Wednesday June 26, 2013

Whether you call it climate change, global warming or just plain crazy weather, it’s clear the climate in Vermont and in the rest of the country has changed quite a bit over the last 50 years.

Some dismiss global warming as political positioning or an extremist explanation for natural phenomena.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday asserted just the opposite. During a speech at Georgetown University, Obama said the debate over climate change and its causes is obsolete and announced a plan to tackle pollution, according to an Associated Press article.

"As a president, as a father and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act," Obama said.

Per the announcement, the Obama administration will pursue regulations on gases emitted by power plants with the intention of targeting carbon pollution. The president also said the Keystone oil pipeline will only be approved if it doesn’t "increase overall, net emissions of greenhouse gases," per the AP.

"Our national interest would be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution," he said.

Here in Vermont, the Agency of Natural Resources Climate Change Team has for years been doing research and publishing papers that advise putting the brakes on burning fossil fuels.

In a white paper published in June 2011, the agency stated that stabilizing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will require an 80 percent reduction in Vermont’s global emissions.


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"Vermont’s climate has changed substantially in the past 50 years. Continuing change is certain, as the Earth’s climate is being driven towards a warmer state by the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," states the paper, penned by Vermont climate scientist Dr. Alan K. Betts. "If current high emissions continue, Vermont’s summer climate by 2080 will feel similar to the climate of northwest Georgia for the period 1961-1990. However, if emissions are greatly reduced, the climate of Vermont will more closely resemble the climate of southeastern Ohio."

If you’ve been to Georgia in the summertime, you are probably keen on avoiding how hot and sticky it gets there.

The ANR research breaks down the effects of global warming over those five decades on Vermont climate by season. Here are some of the highlights:

In the spring, Vermont’s sugar maples are less productive, and sugaring season is shorter. Plants bloom earlier. Additionally, rainfall has increased by up to 20 percent in the last 50 years.

Summers here now have higher temperatures, and are punctuated by more rainstorms and increased flooding. The mosquitoes, ticks and other pests have grown in number. Heat waves and droughts are more frequent.

In Vermont, where snow tourism is a major source of revenue, "Winter temperatures are rising fastest, so the winter season is shrinking and becoming less severe," per the ANR.

Also, more insects survive the warmer winter temperatures, and there’s more sleet and freezing rain than before.

In the autumn, there is a later first frost, warmer temperatures overall, later foliage color, and more rain.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a member of the Senate environment and energy committees, on Tuesday issued a statement that aligned with the president’s stance on global warming. But the latest declaration was not enough, he said:

"The president must support a tax on carbon and methane emissions to show the world that the United States is prepared to transform our energy system and be an international leader on climate change. The president must demand that Congress work with him to dramatically improve energy efficiency and to greatly increase our utilization of solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable sources of energy.

Further, the president must not give speeches about the dangers of global warming and then turn around and allow construction of the Keystone pipeline from Canada’s tar sands oil fields which would result in a huge increase in carbon emissions."

We agree with Sen. Sanders that there is much more to be done to preserve the quality of life we enjoy in the Green Mountain State.

However, the president’s public declaration of the war on global warming is a start.

~Michelle Karas