Letter of the Week: Monument reduction (and its climate change implications) may turn Utahns into refugees

President Donald Trump holds up a signed proclamation to shrink the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments at the Utah State Capitol Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, in Salt Lake City. Trump traveled to Salt Lake City to announce plans to shrink two sprawling national monuments in Utah in a move that will delight the state's GOP politicians and many rural residents who see the lands as prime examples of federal overreach, but will enrage tribes and environmentalist groups who vow to immediately sue to preserve the monuments. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

There’s no shortage of reasons to condemn the Trump administration for shrinking Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. But one that gets less attention is its implications for climate change and migration.

With millions of acres newly available for oil and gas development, we will likely increase Utah’s carbon footprint, hastening the impacts of climate change.

By 2050, climate change is expected to displace 200 million people, none of whom will be considered refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention. In other words, we’re facing a migration crisis of epic proportions.

One place where people may no longer be able to live? Utah, the second driest state, which scientists predict will soon suffer from severe droughts and wildfires. Aridity aside, the longer we depend upon fossil fuels, the longer we’ll battle inversions like the one plaguing Salt Lake City now.

I fear that one day, the reduction of Utah’s national monuments — and the contributions to climate change it entails — may turn Utahns into “refugees,” forced to relocate due to water scarcity, wildfires and noxious air. To protect the world and Utah for future generations, we must support the brave tribes and organizations suing to reverse this poor decision.

Maya Silver, Kamas

Return to Story