Vermont should lead on climate change adaptation plans, lawmakers and business people say

Sen. Virginia "Ginny" Lyons, D-Chittenden, made the opening remarks at Wednesday’s news conference at the Ben and Jerry’s corporate headquarters in South Burlington to call for state action on climate change. Behind her is Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Sen. Virginia “Ginny” Lyons, D-Chittenden, made the opening remarks at Wednesday’s news conference at the Ben & Jerry’s corporate headquarters in South Burlington to call for state action on climate change. Behind her is Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

SOUTH BURLINGTON — Business leaders and elected officials gathered outside Ben & Jerry’s corporate offices to call for a policy-driven charge to combat climate change, a task they say is vital to preserving the character of Vermont.

At Wednesday’s news conference, business leaders said climate change is altering the landscape of the state and striking at the heart of Vermont’s brand and quality of life.

Sen. Virginia “Ginny” Lyons, D-Chittenden, says the state should set a national example to adapt to what she is calling Vermont’s No. 1 economic peril.

Climate change has and will affect health care costs due to increased occurrences in new diseases such as asthma and Lyme disease, the maple, agricultural and ski industry due to erratic weather patterns, and road damages due to flooding that threatens tourism, Lyons said.

“We will no longer be Vermont,” she said. “Without action, we face a slow, lingering death to our way of life in Vermont.”

Vermont must be the first state to lead a national offense on climate change, setting an example for the rest of the country, said George Twigg, director of public affairs for the Vermont Energy Investment Corp.

Twigg said Vermont has made gains on reducing energy costs, referring to Efficiency Vermont, a nonprofit organization operated by VEIC that is designed to help reduce the energy costs.

The heating and transportation sectors are the two largest contributors to the state’s carbon footprint, he said.

“If Vermont can be a leader in those sectors, the way that we have been in the electricity sector, that can show the way for the rest of the nation,” Twigg said.

The state has some policies in place that were designed to combat climate change, Lyons said. This includes diversifying energy sources by using thermal, wind and solar, divesting from carbon fuels, a net metering policy that compels utilities to credit customers for the renewable power they produce themselves, biomass management, and forestry guidelines, for example.

In 2012, the Legislature passed Act 113, which called for the establishment of a “Genuine Progress Indicator” (GPI). The GPI looks at 25 factors, ranging from personal consumption to air pollution.

The Legislature also established the Clean Energy Development Fund in 2005, Act 74, which is designed to increase the development of environmentally friendly energy.

In May 2011, Gov. Peter Shumlin established a Climate Cabinet. One recent task of this cabinet was to help the Department of Public Service develop a Comprehensive Energy Plan. The plan’s overview states that Vermont’s energy consumption should be 90 percent renewable by 2050.

While the state is making gains on addressing energy consumption, some business leaders from Vermont’s iconic industries, agriculture and maple syrup, said climate change is already forcing them to adapt.

Sen. David Zuckerman, D/P-Chittenden, told how climate change is affecting his farm, Full Moon Farm in Hinesburg. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Sen. David Zuckerman, D/P-Chittenden, told how climate change is affecting his farm, Full Moon Farm in Hinesburg. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Sen. David Zuckerman, D/P-Chittenden, owner of Full Moon Farm in Hinesburg, said the recent increase in extreme weather patterns, including drought, flooding and damaging winds, have introduced new pests to kill crops.

For example, spotted wing drosophila, drosophila suzukii, affects small-fruit and tree-fruit crops; swede midge, contarinia nasturtii, is a new pest that affects cold crop families, such as broccoli, Zuckerman said.

In some instances, the only way to adapt is to stop growing, he said. His farm does not grow heirloom tomatoes anymore because late blight threatens their harvest.

“These impacts are real,” he said. “That’s why as policy makers and business leaders, we’re all standing together to say we need to start implementing policies and as individuals we need to start changing our habits so that we can slow this change down and eventually, hopefully, back it off.”

Matt Gordon, executive director of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association, said the industry is faced with shorter, erratic winter seasons, affecting the hundreds of Vermont families who depend on the product for their livelihoods.

