Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
A smoggy view of the Salt Lake valley.

The Fourth National Climate Assessment report issued by the U.S. Global Change Research Program — an ongoing federally mandated series — suggests that America and other countries are in for a rough ride if steps aren’t taken to counter manmade changes to the climate that can impact everything from economic well-being to public health, food supply and the toll of natural disasters, among others.

Similar findings have been released elsewhere, as well as by the United Nations for a number of years now. It’s becoming harder to refute that things are changing in ways that are probably not good for us or the planet we inhabit.

Still, such reports continue in some quarters to be embraced or rejected along ideological rather than scientific lines. Environmental issues have become wedges that drive us apart instead of something that brings us together. And we are all worse off because of it.

When I drive out of the canyon from Park City into the Salt Lake Valley and see a brown haze that’s so thick it’s hard to discern large landmarks like the state Capitol that’s so prominently perched on a hill to the north, I don’t think about politics at all. I think about the fact that school children and old people and both those with whom I agree and those with whom I disagree are probably inhaling that junky air. And it worries me and makes me want to do what I can to make it better.

I have no doubt air that looks chewy is bad for the health of people and animals. So confronting that grog, I don’t see how anyone can reasonably argue that we’re not hurting the environment and endangering our own futures by many of the things we do — or that we shouldn't stop doing them.

The really crazy part is making changes that might help is not that difficult, as my colleague Erica Evans has recently shown with articles about air quality, including a look at simple steps like reducing driving. Where’s the downside?

I do not for one second doubt that our global climate is changing or that people who say cold snaps are proof there’s no global warming merely show they haven’t read beyond a headline. Scientists who have dedicated their lives to studying it have provided pretty accessible discussions of environmental interaction and how it works.

But even if I didn’t believe environmental harm was occurring, I’d still be hard-pressed to find a reason why we shouldn’t try to reduce emissions or tackle pollution, or work toward development and deployment of sustainable fuels like wind and solar power.

" Even if I didn’t believe environmental harm was occurring, I’d still be hard-pressed to find a reason why we shouldn’t try to reduce emissions or tackle pollution. "

Nor can I think of a single reason why I wouldn’t want to reduce the amount of garbage we put into landfills or the amount of plastics that get into our oceans. I can’t imagine supporting dumping toxins into water, so why would I oppose laws to prevent it?

I recycle because I see absolutely no downside. It makes both environmental and economic sense, and I’d rather see land used for parks than for garbage pits. Why not use a bamboo straw instead of throwing away tons of plastic that doesn’t break down naturally? Bamboo’s cheap, easy to clean and durable so it can be used repeatedly — and there’s virtually no chance it’s going to lie in that garbage pit for thousands of years or make its way into a sea turtle’s stomach.

43 comments on this story

People can’t vote God out of or into existence. He is or he isn’t real, regardless of public opinion. If I believe and you don’t, we’ll eventually find out one of us is wrong. Diabetes, mental illness and turkey pot pies are real whether you experience them or not. Environmental issues aren’t a matter of opinion, either, though we can debate causes.

We need to stop politicizing everything. Why wouldn't we conserve the precious resources to which we have access? Protecting wildlife and showing respect for earth should be goals for individuals. As technology, science and knowledge grow and we find ways to use things more sparingly and better, we should simply do it, not debate it.