Question by Scott Richards in Weber County, Utah

Shih-Yu Wang, who teaches climate dynamics at Utah State University, said we have “a decade or two” to reverse the lake shrinkage.

While some are focusing on conserving water in the hopes more water will make it to the lake, Wang said one of the lake’s biggest threats is rising global temperature. 

He said the warming climate influences the levels of water at Great Salt Lake. 

The Earth naturally goes through periods of warming and cooling. However, greenhouse gas emissions from humans have increased how quickly Earth is warming. 

“The rate of warming is something that we have never observed,” he said. “In the past, the interglacial period took thousands of years to happen.” 

Action against global warming needs to be done on a global scale. But if locals want the lake to survive, fighting against rising temperatures needs to happen here, and soon. 

“It’s an inevitable decline. It means it’s just not going to come back if we keep the warming rate as was projected,” he said. 

Even though global warming can feel like an insurmountable challenge to solve, Wang said it is possible.

“The only way the warming rate can be stopped is if we reach so-called carbon neutral,” he said. This means that any carbon dioxide released into the air needs to be offset by something “as simple as planting more trees.” 

—Reported and written by McCaulee Blackburn