Carbon pollution, the largest contributors to climate change, is emitted from a wide range of sources, from our homes all the way to large coal plants. In Utah, we are deeply dependent on fossil fuels like coal: Utah still gets 76% of its electricity from coal plants, despite national trends in electricity generation which are demonstrating decreasing dependence on coal across the U.S. (from 60% down to 33% in the past two decades).
To combat climate change, a transition to renewable energy must be made. This transition should be made both on a personal level (more energy efficiency) and on an industry-wide scale (transition to renewable sources of electric power). The communities most impacted by this transition (i.e. coal communities) must also be prioritized for investment in new jobs and economic opportunities.
Effect on the environment
When these dirty fossil fuels are burned they emit carbon dioxide (CO2) into the air that traps heat near the earth’s surface. Climate change adversely impacts all parts of the environment, from wildlife and ecosystems to water and weather. Industrial facilities that burn fossil fuels also contribute to our air quality problems by polluting the air around them.
Effect on health
Climate change is worsening droughts and extreme weather events, both of which hold serious consequences for our health and safety. Other connections between climate change and human health include decreased volume and nutritional value of food, heat-related illnesses such as dehydration and heat stroke, and vector-borne diseases like malaria and lyme disease. Vulnerable populations around the world and here in Utah are at higher-risk for these climate change related health threats.
What does HEAL do?
Our efforts to combat climate change centers around Utah’s transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. To do this, we target changes in industry, legislative and regulatory policy, and individual choices and behaviors.
We collaborate with Utah’s utilities when possible to find areas of agreement where we can develop realistic pathways to a cleaner future. We depend on the public to pressure the utilities to supply more renewable energy and less dirty energy. Our work within the energy industry relies on independent technical energy modeling. This modeling, which we conduct directly or through independent sources and analysts, can show how generating renewable energy will benefit the utility, the state, and the ratepayer (that’s you!).
With legislators and regulators, we encourage innovative, evidence-based policies that will increase renewable energy development a while transitioning away from fossil fuel generation. Our efforts with decision makers focus on economic gains for the state, employment sector, and ratepayers that renewable energy brings, as well as the health benefits that come with mitigating climate change. We seek to ensure that communities affected in the transition (like coal communities) are consulted and plans for long-term reinvestment are prioritized.
Through community nights, tabling at local events, and online, we educate citizens about the effects of climate change and the connection between health, climate change, and energy, while also providing options for people to make individual changes. Whether it be getting more efficient household appliances or installing rooftop solar, we encourage changes that will decrease the use of dirty energy.
However, not all households can afford to make these appliance or energy generation changes. That’s why we also work at the legislature and with utilities to implement effective programs that will make renewable energy more accessible and affordable to all families.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Climate Effects on Health
- Utah Department of Health: Climate Change and Public Health in Utah
- New York Times: Short Answers to Hard Questions About Climate Change
- Grist: Personal Choices to Reduce Your Contribution to Climate Change
- NASA’s Global Climate Change Effects
- Union of Concerned Scientists: The Hidden Costs of Fossil Fuels
- U.S. Global Change Research Program: The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment
- World Health Organization: Climate Change and Health
- National Institute of Environmental Health: Climate and Human Health
- Asthma, Respiratory Allergies, and Airway Diseases
- Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke
- Effects of Heat
- Foodborne Diseases and Nutrition
- Human Developmental Effects
- Mental Health and Stress-Related Disorders
- Neurological Diseases and Disorders
- Vectorborne and Zoonotic Diseases
- Waterborne Diseases
- Weather-Related Morbidity and Mortality
- Energy Efficiency for All: The High Cost of Energy in Rural America
- Climate Central: The High Cost of Hot