Nicole Boliaux, Deseret News
Electric car charging stations are pictured in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017.

The people of Utah believe problems are best solved by free and open markets, augmented by government intervention only when necessary. Many issues are prime for market solutions, but some are more complex and require a closer look at whether markets can sufficiently address them. Climate change is one of those problems. This is why I, as a Republican, am sponsoring House Concurrent Resolution 007, which officially acknowledges climate change and urges the state to prioritize and coordinate the use of its tremendous free market resources to deal with our longer, hotter summers and recurrently lower snowpack and reservoir levels.

To develop creative, Utah-based solutions, we must first agree on the nature and seriousness of the problem. The vast majority of scientists, including climatologists and scientists from Brigham Young University, Utah State University and the University of Utah, now agree that we are experiencing unprecedented change in our planet’s climate. Weather is what happens day to day, and climate is the weather over a longer period of time. By any measure, 2017 was an extraordinary year for changing trends in climate. Devastating heat waves, hurricanes, floods, mudslides and wildfires are becoming routine events.

Close to home, one does not have to look further then Tooele. During the 100 years from 1900 to 2000, Tooele had 66 days over 100 degrees, but in the first decade of the 2000s there were 94 such days. The case becomes stronger as you look at temperature extremes. There were only four days over 103 from 1900 to 2000 but from 2000-2010 there were 28. If you look at Utah as a whole, we are warming up at more than twice the rate of the average. Temperature is just one of many metrics that show significant changes to the overall climate in Utah that affect agriculture, infrastructure, energy use, water use and human and animal health.

The good news is that innovations spearheaded by various industries have started to tackle the problem. Consider the energy industry, for example. The price of renewable energy has fallen drastically, beating even the most optimistic projections from a decade ago. Rocky Mountain Power’s recent decision to invest $3.2 billion in wind energy provides proof that cleaner technologies can compete in the current energy market.

The transition to electric vehicles is also well underway. Vehicle manufacturers like Ford, GM, Toyota and Volvo have accelerated their timelines for transitioning most or all of their entire production lines to hybrid and electric vehicles. In Utah, this will provide the additional benefit of improving our air quality while also addressing factors related to climate change. Recognizing the contribution of our vehicle and energy use to a changing climate does not conflict with the ideals of capitalism. In fact, free markets will help to accelerate solutions because of the innovation and entrepreneurship inherent to market-based systems. The government can help by creating incentives or, at least, by leveling the playing field in the market to allow energy-wise products to fairly compete.

16 comments on this story

Utah is a special place. Gov. Gary Herbert is fond of saying that we deal with our problems using the “Utah Way.” In that spirit, we believe Utah can tackle the challenges of climate change through its own means. But we must first have open and honest discussions of the problem, which is what my resolution is meant to initiate. We can continue to grow our economy and create jobs while addressing climate change.

We are asking our colleagues, Utah’s policymakers, to be open to discussing these issues during the 2018 legislative session so we can begin working on Utah solutions to tackle it head on.