Utah

UTAH

Somewhat more than 3.2 million people live in Utah — spread out across approximately 82,000 square miles of desert, forest, alpine regions, and surprisingly, a bit of wetlands. Most of the state is desert, with very hot days and very cold nights; about 25% of Utah is temperate forest with both deciduous and coniferous trees, and less than 1% of Utah is a wetland with about 75% of those wetlands located near the Great Salt Lake. On land 10,000 feet above sea level lies the alpine region with short, hardy plants that can survive high wind speeds and extreme cold. Utah mountain peaks, on average, are the tallest in the US with an average elevation — in each of Utah’s counties — 11,222 feet higher than any other state

Utah has not been spared the effects of climate change. Warming about 2°F in the last century climate change is diminishing the flow of water in Utah’s rivers and escalating the frequency and intensity of wildfires.

As the state warms, less precipitation falls as snow, and more snow melts during the winter months. The Utah snowpack has been shrinking since the 1950s, shortening the season for skiing and other forms of winter tourism and recreation as well as altering the way snow melts into the Green and Colorado rivers. As the amount of water from the heat is diminished, the need for it, because of the heat, increases. This has many negative effects on the ecosystems and human populations depending on the rivers.

Those rising temperatures are particularly harmful to agriculture in the state, which uses 80% of its water. In addition to reducing the amount of water flow available through its rivers, the heat increases the amount of water evaporating from the soil, making it harder to irrigate fields and keep livestock. Heat also threatens the health of cows, causing them to eat less, grow more slowly, and produce less milk.

Higher temperatures and resulting drought are also likely to increase the severity, frequency, and extent of wildfires. As of Oct. 4, 2020, with the third driest spring in its history and extreme and exceptional drought across the state,  Utah has seen 294,930 acres burned. Along with burning down towns and ecosystems, wildfire smoke can reduce air quality and increase medical visits for chest pains, respiratory problems, and heart problems.

One of the reddest states in the nation, in 2019 Utah created a long-term comprehensive plan to address climate change. At the request of the state legislature, the Kem C.Gardner Policy Institute produced the “Utah Roadmap: Positive Solutions to Climate and Air Quality” with the intention of reducing greenhouse gas emissions affecting both the local air quality and the global climate. The plan includes cutting CO2 emissions statewide 25% below 2005 levels by 2025, 50% by 2030, and 80% by 2050. It focuses on a market-based approach to combating climate change, dealing with transportation, infrastructure, housing options, energy efficiency, and electric vehicles. The plan gives special attention to Utahns who live in rural areas. This past October, 2020 more than 100 mayors (including Logan’s Mayor Daines and Salt Lake City’s Mayor Wilson), business, and academic leaders from throughout the state signed Utah’s first Climate and Clean Air Compact committing their support of the Roadmap.

This is a huge shift from the Utah of just a few years ago, when its legislature passed a resolution urging the EPA to “cease its carbon dioxide reduction policies, programs, and regulations until climate data and global warming science are substantiated.” Utah’s change of heart and business-friendly approach have caused it to rise as a model for other red states on the issue of climate change.

Although, as of 2018,  just 11% of Utah’s energy comes from renewable resources, the state holds huge potential for green power generation, especially solar power generation. As Elon Musk said back in 2015, “you could take a corner of Utah and Nevada and power the entire United States with solar power.”

So, although not exactly a green state, it is moving in the right direction. Around two-thirds of Utah’s electricity comes from coal-fired power plants, down from 81% in 2013 with most of the rest of its energy coming from natural gas. In 2018, it was the 12th-largest coal producing state in the US, the lowest level in 33 years and down by almost half from production a decade earlier. Utah does still account for about 1 in every 100 barrels of crude oil produced in the United States, and 1 of every 9 barrels produced in the Rocky Mountain states. Utah also has the nation’s only operating uranium ore mill, which processes uranium ore from mines in other states, as there has been no active uranium mine production in Utah since late 2012.

The majority of energy consumption in Utah comes from the transportation sector, which accounts for almost one-third of the state’s total, followed closely by the industrial sector at about one-fourth. The residential sector and the commercial sector each account for about one-fifth of the state’s energy consumption, mostly due to energy spent on warming and cooling homes, responding to the hugely varying desert temperatures. Energy consumption per capita in Utah is, nonetheless, below the national average and lower than two-thirds of the states.

