winds. In 2002, the amount of non-irrigated farm lands that were harvest fell by more than 30%, compared to 1997.

Being a desert, this deeply religious state is probably going to suffer more than others as the planet warms.  But “where there is no vision,” as the Proverbs say, “the people perish.”

No people deserve the climate fate in store for Utah. But their leaders “have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk; the bud shall yield no meal.” (Hosea, 8:7) Unless they are careful, Utah’s leaders may end up ensuring biblical calamity for their good citizens.

JR:  Let me add to Auden’s post another climate-driven plague of biblical proportion hitting Utah — pestilence.  Here’s an excerpt from the oldest Utah newspaper, Deseret News, owned by the Mormon Church and “usually described as moderate to conservative” in a 2008 story, “Bark beetles are feasting on Utah forests“:

A vicious cycle is brewing in Utah: Bark beetles are killing a lot of trees in the state. Dead trees are fuel for wildfires, which experts say contributes to global warming. And climate change is now being blamed for an increased population of bark beetles.

The Dixie National Forest bears one of the most obvious signs in Utah of the mark being left by a tiny tree predator commonly known as the bark beetle, a wood-boring insect that in large enough numbers can decimate an entire forest.

We’re talking hundreds of thousands of acres they have basically been wiped out “” pretty much the entire spruce component in the Dixie National Forest,” said Colleen Keyes, forest-health program manager for Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. “It’s really something to see. You would be very surprised. It’s hard to describe until you see it “” it’s just dead trees as far as the eye can see.”

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14 Responses to Utah: Still the right wing place

  1. Such anti-science legislation is an act of spitting into the wind. (polite version)

  2. Paul says:

    The unbelievable stupid Utah House of Representatives!

    Just skied UTAH this past – Park City (Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort and The Canyons) as well as the incredible Alta and Sownbird! The snow is way below average this season!!!

    The same can be said of Mount Tremblant in Quebec!

    and yet Washington D.C. gets mind blowing 3 – 4 feet !!! These wild wacky mood swings is climate change!

    and over in Whistler Canada it dumps record snowfalls on the coastal mountains in November and December 2009; and now outside Vancouver, Cypress mountain is experiencing record high temps just as the Olympics start!

    Park City transformed itself from mining town to resort town 50 years ago. Over the coming 50 years how will Park City, in particular, react to climate change! How will this change affect UTAH?

    The Utah House of Representatives is burying its collective mind in the sands of its deserts!

  3. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    3.1415926… Just too hard to remember. So we will legislate our own definition.

  4. mike roddy says:

    Wow. The climate change debate in Utah is centered on whether to include “climate data conspiracy” in the Legislature’s statement.

    77% of the people in Utah are not that dumb, as this vote implies. The coal and power generation industries are big there, and state legislatures are usually even more corrupt than Congress, so I attribute it more to that than the apparent cluelessness of the population.

  5. Andy Gunther says:

    Here’s the op-ed I just sent the Salt Lake Tribute (a similar version of which should be appearing in the Bakersfield Californian soon. We all need to speak out publicly about this!

    Climate Science Stands the Test of Time

    My heart sank when I learned the Utah House passed a resolution questioning climate science. There remains a large and dangerous gulf between scientists’ concern about climate change and public understanding. Skeptics speak of the “scientific consensus” as though it is a consensus of opinion, when it is not. The National Academies of Science of 13 nations call for action based on a consensus of conclusions from almost 200 years of research. We ignore this knowledge at our great peril.

    The concept of global warming was proposed in 1896 based upon physical principles discovered earlier in the 19th Century. The objective skepticism that is the heart of the scientific process has tested and refined this scientific understanding, and its predictions continue to be verified by observations.

    Previous generations of scientists predicted that carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels were building up in the atmosphere, trapping heat, and warming the earth. That these gases trap heat is basic physics. It is why Venus is hotter than Mercury, though Mercury is closer to the sun. Air bubbles preserved in ancient ice sheets prove we have boosted carbon dioxide concentrations way beyond levels seen in the last 800,000 years. This has altered the Earth’s energy balance, as documented by air and ocean temperature changes, reduction in ice mass, and increase in sea levels.

    Science now predicts more dangerous and costly changes in coming decades.

    The predicted rise in global average temperature by a few degrees will be accompanied by serious and painful impacts to civilization, including changes in water distribution, more forest fires, acidification of the ocean, more frequent extreme weather events, and altered distribution of pests and diseases. These changes will cause vast economic and humanitarian consequences, including mass migrations, threatening U.S. national security.

