Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Environment and Society

Committee Chair(s)

Sarah Klain


Sarah Klain


Robert Davies


Roslynn McCann


In places where discussions about climate change have become highly political and divided, community groups have attempted to connect rival political parties by focusing on improving air quality. This topic is often less politically charged. The effects of climate change have been disproportionately felt by marginalized communities around the world. In the west side of the Salt Lake Valley, many communities are more likely to experience the negative consequences of a drying lake, a problem that Utah and other regions are currently facing, compared to others in the valley. This research focuses on the individuals who have signed the Utah Climate and Clean Air Compact, a public attempt to bring together political parties in a conservative state to address air quality issues in Utah. The state is facing challenges such as rapid population growth, rising temperatures, and prolonged drought conditions. Despite some prominent leaders publicly endorsing this Compact, progress towards improving air quality and addressing climate change has been slow in Utah. It is also unclear if these leaders are considering the unequal impacts that marginalized communities may face. However, there have been some efforts made since the Compact's publication and signing that indicate minor successes in the state. To understand the perceived obstacles to taking action on climate change and potential solutions, I conducted semi-structured interviews with community leaders, business representatives, and other individuals who signed the Compact. I also analyzed documents such as interviews and opinion pieces focusing on or written by the signatories of the Compact. The first study revealed that population growth and political disagreements are the most common barriers reported by leaders in Utah. According to these leaders, the key to addressing air quality and climate issues lies in working together across party lines, even though significant progress has not been made so far. The second study found that although most leaders express concern about the negative effects of the drying Great Salt Lake, they tend to focus on the entire valley rather than prioritizing the needs of the most vulnerable residents. They also do not ensure that these communities have a say in decisions related to water use and air quality policies, signaling that major changes to include these communities must be made in the planning and mitigation process for these issues.