Our annual snowpack is shrinking, according to Robert Gillies, State Climatologist for Utah. After studying mounds of data and compensating for weather cycles, he recently announced that Utah's precipitation ratio has shifted from snow to rain by 9 percent. This fits with the Utah State University Climate Center's finding that over the past 40 years, Utah has warmed twice as fast as the global average. Both have ominous implications for our future economic and population growth.
But many people — including most Utah political leaders — will shrug this off, doubting climate change because of arguments against it in the mass media, including the Internet.
If this was a court case, we would call expert witnesses to help us evaluate the data.
Luckily, we have many non-partisan witnesses with impeccable credentials who report that man-made global climate change is serious enough to warrant major policy changes:
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): "The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years."
The National Academy of Science (NAS): "Climate change is occurring, the Earth is warming … concentrations of carbon dioxide are increasing, and there are very clear fingerprints that link [those effects] to humans."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): "Temperature increases and sea level rise are already occurring and, along with other climate changes, are likely to accelerate. … [In New York City] sea level may rise approximately 1 to 2 feet by the middle of this century, and as a result, more frequent coastal flooding can be anticipated."
The American Meteorological Society: "The scientific evidence that our world is warming is unmistakable. More than 300 scientists from 160 research groups in 48 countries contributed to the report confirming that the past decade was the warmest on record and that the Earth has been growing warmer over the last 50 years."
The Department of Defense (DOD): "Climate change and energy will play significant roles in the future security environment. The department is developing policies and plans to manage the effects of climate change on its operating environment, missions and facilities.
The U.S. Supreme Court: In 2007, the Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency must regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as pollutants involved in climate change.
Climatologists: A 2009 poll found that 97 percent of American climatologists who actively publish climate change research believe that global climate change is real and is caused by humans.
Of course there are still climate-change doubters, just as there were doubters about the early findings on smoking, the ozone hole, acid rain and DDT. Since those peddling the doubt back then usually had financial reasons to do so, we should scrutinize the motives of those now peddling doubt about climate change, such as the fossil fuels industry.
As H.L. Mencken put it, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his income depends on his not understanding it."
The overwhelming consensus of competent, impartial experts is that climate change is real and threatens the status quo. It's time for us to elect officials who recognize this and are willing to make serious changes in energy, transportation and other public policies.
Don Jarvis is chair of the Provo City Sustainability and Natural Resources Committee. His views do not necessarily represent those of Provo City.
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