Effects of Climate Change and Drought in Utah

CURRENT NEWS

Utah AG cheers as US asset managers depart from climate change initiative

By Collin Leonard 02/18/24
Utah's attorney general is applauding multiple U.S. asset management firms' decision to pull out of Climate Action 100+.
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Utah is pushing back against ever-tightening EPA air pollution standards

By Kirk Siegler 02/13/24
When it comes to its chronically poor winter air, Salt Lake City already has topography working against it. Steep mountain ranges on either side of the city create a giant bowl, where dreaded winter temperature…
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Utah Legislature Takes Aim at Rights of Nature Movement – Inside Climate News

By Katie Surma 02/01/24
Lawmakers in Utah are advancing legislation aimed at stopping a growing “rights of nature” movement that has coalesced around efforts in the state to save the Great Salt Lake, which is drying up as a…
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‘Next generation of climate leaders’: These Utah students are trying to get their school district to commit to clean energy

By Michael Lee 01/25/24
Air quality is an environmental concern 15-year-old Adalayde Scott has been passionate about for most of her life — it’s personal for her.
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Column: Meet John Curtis, the Utah Republican who cares about climate change

By Sammy Roth 01/18/24
I’ve been reading about the Utah Republican since 2021, when he founded the Conservative Climate Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives and began making the case that the GOP should take global warming seriously.…
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A Huge Underground Battery Is Coming to a Tiny Utah Town

By Henry Fountain 01/12/24
Outside Delta, a one-stoplight town in the scrublands of central Utah, a giant battery is taking shape underground.Two caverns, each as deep as the Empire State Building is tall, are being created from a geological…
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Natural History Museum of Utah debuts climate change exhibit

By Kim Bojorquez 11/17/23
The Natural History Museum of Utah unveiled a new exhibit last week aimed at inspiring optimism about fighting climate change.
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Power play: Legislators move to take control of Utah coal plant before it closes

By Tim Fitzpatrick 11/16/23
Utah legislators got their first look on Wednesday at a bill to put Millard County’s Intermountain Power Project under legislative control. Their intent is to look at a way to keep using Utah coal after…
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From Great Salt Lake to air quality, a new report details how Utah’s environment is changing

By Ben Winslow 10/20/23
A major new report details some big progress but also significant challenges Utah faces with its environment.
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Utah researchers are at the forefront of protecting the grid from climate change

By Sean Higgins 09/29/23
Utah researchers are spearheading efforts to explore how to make the Mountain West’s power grid more resilient to the impacts of climate change.
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Green groups sue, say farmers are drying up Great Salt Lake

By Kirk Siegler 09/06/23
The state of Utah is not doing enough to save its imperiled Great Salt Lake and stop an impending ecological collapse, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by national and western environmental groups.
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Biden goes west to talk about his administration’s efforts to combat climate change

07/31/23
President Joe Biden will travel to Arizona, New Mexico and Utah next week and is expected to talk about his administration’s efforts to combat climate change as the region endures a brutally hot summer with…
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PLANS TO ACCELERATE RENEWABLES

Utah bets on selling coal power at a premium price, but other western states may not want it

03/12/24
Though coal wasn’t specifically named in a Senate bill that seeks to make Utah an “energy independent” state, the resource was front and center in one of the hottest debates during the last days of…

California is betting on southwest Utah’s geothermal energy. Will Utah keep up?

03/07/24
Enhanced geothermal systems — which are a new way to tap the Earth’s natural underground heat to make electricity — could be a key piece of America’s transition away from fossil fuels.

Calculated: The drop in Utah asthma attacks if we switch to electric vehicles

03/06/24
Utah kids would avoid 26,100 asthma attacks by 2050 if the U.S. transitioned entirely to electric vehicles powered by renewable energy, according to new research from the American Lung Association.

Utah solar+battery project to quadruple storage capacity

03/06/24
Renewable energy developer rPlus Energies said it recently amended a PPA with PacifiCorp to quadruple the battery storage capacity at the Green River Energy Center project under development.

