Utah still has a ways to go for the environment

By By John Stafford

By John Stafford

Salt Lake City has recently seen an improvement in its environmentally conscious policies, but it still has a long way to go.

By uniting with more than 700 local governments around the world through the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign dedicated to reduce of greenhouse gas emissions, Salt Lake City municipal operations have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 31 percent since 2001.

This number is greater than the 7 percent reduction from 1990 levels proposed in the Kyoto Protocol, which the United States has yet to ratify, according to Salt Lake City Green, a local environmental group dedicated to fighting climate change. The organization’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide by three percent per year for the next 10 years in hopes of reducing emissions by 70 percent by 2040.

This reduction in pollution has been made possible by virtue of a more environmentally enlightened attitude and new ways of thinking in regards to sustainability that continue to seep into mainstream politics. In 2008, Mayor Ralph Becker oversaw an executive order to expedite permits for developers agreeing to construct green buildings. Finally, the fact that the American Lung Association has put three Utah cities8212;Salt Lake City, Logan and Provo8212;on its 2008 top 25 most polluted list, with Salt Lake City tied at No. 6, is acting as an effective wake-up call and sparking some much-needed changes.

Although strides have been made, particle pollution is unfortunately an all-too-common reality in this state that still gets 87 percent of its energy from coal, a fuel that adds more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere per unit of heat energy than any other fossil fuel, according to www.cleanenergy.org and the Energy Information Administration.

Although Utah has passed the Indoor Clean Air Act8212;banning smoking in taverns and private clubs8212;the abundant pollution the state has seen, particularly in the winter, is equal to 25 percent of the adverse effects of smoking one pack a day, according to a 2007 study by local doctors affiliated with Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. According to the group, about 1,000 premature deaths annually are attributed to air pollution along the Wasatch Front.

The health of our citizens and planet depends on renewable energy, increased public transportation, more extensive environmental monitoring and the actions of an aware and committed public.

Take public transportation or walk when you can. (I’m sure if you’ve braved construction recently on your commute to campus, this might not sound like a bad idea.) Calculate your carbon footprint for free online at www.carbonfootprint.com and strive to improve it. When the inversion gets unbearable8212;which it is sure to do8212;contact your congressmen demanding they curb particle pollution.

Let’s work together to achieve a cleaner, more sustainable, healthier future for our children. If we don’t, our disregard for this planet, which is mother to us all, will be our most shameful legacy.