High School Students Convinced Utah Republicans to Accept Climate Change

The Utah legislature had a resolution since 2010 that denied the existence of climate change, but that’s no longer the case thanks to a group of high school students.

The overwhelmingly Republicans legislature finally faced the facts after these kids made it virtually impossible to ignore.

An obvious question is how this flip-flop occurred in a legislature with a Republican super-majority of 83 percent, in a state that produces more than 90 percent of its electricity from fossil fuels. Students at Logan High School can tell you the answer: For nearly two years, they have been working to make the Legislature budge. They educated themselves about the science of climate change and formed alliances with other students and business leaders throughout the state.

Most of all, the teenagers never stopped. They simply refused to give up.

The high school activists began their efforts in 2016 when they learned about the 2010 resolution saying climate change should be ignored until “more convincing” science exists to support the phenomenon. They were especially concerned about the increasing seriousness of the state’s fire seasons.

They’d witnessed firsthand how climate change was contributing to longer and more intense fire seasons, and they experienced Utah’s dwindling snowpack and increasing water scarcity.

“My generation and generations to come will inherit the many threats that climate change poses,” said Piper Christian, one of these students. She decided to take action.

With the help of key legislators, she and other concerned students drafted a legislative resolution, “Economic and Environmental Stewardship.” Local business leaders who supported the students also wrote to state legislators, saying, “We need Utah’s policymakers to help us prepare for the potential effects that a changing climate could have on our state.”

Getting through to the Republican politicians wasn’t easy, and they knew it would be an uphill battle, but they continued anyway. And they ultimately got Rep. Becky Edwards, a Republican herself, to sponsor the resolution.

The initial bill died in Edwards’ committee, but the teens worked even harder, bringing in even more advocacy groups in their defense, including the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Together they brought scientists to the Capitol to educate legislators and made a convincing plea.

It required patience. Legislators had to change their minds. The bill had to go through the legislative process. But the work paid off after the bill was passed with tremendous support from both parties.

… The bill was reported out of committee by an 8-2 vote. Then, at last, came success as the House passed the resolution 51-21 and the Senate 23-3. A surprising 75 percent of Republican legislators voted in favor of the bill, which Gov. Gary Herbert, also a Republican, signed on March 20.

Now, many people in Utah are grateful to these Logan High School students and their allies, who never gave up despite the odds against them.

I’m also grateful to them, and I think we can learn a lot from their struggle and success. If they can convince this many conservative politicians to change their minds about climate change, what can the rest of us accomplish? And why are we waiting to take action?

(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)

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