USU physicist will speak about disappearing spring snow pack
November 11, 2016
Climate change is a political hot potato.
The problem is exacerbated by icebergs of misinformation floating in the public sector, said Dr. Robert Davies.
"One is the statement that says, 'Of course the climate is changing. It always has and always will,'" said Davies, physicist, adjunct professor at Utah State University and associate of the Utah Climate Center. "That is not entirely untrue, but the climate change we're referring to is not in any way comparable to the glacial/interglacial cycles — going through ice ages and coming out of them. We're talking about human-driven climate change that is happening on a bigger and much faster time scale than those natural cycles.
"The physics tells us that we responsible for all of [this]," Davies said. "What that means is, absent of the human tug on the climate system, the climate should be cooling a tad. So our influences are overcoming that and warming us very quickly."
The Citizens' Climate Lobby, a grassroots nonprofit and nonpartisan organization focused on national policies to address climate change, has partnered with the Park City Rotary Club and the Sunrise Rotary Club to bring Davies to town on Monday, Nov. 14, for a presentation at the Jim Santy Auditorium.
This will be the second time this year that Davies will speak in Park City. The first time was in July. The presentation follows Park City's recent announcement to commit to 100 percent renewable energy by 2032.
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"This goal is certainly achievable," Davies said. "And it will help save our snowpack."
Localizing these presentations is essential when trying to reach people in smaller communities.
"It's not talking about melting ice caps, because while those do affect us in Utah, it's hard for people to picture," Davies said. "But when you can stand in Park City — Salt Lake City or Logan — for that matter, and talk about snow pack, it becomes a personal experience because the audience can relate to that."
The disappearing snowpack is one of the scenarios that Utah and the surrounding states are facing today.
"By mid century, 30 to 40 years from now, we are in danger of the disappearance of springtime snowpack," Davies said. "We are moving into [more of] a rain-driven hydrology than a snow-driven one."
Another scenario involves soil moisture.
"Under the trajectory that we're tracking, much of the lower 48 of the United States. Central America and Mexico is becoming unable to support any large-scale agriculture whatsoever," Davies said. "That doesn't mean that nothing will grow, but it means we need to start looking at what we grow and where."
These scenarios are being categorized as catastrophic.
"'Catastrophic' means situations that are inadaptable, meaning that organized global civilizations aren't compatible with the projections that are coming down the road," Davies said.
The question is: can anything be done about it?
"Absolutely," Davies said. "The physics is clear that we haven't crossed over any tipping points yet, and that we have the technology to do it. It's now about deploying what we have on a massive level."
This is where the Citizens' Climate Lobby comes in, said Judd Werner, co-leader of the Park City and Wasatch Back branch.
"Not only do we need to have the technology to transform the energy economy, we need behavioral changes from people and we have to have policies to support the change," Werner said. "We can save our snow if through appropriate policy we get fee on carbon."
That will influence the transition off coal in India, China and the U.S. as the country moves away from fossil fuels, Werner said.
That's why the Citizens" Climate Lobby has created the Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal, a formal resolution for Salt Lake City Corporation and other cities across the nation.
Werner said the Carbon Fee and Dividend is a climate change solution to impose a fee on the burning of fossil fuels, which, within 20 years, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions 52 percent below 1990 levels, while growing the economy and saving lives.
The fee is based on the amount of carbon in a fossil fuels, such as oil, gas or coal.
When burned, these fuels release carbon dioxide. The fee, which would start at $15 per ton, is based on the amount of carbon dioxide the fuel generates, he said.
The dividend is a rebate given to American households that are divided up from the carbon fees.
This money is designed to help families pay the increased costs associated with the carbon fee while America transitions into a clean energy economy, Werner said.
"This event is to further educate Park City about climate change," he said. "It's not a cheerleading session that was organized by a bunch of radical environmentalists. It is a way to define the required change and show how Park City area locals can engage and motivate that change."
Citizens' Climate Lobby, Park City Rotary Club and Sunrise Rotary Club will present Dr. Robert Davies from 6:30-8 p.m., on Monday, Nov. 14, at the Park City Library's Jim Santy Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit http://www.facebook.com/CCLParkCity.