Utah lawmakers embrace ‘energy security’ in multiple bills

03/01/24
In a span of less than two years, the state of California experienced more than 50,000 incidences of total blackouts of energy, impacting 51 million customers. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that yearly power…

Utah Solar Tax Credits, Incentives and Rebates (2024)

02/22/24
Utah is a state with abundant sunshine, which makes rooftop solar panels a worthwhile investment for homeowners looking to produce clean energy and save on electricity bills. See how Utah solar incentives can help you…

Biden Administration advances project to power central Utah with renewable energy

02/13/24
The Biden administration has announced support for a major transmission line project in Utah as part of a broader plan to expand renewable energy on public lands.

Salt Lake City, Utah Adapts to Improve Air Quality Through Smart Growth

02/01/24
In 2014, Salt Lake City was designated a Climate Action Champion Community for their leadership in reducing emissions and increasing climate resilience and adaptation to air quality concerns from climate change. The Sustainable Salt Lake…

A Huge Underground Battery Is Coming to a Tiny Utah Town

By Henry Fountain 01/12/24
Outside Delta, a one-stoplight town in the scrublands of central Utah, a giant battery is taking shape underground.Two caverns, each as deep as the Empire State Building is tall, are being created from a geological…

New credit system to incentivize renewable electricity projects to move to Utah

12/22/23
Utah has an incentive — called a Production Tax Credit system — to bring more solar-power farms and other renewable electricity projects to the state.

Utah Communities Moving Forward With Plans For Clean Energy Transition

07/30/21
At the end of 2019, 23 cities and counties in Utah made an ambitious pledge to transition to 100% net renewable energy by the end of the decade.

Climate Positive 2040

05/04/20
Salt Lake City is committed to protecting the public health and safety of its residents, including ensuring access to clean air, clean water and a livable environment.​

Preparing for Climate Change in Utah

05/04/20
Utah has not developed a statewide adaptation plan. Other resources from the Adaptation Clearinghouse, which have been developed by the state and localities to help communities prepare for climate change, are highlighted below.

Climate Change

05/04/20
The Earth’s climate is changing rapidly in response to anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. The University recognizes that climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time, and has committed to a…

Crossroads Utah

04/30/20
Utah’s Climate Future.

20 Utah Communities Commit To 100% Renewable Energy Goals

By Jon Reed 12/23/19
Coalville and West Valley City are the latest Utah communities to commit to transitioning to 100% net-renewable energy use by 2030. There are now 20 local governments participating in the statewide effort.  

KEY RESOURCES

Cross-Tie Transmission Line

11/01/23
The Cross-Tie Transmission Line is a proposed 500-kilovolt (kV) line connecting Utah and Nevada. The approximately 214-mile line would go into service in 2027.

Utah Solar Panels: Pricing and Incentives

02/11/22
Residential solar panels are quickly growing in popularity in Utah. The state is among the top 10 in the nation for solar capacity, with enough Utah solar panels installed to power 442,889 homes with solar…

Utah State Profile and Energy Estimates

10/26/21
Utah is a state of contrasts, from flat salt desert to rugged canyons, and from mountains soaring more than 13,000 feet above sea level in the northeast to the desert floor 9,000 feet lower in…

Energy State Bill Tracking Database

09/10/21
The searchable Energy Storage Legislation Database displays information in interactive maps and charts, tracking state activity from 2017 to the present.

The First National Flood Risk Assessment

10/06/20
The First Street Foundation Flood Model represents the culmination of decades of research and development made possible by building upon existing knowledge and frameworks regularly referenced in the identification of flood risk.

The Impacts of Climate Change and the Trump Administration’s Anti-Environmental Agenda in Utah

09/19/20
Between 2017 and 2019, Utah experienced one wildfire, one drought, and one severe storm. The damages of each event led to losses of at least $1 billion.

State-by-State: Climate Change in Utah

08/06/20
Utah is vulnerable to increasing heat, melting snowpack, droughts, and wildfires

Utah’s Climate Threats

05/05/20
Explore graphics, interactives and news about Utah's climate threats.

The Utah Climate Action Network Is Ensuring A Collaborative Response To These Questions.

