Park City mayor before town hall: ‘Changing climate is not some far-off, future problem’
Mayor Andy Beerman and two mayors from Wasatch County are scheduled to speak about climate change and air quality during a town hall next week, an event scheduled amid a spell of especially hot weather in the area and one that appears to be designed to highlight the regional nature of the issue.
A group called the Citizens’ Climate Lobby has organized the town hall as it continues to press environmental issues. Beerman has made environmentalism and the wider ideal of sustainability one of the key issues of his administration. Midway Mayor Celeste Johnson and Heber City Mayor Kelleen Potter are also expected to present at the event.
Park City leaders see a changing climate as someday threatening the ski industry that drives the economy. There is concern that warming weather over time could lead to higher wintertime temperatures, winter rain at the lower elevations of the area instead of snow and a reduced snowpack. There are also concerns of extreme heat and worsening wildfires in the summers. Some also fear reduced air quality in the Park City area with traffic gridlock during the ski season and regular backups at other times of the year.
Park City has taken numerous measures in its efforts to combat a changing climate that will likely be highlighted at the town hall. Some of them have included running the municipal fleet on clean-burning fuels and upgrading buildings with green features.
And, crucially, City Hall is working toward a “net-zero” carbon goal for municipal functions by 2022 and citywide by 2030. A net-zero program typically involves reducing the use of energies that create emissions and pursuing offsets of some sort for emissions that remain. It does not call for the elimination of emissions. City Hall sees the goals as some of the most ambitious in the nation.
Lauren Barros, one of the leaders of the Wasatch Back chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, said more can be accomplished if communities cooperate.
“We feel that we can do a lot locally. We have a lot more power if we band together,” Barros said.
She anticipates the event will include discussion about solutions to climate change and the quality of the air. One of the solutions that could be discussed are the prospects of a national carbon fee and dividend program, which would impose a fee on industry at the coal mine or oil well with dividends then distributed to families.
Barros said other ideas that could be discussed include incentives for climate change-fighting technologies like those that sequester carbon emissions as well as a program that shifts monies collected from mine cleanups to revitalization efforts in communities surrounding the mines.
“We’ve all got to be talking about this. We’re not talking about it enough,” Barros said, adding, “The danger is we’re going to get hotter and hotter. That’s going to affect all of us.”
The three mayors are scheduled to speak alongside professors from the University of Utah and Brigham Young University as well as a student climate activist. Audience questions will be taken.
In a prepared statement released by the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Beerman noted City Hall’s carbon emissions goals as he addressed what he sees as the importance of the efforts.
“The changing climate is not some far-off, future problem we will have to face in a few decades. The reality is, it’s happening right now, it’s impacting our town and our community. I think our people are recognizing this and we are a community that wants to take action, wants to be a part of shaping our future going forward. We want to be proactive, not just react to what’s happening to us, but build a community focused on solutions and leading the way,” Beerman said in the statement.
The Citizens’ Climate Lobby, meanwhile, says the mayors of Midway and Heber City “have recognized the importance of communication and outreach as growth in Wasatch and Summit Counties booms and the effects of climate change and poor quality loom ever larger.”
The event is scheduled on Wednesday, July 31, at the Santy Auditorium from 6:30 p.m. until 8 p.m. For more information, contact the Wasatch Back chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby at email@example.com.
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Landslides in Big Cottonwood Canyon on Sunday forced authorities to send drivers above the debris field over Guardsman Pass and into Park City as they navigated a route to the Wasatch Front. One of the landslides was considered to be major and cut off S.R. 190.