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Climate summit in Wyoming aims to boost awareness, engagement

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Eric Galatas

(Wyoming News Service) Wyomingites concerned about bigger and more frequent wildfires, prolonged drought, threats to clean air, water and wildlife can explore ways to combat climate change in their own community at the Wyoming Climate Summit this Saturday in Lander.

Ariel Green, organizing committee member for the Summit, said the climate crisis is not a hypothetical future event. In the 20th century, Lander saw an average of 17 days a year with temperatures at 90 degrees or above. The past two years saw 44 days at 90 or above.

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"So, these changes are already here, and they are everywhere, and they affect us all," Green asserted. "And they will be dramatically intensified in coming years if we do not mitigate their cause, which is the emission of heat-trapping gases from certain kinds of human activity."

Members of the Wind River Reservation are joining the summit, to pass along Indigenous knowledge gained by living sustainably across the Mountain West for thousands of years. The summit is free and open to the public, and will feature an electric car show including the new Ford Mustang Mach-E. Saturday's event kicks off at 9 a.m. at the Lander Community Center.

Wyoming, long dependent on fossil fuels for jobs and tax revenues, has opposed transitioning away from coal and other greenhouse-gas producing energy sources. But Greene argued the state is uniquely positioned to play a major role in the coming zero-emission economy. Wyoming ranks 6th nationally for untapped wind-energy potential.

"We're tied, I think, for the eighth-best solar resource in the country, ahead of Florida," Greene outlined. "We have a lot of potential for geothermal power and next-generation geothermal power. We have a lot of knowledge about how to dig deep holes in the ground."

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Nearly six in 10 Wyoming residents understand climate change is happening, according to Yale University analysis.

Greene believes most people just need a few tips to start creating solutions in their hometown.

"People are concerned about climate change, but are not really active in doing anything about it, and maybe don't know what to do about it," Greene noted. "We're trying to educate them about ways they can get involved."