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Editorial: Utah must end climate change denial

Dependence on fossil fuels must end

First Published Apr 02 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Apr 02 2014 04:37 pm

President Obama came in for a bit of criticism not long ago when he described the threat of climate change as "settled science."

The criticism came from some who correctly understand that science is never "settled." It is always looking, always questioning, always seeking to do a better job of drawing conclusions from detailed observations.

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And just the other day, leaders of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change took a new look at their 2007 report on the threats posed by global climate change and, indeed, changed their minds.

The threat is not what they thought it was seven years ago.

It’s worse.

So much worse, in fact, that IPCC graph-drawers had to invent a new category to paint a bleak enough picture of the threat to the world’s food supply and the increased likelihood of political unrest, the mass migration of people and the mass extinction of animals and plants.

The top category was once red, for "high." Now it’s been topped by purple, for "very high." Or, in the less formal words of one expert, "horrible."

While the poor always suffer the most, the IPCC report stresses that nobody on Earth is rich enough to totally avoid the impact of a world where climate patterns are disrupted and the results ripple through political and economic systems everywhere.

Some societies, however, can choose to act to simultaneously minimize the hazard of accelerating climate change and to maximize the steps we take to adapt to the effects that are likely to come to pass now that we have waited so long to acknowledge the truth of the matter.

Utah — relatively affluent, well-educated, family-oriented and with an economy firmly tied to its natural resources — ought to be a culture that leads the way.

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We can realize that our economic dependence on the removal and processing of fossil fuels is a long-term loser, for two reasons. One, because the world is soon going to realize the foolishness of our dependence on hydrocarbons and start limiting or, more likely, taxing their use. Two, because every other part of our livelihoods, particularly agriculture and recreation, are dependent on avoiding the kind of long-term droughts that climate change is likely to trigger.

As science goes, this is about as settled as it gets. And our leaders will be doing us no favors if they tell us to just keep on living the wasteful lives we are accustomed to and pretend as though nothing is wrong.

Because climate change isn’t bad. It’s really bad.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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