Snow go?
Climate change strikes home
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah's proud boast of having "The greatest snow on Earth" is in danger. And, if it goes, a great deal of the state's economy and livability will go with it.

So, eventually, will most of the delusional denial of global climate change and the stubborn reluctance to do anything about it. But, by then, it is likely to be far too late.

As outlined in a report in Sunday's Salt Lake Tribune, there is a clearly visible trend in the mountains of the Wasatch Front toward years where significantly more of the local precipitation falls as rain, and less of it as snow. The most obvious result of such a change would be much shorter ski seasons, which would be a big hit to the Utah economy all by itself.

But scientific observations also suggest there would be a vast reduction in the amount of snowpack that will sit on the mountains and slowly melt into the spring, filling reservoirs and banking a water supply for our high desert region.

There are steps that can be taken locally to ameliorate these changes. They include the planning, already underway, by property owners and government agencies, to view the mountains and canyons of the Wasatch Front as a place for year-round recreational activities.

Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon has launched an updating of the zoning for the canyons and foothills. The area recently renamed the Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort has won approval for a mountain coaster — one viewed as less disruptive than a previous design. And some worst-case-scenario brainstorming is already going on at the offices of the region's cities and water districts.

It is work that will be all the more important as we figure out how, and whether, to better protect our precious water supply while also providing economic development opportunities that do not rely on months and months of ski-worthy snow.

But it is hard to see how Utah can survive such inexorable changes in our climate without significant damage to our way of life, a way of life that is sometimes enviable, sometimes horribly wasteful.

It is also hard to see what we can do about it all by ourselves. Climate change, by its nature, is a global phenomenon, with causes and effects that reach across continents.

What could be done locally is to start holding our own elected officials to account for their years of climate-change denial, and for their wan claims that actions such as carbon taxes would somehow cripple the economy.

Try a year or two with no snow in the Cottonwood canyons, and we'll show you a crippled economy.