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Interior science

Published November 2, 2009 5:55 pm

Acting responsibly on warming
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Climate change science. Some people see that phrase as a contradiction in terms. Even some members of Congress illogically refuse to believe that science supports the predictions of thousands of knowledgeable scientists that human-caused temperature increases threaten the lifestyles and even lives of millions.

Former President George W. Bush seldom utilized science when dealing with what he considered the nuisance of climate change warnings.

But, fortunately for Utah and the West, the science of climate change has become de rigueur for the Interior Department under Secretary Ken Salazar.

Salazar has taken a wise step to help the country deal with the growing impacts of warming. He has issued a "secretarial order" creating a Climate Change Response Council. It will coordinate DOI agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and the Forest Service, with state and local governments to "address current and future impacts of climate change on America's land, water, ocean, fish, wildlife, and cultural resources," monitor changes and collect data in eight regions and educate the public.

It's quite a change from the eight years of the Bush Interior Department, when coal and oil were Priority 1, years when climate change warnings were first ignored, then buried or doctored to downplay the looming crisis. That attitude of blithe ignorance would still be the order of the day if it were left to Republicans such as Utah's Sen. Orrin Hatch and Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Rob Bishop.

The three Utahns are among 16 Western Republicans who charge Salazar with trying to skirt the authority of Congress. Ironically, given widespread agreement among climate scientists that the American West will be one of the regions hit hardest by global warming, the 16 complain that "These regulations will hit the Western United States the hardest."

They ignore the consequences of unmitigated climate change -- more severe wildfires, longer droughts, reduced snowpack, shrinking reservoirs and stream flow -- that are real and growing more serious each year.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., ridiculously claims the rules will "allow special interest groups with narrow agendas to block all existing and future activities on federal lands in the name of climate change."

Quite the opposite is true. Salazar recognizes the danger of kowtowing to the gas, coal and oil industries. And he's acting responsibly to reduce the effects of warming caused by burning fossil fuels.