Leaders urge action on climate change

By By Edgar Zuniga Jr.

By Edgar Zuniga Jr.

Planting a tree, riding a bike or using mass transit were just a few of the things Salt Lake County mayor Peter Corroon said students can do to combat global warming.

Corroon told students last night at an event at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts that there is no one answer to offseting the effects of climate change, but that there are many small things students can do .

Corroon was one of five panelists at the forum titled “Political Perspectives on Solutions to Global Climate Change.” The event was part of Focus the Nation, a national initiative to find solutions for fighting climate change.

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, Gov. Huntsman’s energy adviser Dianne Nielson, Midvale Mayor JoAnn Seghini and Moab Mayor David Sakrison made up the rest of the panel, which encouraged community members to become actively involved in the fight against global warming.

“I thought it was great to know our leaders have strong opinions on climate change, that they know we support Focus the Nation and hopefully they’ll act even more,” said Sharon Leopardi, a senior in geography and environmental studies.

U President Michael Young welcomed the audience and emphasized the U’s commitment to sustainable energy. He said that by the end of spring semester the U will have a new steam co-generator on campus that will provide electricity. The system is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 57,000 tons annually.

Seghini said one of the best ways to fight global warming is to modify city planning. Some of her constituents in Midvale would like to see more cul-de-sacs. Seghini said such planning does not create pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, but rather places where vehicles are a must.

The panelists said recycling is important, but it is not enough. They agreed that citizens need to vote for political leaders who understand climate change and will create policies promoting energy efficiency.

“Demand change. If you’re not engaged, politicians will be more reluctant to change,” Seghini said. “The impetus needs to come from the people.”

The panelists said that in many ways, corporate interests like the oil and coal industry are the Goliath fighting renewable energy reform.

The panelists agreed that businesses will not join the fight against climate change until it becomes economically advantageous.

Corroon said it is up to local government to set the example and begin to make government buildings energy efficient. The U.S. Green Building council has granted LEED certification to many Salt Lake County buildings-meaning they are deemed sustainable. The county government is also expecting to place solar panels on 28 buildings and the Clark Planetarium. The county has already installed solar panels that power parking lights at the Salt Palace.

Solar power is one of the renewable energy sources the panelists said Utah could best take advantage of. Corroon said there are several “hotspots” in Utah that would be perfect for solar energy plants and mentioned Israel has been efficient in utilizing solar power. Corroon said he would like to see solar power used to heat pools in the recreation centers throughout Salt Lake County.

Seghini said while there are some people who say global warming is a hoax, many people are realizing it is a serious problem. Corroon added that bad air quality along the Wasatch Front has caused health concerns and made people more aware of the environment.

The Office of Sustainability and the Hinckley Institute of Politics hosted the event.

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A panel discussion on global climate change was led by Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker was held at the UMFA at 6