(KCPW News) Climate change and greenhouse gas emissions are on the Congressional agenda next week as the American Clean Energy and Security Act is expected to get a full House debate. Local environmentalists have convened a town hall meeting tonight to discuss the legislation and what's at stake in Utah. Fred Wagner, a Utah State University emeritus professor of wildland resources and the author of a book on climate change, says he hopes lawmakers will listen to what he and the other panelists have to say.
"I would hope that the policy makers would listen to scientists. They don't have to listen to me, but at least the hundreds, maybe probably thousands of scientists out there, who are saying these things, and formulate decisions and policies that are in the best interest of the people in the state," Wagner says.
He says lawmakers who are convinced climate change is not caused by human activity are not serving the best interest of their constituents. By ignoring the majority of scientists, Wagner says these lawmakers are actually contributing to the problem. In Utah, he says the effects of climate change are already being felt. Temperatures have increased 3 degrees on average statewide during the 20th Century. Wagner says if no change is made, those temperatures will continue to increase, changing precipitation patterns over the state, increasing the instance of wildfires, and threatening plant and animal habitats.
"There may be some species that might be effected. But there are others where entire habitats will be eliminated that support those plants and animals. There likely will going to be vast changes in the habitat that supports the plants and animals. Streams and lakes are going to be changed, probably negatively, in terms of certainly the native fish species," Wagner says.
Impacts to Utah's fish and game could also hurt the state's bottom line. Wagner says hunting and fishing is more than just a popular recreation in the state, the industry contributes more than a billion dollars to Utah's economy. Wagner will join several other panelists in the town hall meeting at the University of Utah's Carolyn Tanner Irish Humanities Building Auditorium tonight at 7 p.m.