Letter: Our leaders need to get unstuck from the 1950s and think about 2050

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) An unusual sight emerges from the shallow waters of the Great Salt Lake as a “reef” pops into view between Saltair and Antelope Island on the south end of the lake on Saturday, July 10, 2021, as extreme drought conditions impact the lake.

Utah leaders can mitigate climate change and improve air quality. One way is to control emissions from transportation which contribute to 30% of poor air quality, much coming from heavy duty trucks and buses, and most impacting communities of color who live near freeways and in industrial areas. We could commit to using and selling only zero emission heavy duty vehicles by 2050. This is even more important with the Inland Port pushing its polluting agenda.

Utah could also commit to protecting thirty percent of our land. According to data from 2012, around 66% of Utah is owned by the federal government, but only 3% is protected. Without protection these lands are open to fossil fuel exploration, mineral extraction, and a variety of uses. Protecting 30% now would sequester carbon, eliminate fossil fuel extraction, and provide adequate habitat for species migration and adaptability, besides offering more land for people to recreate.

Utah could also protect existing water supplies by stopping plans to divert the Bear River and Lake Powell. Bear River feeds the Great Salt Lake which is experiencing record low levels. Those dry lake beds contain arsenic, which is spread across the valley in dust. Lake Powell is also at record lows, less than 40% of capacity. This year, it was necessary to divert water from upper reservoirs to Lake Powell just to keep the hydro stations operating. Utahns use almost double the amount of water as our neighboring desert states and with conservation measures, experts predict we will have enough water for many years without the unnecessary, costly diversions.

There are many other things that can be done, but our legislators are stuck in the 1950s. We need leaders who actually pay more than lip service to climate change and have the courage to take decisive action.

Patricia Becnel, Ogden

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