05/05/20
Human civilization continues to emit greenhouse gases by burning fossil fuels at record levels, causing global warming and therefore disrupting the entire planetary climate system. In fact, the State of Utah is warming twice as…

Utah Climate Action Network plans as Utah warms at twice global rate

05/05/20
Utah is warming at twice the global rate, and a new climate coalition is forming to stop it.

What Climate Change Means for Utah

05/05/20
Utah’s climate is changing. The state has warmed about two degrees (F) in the last century. Throughout the western United States, heat waves are becoming more common, and snow is melting earlier in spring.

Climate Change In the West: What It Means for Utah Wilderness

05/05/20
Climate change is affecting the health of our public lands. Already we are seeing an overall increase in temperatures, and scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey predict an increase of 4-6 degrees celsius during this…

MORE NEWS

Wasatch Back Mayors Want to Set an Example When it Comes to Climate and Clean Air

By Sean Higgins   10/17/20  
The Utah Climate and Clean Air Compact was signed by over 130 prominent political, business, and religious leaders earlier this month, including Park City Mayor Andy Beerman and Heber City Mayor Kelleen Potter. KPCW spoke…
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Brad Mortensen: Working toward clean air and a safe climate for all

By Brad Mortensen   10/16/20  
Together we can tackle seemingly insurmountable challenges and do great things, making our homes and our community better for all.
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Following ‘The Utah Roadmap’: Local leaders say signing Utah’s first Climate, Clean Air Compact is ‘the first step’

By Kat Webb   10/16/20  
Mayor Holly Daines of Logan signed Utah’s first Climate and Clean Air Compact on Oct. 7, and local advocates say it’s just the first step to address the issues.
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U.S. awards $1.4 billion to help build small reactors in Idaho

By Associated Press   10/16/20  
The U.S. Department of Energy on Friday awarded a Utah energy cooperative about $1.4 billion to help build a dozen small nuclear reactors in eastern Idaho. The money spread over 10 years will pay for…
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Piper Christian: Rocky Mountain Power should walk its talk

By Piper Christian   10/15/20  
As a 20-year-old college student, I spent a recent Monday not in class, but listening to a highly consequential Utah Public Service Commission hearing. The hearing invited comment on a request by Rocky Mountain Power…
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Dominion Energy customers embrace GreenTherm program in support of renewable energy

By Jennifer Weaver   10/14/20  
Dominion Energy’s GreenTherm program has reached an important milestone, with more than 1,000 subscribers signing up since the program was launched in February.
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These Utah companies are taking a stand for sustainability

By Lindsay Bicknell   10/13/20  
Salt Lake City hasn’t always had the best air quality―but these companies are doing something about it. Join us in celebrating the companies and individuals who are leading us toward a more sustainable future.
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Trees and lawns beat the heat

By Lisa Potter   10/13/20  
Mixed landscapes are the best way to adapt to climate change and mitigate the heat island effect in semi-arid regions.
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Salt Lake County signs compact for Utah to be ‘pragmatic’ leader in climate change

By Katie McKellar   10/13/20  
The Salt Lake County Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to join Mayor Jenny Wilson in signing onto a proclamation solidifying their commitment to responsible policies around climate change and clean air. The proclamation adds county…
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Why Utah needs to get on board with solar energy

By Eric S. Peterson   10/13/20  
According to Dan Black, chief legal officer at Vivint, the idea of converting to solar panels was about as ridiculous as buying a new car and putting it on your roof, since the cost in…
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Utah takes bold step in addressing climate and clean air solutions

10/08/20  
In an unprecedented move in the conservative state of Utah, more than 100 of the state's most prominent leaders came together virtually on Wednesday to sign the inaugural Utah Climate and Clean Air Compact -…
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With geothermal as baseload and solar for peak-load, University of Utah reaches 71% renewables

By Alexander Richter   10/08/20  
The University of Utah achieved more than 50% of its energy needs covered by renewables adding a geothermal power purchase agreement in 2018 and has now upped its share of renewable energy to 71% with…
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Utahns sign compact committing to pollution, climate change mitigation

By Daedan Olander   10/07/20  
Dozens of Utah’s most influential people — including politicians, businesspeople and faith leaders — joined in an online event Wednesday to acknowledge the dangers of climate change and air pollution as well as committing to…
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A potential change for rooftop solar rates and what’s at stake

