SALT LAKE CITY — Dozens of Utah leaders signed a declaration on Tuesday promising to address climate change issues and find solutions to protect Utah's environment.
The signing kicked off Path to Positive Utah, an initiative creating conversations about climate change sponsored by environmental public interest groups Utah Clean Energy and ecoAmerica.
"We’re seeing the impacts globally, and we’re seeing the impacts here at home," said Sarah Wright, executive director of Utah Clean Energy. "There is some urgency to this issue. We do need to move more quickly than we have."
More than 40 leaders from business, government, higher education, faith and civic organizations attended the event in Salt Lake City.
Several leaders also shared their commitments to invest in renewable energy.
Both Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Summit County Councilman Glenn Wright restated their goals to use only renewable electric energy by 2032.
"It’s not just a Wasatch Front issue," Biskupski said.
Utah's climate has warmed nearly two to four times the rate seen across the rest of the world, according to this year's State Water Strategy report.
The warming temperatures impact the annual snowpack, Glenn Wright said, which in turn affects the irrigation season, snowmelt, soil moisture and the winter sporting industry in the rural county.
"We can solve climate change, but we have to start now," he said, adding that the county has taken several steps to move to renewable energy, like buying electric buses for public transportation.
Although 63 percent of Utahns believe global warming is happening, only one-third discuss climate change on occasion, according to a national survey from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
That's too infrequent, said Utah Clean Energy's Sarah Wright. She hopes the initiative will create a platform for leaders to talk about climate change and work together to find energy-efficient solutions.
"We have some of the best renewable energy potential and solar potential in the entire country," she said, which can help cut pollution and boost local economies.
The initiative will provide education and seminars to help leaders act on climate change issues, Sarah Wright added, like training on how to respectfully talk about climate change.
"It has become a polarized issue," she said, "and we want to make sure it's a respectful dialogue that understands where different people and organizations may be coming from."
Researchers around the world have documented the effects of climate change, as reported in the Fourth National Climate Assessment executive summary produced by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Based on evidence, the report states it is "extremely likely" the dominant cause of global warming is human-caused, including emissions from greenhouse gases.2 comments on this story
To help reduce emissions in the state, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams mentioned the county's initiatives to promote active transportation, like walking and biking, and give financial help to low-income car owners who fail vehicle emissions tests.
Dean Soukup, vice president of investment banking company Goldman Sachs, also spoke on the company's target of $150 billion investment in clean energy by 2025.
Bishop Scott Hayashi also attended the signing on behalf of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah.
"This is the only planet we human beings have," he said, "and on that alone, it would seem to me, that we have a common interest in having a conversation in taking action on climate change."