    In a time in which public understanding could not be more important, we keep retreading old, disproven ideas. Claims of “no global warming in the last ten years” are deceptive creations of a temperature record starting in very hot 1998. The last decade was actually the hottest on record. And don’t be fooled by claims the temperature record is influenced by urbanization around weather stations. Not only is this obvious impact measured and controlled for in our records, the largest temperature increases on earth are occurring in nonurban regions of the arctic and the Antarctic Peninsula.

    Similarly, the oft-repeated claim of a scientific consensus for global cooling in the 1970s is not true. Although global cooling attracted much media attention, the vast majority of scientific research at the time continued to point toward planetary warming.

    Some folks think that since Earth’s temperature has fluctuated in the past, what we’re seeing today is probably just another natural cycle. But of the causes of these cycles (variations in the Earth’s orbit, changes in solar output, and alterations of heat-trapping gas concentrations), only the latter can explain the temperature changes we are measuring.

    Since carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for decades, our past emissions have already committed us to more climate change. Of greatest concern that we will push the earth’s climate across certain tipping points after which massive and possibly rapid change is inevitable.

    Fortunately, global warming is a human caused problem, with achievable solutions. Simple changes in our habits and cost effective technologies to reduce emissions are available today.

    While denial of bad news is human nature, it can be dangerous. Those who continue to deny the facts of climate science are encouraging Americans to confuse the unprecedented with the improbable, and this would be a tragic mistake with devastating consequences.

  6. Andy Gunther says:

    And here’s a summary of climate change impacts in Utah from Governor Jon Huntsman’s Blue Ribbon Advisory Council on Climate Change (2007).

  7. There could be something in the water out here–Mayor John Hickenlooper of Denver, now running for Governor of Colorado and very progressive on climate (he wrote the forward to the fun new book “How the West was Warmed: Responding to Climate Change in the Rockies,” to which I contributed) yesterday told a crowd of mining industry executives that he does not believe the “final verdict” is in on climate change, arguing that perhaps global warming is not as “catastrophic” as some may believe. This is from a guy who went to Copenhagen and who I have the utmost respect and admiration for and who gets my vote hands down despite this slip. Meanwhile, not as surprising, CO’s representative Salazar joined a coal caucus to support fossil fuels in the US. This is from a guy who’s rooming with his brother Ken in DC, who at Interior is placing tighter restrictions on mining and is fully on board with the President’s push for clean energy, energy security, jobs and climate legislation.

  8. Even on this excelent blog we are using the misleading term: “climate change”. We should not! Words are important.
    Do not mask GW reality!

    The term “Climate change” was coined by people who oppose the scientific facts, gathered over decades, that the earth is warming due to our vast use of fossil fuels. It was coined by the people on the right that deny global warming and was designed to reduce social concern about this serious danger to humanity. President Bush dictated the use of this calmer term in his administration to reduce urgent requests by scientists to start reducing our emission of greenhouse gases from fossil use.

    The term Global Warming, on the other hand, focuses our attention on the real situation, on the continuous increase in average global temperature. This temperature increase was measured across the globe for many years, and demonstrated to cause damages on global scale, from mass extinction of species, to rise in ocean levels, to rapid melting of ice pole and glaciers around the globe.

    If we continue to use this fabricated term “climate change” we will continue to mislead the American public and lull it to even more complacency while the danger of GW is rapidly increasing.

  9. Leif says:

    Climate Change, Global Warming? While I do agree with you on your points Dr. Ginosar Perhaps I could shine a different light on it. Global Warming gets us into the trap of “how come it is cold out side.” I have used the term “Climatic Change” when I have tried to tame “Climatic Disruption.” Preferred. ( I was not aware of the Shrub connection, reason enough in itself to cease.) Being more open however allow us to incorporate “cold records” as well into the AGW argument.

  10. slanted tom says:

    Joe Sixpack has to learn that ‘climate change means record amounts of bad weather’ that may hurt him and his family, his livelyhood, and damage his property and raise his taxes as his governments deal with the problems. Please tell him.

  11. Will says:

    Nice op-ed Andy Gunther. I might have to take some pointers from that for my next Seattle Times editorial.

  12. riverat says:

    Andy, I think on the paragraph on natural cycles you could have added that the rate of change in climate today far outpaces that seen in most previous natural cycles.

  13. Ned Best says:

    Dr Ginosaur, I’m pretty certain that the term ‘Climate Change’ was not coined by deniers, but rather by the scientific community who wanted a term that took into account that climate is changing in ways other than simple warming. For example the big dump of snow in DC this week which on the surface appears to contradict the idea that the earth is warming, but is in reality part of the same process, as warmer air holds more moisture and hence causes more violent storms.

    I could be wrong about the origins of the term, but I’ve never heard before that it was deniers that coined it.