Climate Change: The fight for and of our lives

Every reputable authority on climate science agrees that we must drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, or we will be sentencing the planet and future generations to the devastating effects of runaway global temperature rise. 

Utah is already seeing the impacts of a warming climate. In 2020, The Kem C. Gardner Institute released its first-ever report on climate change and air quality, at the request of the Utah State Legislature. To learn more about human impact on air quality and climate, check out The Utah Roadmap: Positive Solutions on Climate and Air Quality.

What’s at stake?

Water: The 2018 water year was the driest on record and caused Salt Lake City to issue a Stage 1 Drought Advisory. The quality of our water is also threatened, as warmer weather conditions are causing recurring summertime algal blooms across the state. Precipitation patterns are changing, with more rain falling in intense deluges like the 2017 200-year storm event that caused massive flooding and damage. 

Economy: Drier weather conditions are leading to larger and more intense fires. The 2018 fire season cost Utah $100 million to fight. Utah’s 1.3 Billion ski industry faces threats in the form of less snow and shorter ski seasons, with Park City facing the possible elimination of all-mountain snow by the end of this century. Earlier snowmelt also means less water for agriculture during the growing season, with economic impacts to Utah’s farmers and ranchers.

Lands & Wildlife: We are in the midst of the 6th Great Extinction, due in large part to human activity. The current rate of extinction of species is estimated at 100 to 1,000 times higher than natural background rates. Warmer and drier conditions make forests more susceptible to pests, contributing to the epidemic of bark beetle infestation and die off in some of Utah’s oldest forests.

Public Health: Utah has already warmed 2 degrees, twice the national average. Hot days can be unhealthy, even dangerous. Certain people are especially vulnerable, including children, the elderly, the sick, and the poor. High air temperatures can cause heatstroke and dehydration, and affect people’s cardiovascular, respiratory, and nervous systems. Rising temperatures can also increase the formation of ground-level ozone, a key component of smog.

What can you do?

Get involved in our ongoing energy and climate campaigns!

Utah Needs Clean Energy Team

The Utah Chapter’s “Utah Needs Clean Energy Team '' is a volunteer committee working to implement The Sierra Club’s climate and energy initiatives in the state. 

The team is open to the public and meets on alternating Mondays at 5:30 PM to plan and discuss upcoming campaign activities. Email to get involved. 

The Beyond Coal Campaign

Utah has one of the most carbon-intensive energy mixes in the country. Carbon pollution from electrical energy generation represents roughly half of all of our greenhouse gas emissions in the state, resulting in higher temperatures and poor air quality.  

In order to slow and hopefully reverse these trends, the Utah Sierra Club is pushing our state’s largest utility, Rocky Mountain Power, to end the use of coal power by 2030 and move to 100% renewable energy by 2040.

Volunteers outside of Rocky Mountain Power

Ready for 100%

We are working with Utah cities to adopt 100% renewable energy commitments that will decrease our state’s reliance on fossil fuels like coal and gas and create new renewable energy jobs. 

In 2019 the Utah Legislature passed the Community Renewable Energy Act, providing a pathway to achieving 100% clean energy by 2030 to committed communities. Read more about our progress, and the more than 20 Utah cities and counties that have made the commitment to 100% clean energy.

Clean Energy Commitments

The Peoples Energy Movement

We are also working through the People’s Energy Movement to develop the People’s Energy Plan, which is a plan that shows how we can transform Utah’s energy sources, create new jobs, and transition fossil fuel-dependent communities to new economies. 

The Peoples Energy Movement is a broad coalition of environmental and social justice organizations and activists from across the state, united by the vision that we can create sustainable communities and a livable future.

Group gather for the Peoples Energy Movement holding sign that says, "Defend Our Future"

Utah Youth Environmental Solutions (UYES)

The Utah Sierra Club is the fiscal sponsor for UYES, a youth-led network of young people from high schools and universities across the state working on climate action. In 2018, the network was instrumental in helping pass HCR 007, The Resolution on Economic and Environmental Stewardship. 

HCR 007 is the first official legislative recognition of climate change and the need for action in Utah. UYES hosts an annual summit for youth leaders. Click the link to find out more and get connected.

Utah Youth Environmental Solutions Bill Signing