The danger of climate change hasn’t been sufficiently proven, Utah’s extraction industries are suffering and President Barack Obama is misguided in wanting to use federal regulation to reduce carbon emissions that taint our land, water and air.
Those are the positions taken by Utah Republican Chris Stewart, the newly minted 2nd Congressional District representative who believes that the threat of climate change is overrated. But Stewart also is the new chairman of a House environmental subcommittee that oversees the discussion of, among other things, the Environmental Protection Agency and climate-change policy.
Stewart tells The Salt Lake Tribune he was elected “based on my values, and I work to represent my constituents in all that I do.”
Well, I’m a constituent of his, and his easy dismissal of the effects of climate change — proven by thousands of scientists around the world — is an affront to me and like-minded people who find ourselves as an island in a sea of conservative voters who overwhelmingly elected him last year.
It is well to remember last summer’s wildfires, smog and searing drought. How the mountains aren’t getting the snowpack we’re accustomed to. And how winter inversions made January and February miserable months for those of us in the Salt Lake Valley and across much of northern Utah.
As for extraction industries, energy production in Utah is pumping along at a 24-year high and expanding through new technologies that can tap oil and gas in places once impossible to reach. In 2012, Utah issued a record 2,103 drilling permits.
Coal-mining continues in east-central Utah and Kane County, where the Alton strip mine sends dozens of heavily laden coal trucks along narrow U.S. 89 round-the-clock. (Try sleeping in a motel next to the highway as those trucks rumble past.)
Earlier this year, the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee released a draft of its 2012 environmental report, which states in plain language that climate change is real and dangerous.
“Climate change is already affecting the American people. Certain types of weather events have become more frequent and/or intense, including heat waves, heavy downpours, and in some regions, floods and droughts,” the report’s executive summary says. “Sea level is rising, oceans are becoming more acidic, and glaciers and arctic sea ice are melting. These changes are part of a pattern of global climate change, which is primarily driven by human activity.
“Evidence for climate change abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” the report adds. “This evidence has been compiled by scientists and engineers from around the world, using satellites, weather balloons, thermometers, buoys and other observing systems.”
Moreover, the report states, “Global climate is changing, and this is apparent across the U.S. … the climate change of the past 50 years is due primarily to human activities, predominantly the burning of fossil fuels.”
For those of us who accept the science of climate change, and have faith in Utah scientists and engineers who study it, Stewart’s disdain for such researchers and the EPA is, at best, alarming.
Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org,pegmcentee/facebook.com and Twitter, @pegmcentee.