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue   10/05/20  
Rooftop solar advocates, ahead of a Monday marathon hearing in which more than 150 people are expected to provide input, say a proposal by Rocky Mountain Power to cut its compensation rates will end the…
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The Next Steps To Net Zero For The Power Sector

By Johnny Wood   10/02/20  
As an increasing number of economies across the globe move from coal-fired power generation to a combination of renewables and natural gas, the transition begs the question: What comes next?
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Utah mulls 84% cut to solar export credit as review of RMP’s net metering replacement plan begins

By Emma Penrod   10/01/20  
Utah's Public Service Commission is set to review a proposed solar export credit averaging $0.015/kWh for Rocky Mountain Power customers with rooftop solar.
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University of Utah reaches 71% renewable energy with new solar contract

By Jennifer Weaver   09/30/20  
The University of Utah announced Tuesday that it has signed a 25-year solar energy contract with the Castle Solar Project near Huntington, Utah. The contract will deliver 20 megawatts of solar energy to campus over…
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Summit County may hit target for 100% renewable energy 7 years early

By Alexander Cramer   09/29/20  
Summit County’s sustainability department has been busy during the pandemic, pushing forward, along with regional partners, two projects that have the potential to fundamentally change how electricity is manufactured for residents.
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Rural counties vying for a bite of Utah’s global trade apple

By Katie McKellar   09/26/20  
While the debate around the development of a Utah inland port in the heart of the Salt Lake Valley rages on, rural Utah wants a bite of the global trade apple. Beaver, Carbon, Emery, Grand,…
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Cities With the Highest Flood Risk in Every State

By Andrew Lisa   08/23/20  
Floods accounted for three of the 14 natural disasters that caused at least $1 billion in damage in the United States in 2019. In total, flooding impacted 14 million Americans last year and put another…
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Eric Balken: Upcoming EIS is a chance for Utahns to speak out against Lake Powell Pipeline

By Eric Balken   05/29/20  
The project, the largest new diversion of the Colorado River, estimated to cost anywhere from $2 billion to $3 billion dollars, would pump water 2,000 feet uphill, over 140 miles of Southern Utah desert, to…
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Thomas Urquhart: Pipeline lacks three elements to be allowed to proceed

By Thomas Urquhart   05/29/20  
The cost of solar panels has plummeted in recent years making the new barrier to adoption an ability to use the energy when it is needed most, not just when it is sunny. This can…
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Utah tech company offers solution to food crisis with sustainable water, energy for farms

By Jennifer Weaver   05/27/20  
According to a press release, the company is finalizing contracts with 3-plus major agribusiness providers to produce freshwater, electricity, heat, and compressed air for commercial farms and agricultural businesses. When integrated into greenhouse infrastructure, the…
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Heat wave set to sweep through Southern Utah, triple-digit temperatures expected

By Terell Wilkins   05/26/20  
Southern Utah residents should break out the fans and crank up the air conditioning because a heatwave is sweeping through the area.
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Energy developers seek leases near iconic Utah park

By Heather Richards and Jennifer Yachnin   05/22/20  
The industry-driven proposals have ignited renewed controversy over the Trump administration's energy priorities near some of the most well-known Western landscapes in Utah and drilling at all in the era of climate change.
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Ute Mountain Ute Tribe wins Energy grant for solar project in Utah

By Zak Podmore   05/19/20  
“We're looking to save the tribe a lot on its White Mesa government electric bills with this installation,” said Scott Clow, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s environmental programs director. “We’re pretty excited we got [the…
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Utah Inland Port Authority signs deal with Rocky Mountain power for renewable energy

By Taylor Stevens   05/13/20  
And it’s one he hopes will help ease fears among project opponents, who have organized several high-profile protests in recent months aimed at its possible impacts on the state’s already poor air quality and the…
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The Impacts of Climate Change and the Trump Administration’s Anti-Environmental Agenda in Utah

05/08/20  
Just in the past three years, the Trump administration has attempted to roll back at least 95 environmental rules and regulations to the detriment of the environment and Americans’ public health. Moreover, the administration refuses…
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Rep. John Curtis tells air pollution town hall politics get in the way of talking about climate change

