Climate change: ‘It’s happening. We’re causing it,” Mountain Towns 2030 speaker says
Brian McInerney has long been the person in the Park City area with some of the most detailed information about the climate.
A hydrologist with the National Weather Service who lives in the Snyderville Basin, McInerney holds a unique post with the federal government at a time when City Hall is pursuing an aggressive sustainability program designed to combat a changing climate. McInerney is not associated with the municipal government, but his work as a hydrologist is important to the local officials nonetheless as he provides data each year about the snowpack and the prospects of flooding dangers during the spring runoff.
McInerney next week is scheduled to deliver remarks as part of a conference in Park City called Mountain Towns 2030, a gathering that will focus on the broad issue of climate change. The conference is expected to attract government officials, scientists, academics and members of the general public for an expansive look at the climate and the dangers of a warming planet.
McInerney is slated to speak to the conference Thursday during a breakout session centered on setting goals regarding reducing carbon emissions. It will be an opportunity to hear from someone with a scientific background as well as an understanding of the concerns of the Park City area.
In an interview, McInerney said the scientific underpinnings of a changing climate are no longer in doubt. His remarks will be designed to point communities in a direction to respond to the issue.
“The science has been accepted. We’re moving on from there,” McInerney said, adding, “It’s happening. We’re causing it.”
He described mountain communities as places where a changing climate’s impacts are forecast to be significant. There are concerns that a changing climate will lead to a drop in snowpack in the mountains as warmer temperatures lead to wintertime rain instead of snow.
“It’s where the rubber meets the road,” McInerney said about mountain towns. “They’re here to get some answers.”
He said the officials and others at the gathering could return to their own communities with ideas from Mountain Towns 2030.
“It will affect all the mountain towns throughout the Western U.S.,” McInerney said, explaining some impacts are already occurring with rain rather than snow at points during the winter.
McInerney used the mountain resort of Breckenridge, Colorado, as an example, saying the community will suffer amid a changing climate over coming decades. Breckenridge, at 9,600 feet in elevation, is forecast to receive lots of wintertime rain in 80 to 100 years. The elevation in Breckenridge is more than 2,000 feet higher than Main Street in Park City.
He said the precipitation in Breckenridge will be “mostly rain in the wintertime” and said the rainfall will come in “deluges.”
He also said a changing climate could result in a greater number of wildfires in the Park City region. Wildfires, he noted, leave burn scars — places where the vegetation has been destroyed by the flames. Burn scars, he said, increase the danger of mudslides and the contamination of water from dirt.
“What do I have if I have a burn scar. … You can expect it to last three years,” he said.
Mountain Towns 2030 is scheduled Oct. 2-4. More information is available at https://mt2030.org.
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Gretchen Milliken started as the Park City planning director at the beginning of February. Like many others in the community, she sees the amount of traffic as a challenge.