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New Report Explains Health Effects of Climate Change in Utah

From the West Desert to the Uinta Mountains, Utah is known for its diverse landscape as well as its extreme weather conditions. Some believe the weather will continue to see more and more variation, noting the severe fires seen across the West this summer. A new report released last week by the Utah Department of Health examines Utah’s changing climate and how it may be affecting those living in different parts of state.

“We are not really here to get involved in the scientific or political debate in regards to climate change," says Melanie Spencer, an Analyst for the Health Department’s Environmental Epidemiology program and one of the authors of the new report. She says the goal of the report is to be a preventative tool for the public.

“If climate change creates a higher frequency of droughts, wildfires and floods, how are we going to respond to that? How are we going to protect the public? So part of the booklet is just seeing how prepared is Utah, and how prepared is public health to deal with these specific issues if they are to come.”

The study divides Utah into seven regions, focusing on temperature, precipitation, and extreme weather events such as droughts, floods and wildfires, examining the negative effects they can have on a person’s health. Spencer says from the data gathered. she’s concerned about a future increase in respiratory and heat related diseases in the state.

"That is a real is issue if temperature continues to increase it only makes sense that heat related disease would increase as well. And that could be a real issue if climate continues to change and temperatures continue to rise.”

Emily Stembridge, Health Educator with the Environmental Epidemiology Program and fellow author of the report says now that it’s complete, she hopes it will spark the interest of other organizations to do further research.

“Gathering this data and having it in one spot we hope this help researchers, professionals, and those out there who may be wanting to delve into these things, to look into these issues more. And use the data to spark discussion and further do research such as with climate change.”

Stembridge says they will continue to add to the report as new data is collected.