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue   05/06/20  
Curtis participated in a virtual town hall Wednesday night hosted by the Wasatch Back Chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby that also featured Arden Pope, a Brigham Young University economics professor who has pioneered air…
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Joro Walker: Leverage stimulus to invest in Utah’s clean air

By Joro Walker   05/01/20  
While our skies here on the Wasatch Front have been crystal clear in recent weeks, winter inversions and summer ozone buildup mean we are all too aware of the connection between air quality and our…
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Most of Utah’s candidates for governor believe humans are changing the climate

By Bethany Rodgers   04/18/20  
Nearly all of Utah’s candidates for governor recognize that humans are contributing to the planet’s changing climate, a promising sign to environmental advocates that global warming is becoming less of a wedge issue.
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Northern Reservoirs Are Full But Southern Utah Faces Drought

By Carolyn Murray   04/16/20  
Local reservoirs are close to full and the spring run-off hasn’t begun. Snow falling in the mountains this time of year, according to experts, means the water projections look good for this summer.
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In the Mountains and Deserts of Utah, Columbia Spotted Frogs Are Sentinels of Climate Change

By Judy Fahys   04/01/20  
On this cool, spring afternoon, she stops at a breeding hotspot. She points out a pair of male frogs wrestling in shallow water as they show off for potential mates at the edge of the…
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Utah lawmakers create long-term climate change plan to protect ski slopes, economy

By Enrique Saenz   02/20/20  
Republican lawmakers from Utah are backing a long-term plan that addresses climate change in order to save the state’s ski slopes and growing economy.
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Red-state Utah embraces plan to tackle climate crisis in surprising shift

By Andrea Smardon   02/19/20  
Utah aims to reduce emissions over air quality concerns as other red states are also starting to tackle global heating.
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Red-state Utah embraces plan to tackle climate crisis in surprising shift

02/19/20  
At the request of the Republican-dominated state legislature, a University of Utah economic thinktank produced the plan to reduce emissions affecting both the local air quality and the global climate.
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Bob Inglis On Climate Change, Tuesday’s Access Utah

By Tom Williams   02/18/20  
"Eight years ago, Bob Inglis ran for a seventh term in the U.S. House of Representatives and didn’t even make it out of the Republican primary. He lost by nearly 3 to 1. His estrangement…
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Has Conservative Utah Turned a Corner on Climate Change?

By Judy Fahys   01/22/20  
Led by a University of Utah economics think tank, proponents of the seven-point strategy managed to dodge political potholes by emphasizing widely supported goals like cleaning up air pollution and stressing economic benefits, an approach…
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Climate Change Comes for Utah

By Nik Benko   12/31/19  
Climate change is a hard topic to wrap your head around. All data and detailed predictive models scream that things are not going well. Yet, it’s almost impossible to directly experience the effects of a…
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20 Utah Communities Commit To 100% Renewable Energy Goals

By Jon Reed   12/23/19  
Coalville and West Valley City are the latest Utah communities to commit to transitioning to 100% net-renewable energy use by 2030. There are now 20 local governments participating in the statewide effort.  
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State hydrologist warns of economic, environmental impacts of climate change

By Jed Boal   09/17/19  
Climate change will negatively impact Utah environmentally and economically over the next century, according to scientists. Officials said local research shows Utah is warming faster than the global average, which is having specific impacts on…
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Climate Analysis Finds Utah Temperatures Rose Fifth Fastest In The Country Since 1970

By Erik Neumann   04/17/19  
With Earth Day less than a week away, a new analysis looking at increasing temperatures since the environmental holiday was created in 1970 shows that temperatures in Utah have risen more dramatically than the global…
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Utah’s wildfires, record heat and low snowpack — welcome to climate change, experts say

By Amy Joi O'Donoghue   12/02/18  
A congressionally mandated climate change report predicts dire consequences for the United States if greenhouse gas emissions are not immediately reduced, adding that some of the most severe impacts will occur in Utah and other…
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Utah’s climate is changing, how will it affect the state?

By Cindy St. Clair and Sterling Poulson   01/12/18  
"It's real, it's happening and it affects the way we will live in the future" meteorologist Sterling Poulson said Thursday evening. Freezing temps, record snow totals, and a bomb cyclone. The country has been hit…
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