OGDEN — As communities throughout the world prepare to celebrate Earth Month in April, Weber State University is taking part in a global event to keep the conversation about climate change going.
The school will host a virtual panel on Wednesday, April 7, featuring climate stakeholders and officials from throughout the state, including U.S. Rep. John Curtis. The international dialogue the school is participating in next week is called Solve Climate by 2030. Weber State was asked to host the webinar by Bard College’s Center for Environmental Policy and will join 100 sites worldwide holding such an event.
“(Climate change) is something that is impacting everywhere around the world and ultimately everyone,” said Alice Mulder, the director of the Sustainability Practices and Research Center at Weber State. “Of course, some already are feeling, or will feel, the effects more than others based on their geographic location, based on socioeconomics.”
While many Utahns may not notice a change in the environment around them, Mulder said the state has seen temperatures get progressively hotter over the years. And although the warming has only resulted in a direct impact of slightly higher electricity bills for many of Utah’s residents, those with lower incomes have had to deal with excruciating heat in summer.
Those most vulnerable to climate change, Mulder noted, are those who suffered the most during the COVID-19 pandemic — economically disadvantaged communities of color.
Carbon emissions, which are one of the primary factors driving climate change, also negatively affect communities immediately after they are produced. According to the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute’s roadmap for Utah to improve air quality and the climate, multiple studies — including many conducted in Utah — show air pollutants have wide ranging adverse affects on humans’ health, both mental and physical.
“You do hear it described as climate change is an existential threat for humanity and that sounds really drastic and dramatic, but I think taken over the long term that is probably true,” Mulder said.
Panelists will discuss policy solutions to reduce carbon emissions, as well as actions individuals can take to reduce their carbon footprint. Some of the steps people can take, Mulder said, include reducing energy consumption, being mindful of the emissions from transportation they use and eating foods that leave a smaller carbon footprint, like plant-based foods.
The director of the Solve Climate project at Bard College, Eban Goodstein, encouraged teachers in a press release to assign the webinar as homework and then discuss it with students. As educators work to implement an Earth Month curriculum, he said the event would be a beneficial add-on for “climate-concerned teachers.”
“You don’t have to be an expert on climate to talk with your students,” Goodstein said. “Every subject contributes to understanding climate solutions. Whether teachers are teaching art, literature, business, philosophy or any other discipline, they can access easy-to-use guides to incorporate climate change.”
Those who plan to watch the virtual panel must register for the event online. The event starts at 4 p.m. and will include remarks from Goodstein, as well as a discussion moderated by Mulder. The four panelists are Curtis, Salt Lake City Sustainability Director Vicki Bennett, Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute Senior Energy Policy Analyst Thomas Holst and Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Latinx Community Organizer Olivia Juarez.
This is the second year Weber State has hosted the Solve Climate project. The school’s participation in the event builds on the school’s efforts to work toward reducing carbon emissions both on campus and in the community, Mulder said. Since 2007, Weber State has cut electricity consumption by 36% and natural gas consumption by 35%, as well as lowered total greenhouse gas emissions by 34%, despite having increased the indoor square footage on campus.
“We’ve also had community programs that have been focused on cutting emissions, and we have done an awful lot on campus,” Mulder said.