"Planning really should begin now" to deal with the obvious economic, social and environmental consequences, said Snover of the University of Washington's Climate Impacts Group. And delay probably means larger costs addressing climate-related problems later.
She made the remarks at the annual meeting of environmental managers called the Multi-State Working Group. The Utah Department of Environmental Quality co-sponsored this year's conference.
Featured speakers included Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and Park City Mayor Dana Williams, as well as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Denver Region Administrator Robert K. Roberts. Environmental officials from around the world also attended.
Snover urged the group of air, land and water professionals to look now for ways to reduce carbon dioxide, a chief factor in the quickening pace of global warming, rather than continuing to debate whether it is truly a problem. Records suggest ecological changes are under way, with shorter winter freezes, hotter summers, extended drought and increasing forest fires.
"These changes rearrange our ecosystems," she said.
Snover told how her office, funded by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, has already begun to see conflicts between the varying groups that rely on a stable environment. Irrigators are at odds with power users and those whose livelihoods depend on endangered salmon, for instance.
In a discussion session following her keynote address, Snover hinted that stopping climate change would be somewhere between daunting and impossible. Humans simply pump more carbon into the atmosphere than the environment can absorb.
"If we stopped everything [that contributes carbon to the atmosphere] today, we would still not be back to normal."
Tim Wagner of the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club called the address "a dire warning from a credible scientist."
"We're just going to have to live with the effects of global warming" because it is a reality, he said.