Utah's largest newspaper challenged the state's soon-to-be governor in a harsh editorial today that questioned his ability to see past ideology when it comes to climate change.
Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert says he needs "conclusive" evidence that human-caused climate change is real. We're not sure how much evidence is needed to convince him, if, indeed, there ever could be enough. It seems his mind is made up by a political ideology that leads him to disbelieve the virtual mountain of evidence that has already been presented to the world.
Thousands of the most respected climate scientists in the world agree that the globe is warming and that carbon emissions from power plants, cars, homes and industry are the cause. In fact, the consensus is overwhelming.
The Salt Lake Tribune editorial goes on to list scientific panels and agencies that have studied "mounds of peer-reviewed and published scientific literature" and have concluded that global warming, its damage and its threat to the climate as we know it is very real.
With all the available evidence documenting the threat from human-caused climate change, how can Herbert and others like him continue to turn a deaf ear and blind eye to reality? Are polar ice caps, glaciers and Greenland ice not melting? Do they believe that this wet Utah spring negates the decades of increasingly hotter summers? Will they only consider the evidence "conclusive" once climate-change catastrophes have occurred?
If Herbert wants convincing scientific evidence, he has only to study the numerous reports available online. If he is still unconvinced, then we must conclude that his doubts reflect an ideological mistrust of science that portends ill for Utahns.
That portends ill because Hebert is likely to become the state's governor shortly. The real estate agent and former county commissioner already has a transition team preparing to make that leap as soon as Utah Gov. John Huntsman Jr. is confirmed as the next U.S. ambassador to China.
Huntsman, a Republican businessman who was re-elected with 77.6 percent of the vote last year, has been a strong advocate for action to protect the climate. In 2007, he signed Utah on to the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) and its goal of creating a cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Northwest.
After Huntsman announced his likely appointment as ambassador, Herbert said he wouldn't pull Utah out of the WCI.
Last week, however, Hebert sounded unsure about that at the Western Governors Association's annual meeting. Energy Secretary Steven Chu had just given the governors an update on the latest science, but Herbert skipped that speech.
"I've heard people argue on both sides of the issue, people I have a high regard for," Herbert said during a panel discussion. "People say man's impact is minimal, if at all, so it appears to me the science is not necessarily conclusive."
According to the Deseret News, Hebert's comment "drew a smattering of applause from the audience" but none from the governors in the room.
Hebert, who was Huntsman's running-mate and not independently elected, will likely be under pressure from his neighboring Western governors on the issue of climate change. All are either partners or observers in the WCI.