The sugaring season is now three to four days, or 10 percent, shorter on average, Gordon said. In 2012, the warm spell in March cut expected maple sugar production in half.

“We can’t plant a different type of maple tree for next year. We have to rely on the trees we have had for generations,” he said. “Vermont maple syrup, that’s something that can’t be grown anywhere else.”

But new technology in the industry is adapting to the reality of changing weather patters. For example, many sugar producers use tubing to collect sap instead of buckets so they can collect sap throughout the season’s irregular weather conditions.

In 2011, Vermont broke two heat records, 28 rainfall records and 10 snowfall records while experiencing extreme flooding and hurricanes that cost the state millions of dollars, a news release stated.

John Herrick

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30 Comments on "Vermont should lead on climate change adaptation plans, lawmakers and business people say"

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Annette Smith
2 years 10 months ago

And so they are proposing doing….???

krister adams
2 years 10 months ago

Do not think “they”, think “I”.

2 years 10 months ago
Virginia Lyons, Vermont cannot “combat” GLOBAL climate change, because Vermont is just a very miniscule part of the problem. Developing nations will use more and more energy and emit more and more CO2, which will more than offset any reductions in CO2 by the US and Europe. Vermont must ADAPT to climate change by: – moving from flood plains and other vulnerable areas, and – increasing the size of drainage ditches and culverts, and – building runoff retention basins, and – having a building code that requires housing with R-20 basements, R-40 walls, R-60 roofs, very low air infiltration, similar… Read more »
Coleman Dunnar
2 years 10 months ago

As always Willem well presented:
As a sailor I learned there is nothing I can do about the wind except adjust the sails.
History is replete with examples of civilizations which vanished for failure to adopt to changing conditions and circumstances. How much longer are we going to allocate our capital for the enrichment of a few in the course of pursuing polices producing non-detectable results on the global scale?
Adopt and overcome.

2 years 10 months ago

Coleman,

I know about wind as well, as I raced various sailboat on Long Island Sound for 3 decades. Wind direction and speed are NEVER constant.

One would think Democrats would be more society-improvement oriented, but they are just as greedy-grabbing as others. Show some subsidies and it is off to the races.

krister adams
2 years 10 months ago

Mr. Post: So because VT is, I agree, “miniscule” we should do no proactive work but instead should be reactive and entirely adaptive?

2 years 10 months ago

Kristen,

– Increased energy efficiency
– High-efficiency housing, lighting and appliances
– More compact urban areas to enable walking; bicycling and battery-assisted bicycling; tricycling and battery-assisted tricycling
– Workplaces close to living areas
– Extensive recycling

are the most-effective, least-cost, pro-active measures to reduce energy, reduce CO2 and consumption of OTHER resources.

Placing noise-making, environmentally-destructive, property-value-lowering, 459-ft high wind turbines, with 373-ft diameter rotors, on 2500-ft high ridge lines that produce variable, intermittent energy, i.e., junk energy, at more than 3 times NE grid prices, is definitely NOT the way forward for Vermont.

Patricia Crocker
2 years 10 months ago
Few people (including those who do not agree that humans are responsible for climate change) are against making our earth and our own little neck of the woods a cleaner, healthier place to live. I would further argue that it is important that the cause of promoting a clean environment not be discredited by linking it with a theory that many consider junk science. Man-made global warming theory is becoming less popular in the minds of the general public as more facts get out, including the way that data was manipulated to support the agenda, even though the facts were… Read more »
2 years 10 months ago
Patricia, You are on the right track. The Earth has been warming since the late 1700s, when it started to come out of the Little Ice Age (approximately 1450-1850). See URLs. http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/107316/global-warming-coal-combustion-and-sea-level-rise http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/151031/global-warming-targets-and-capital-costs-germany-s-energiewende http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/83704/reduce-co2-and-slow-global-warming The CO2 ppm in the atmosphere did not begin to rise until about the late 1800s and has been rising ever since. Whereas, ALL climate models predicted increasing global warming with increasing CO2 ppm, this has NOT been the case for the past 17 years. The world average temperature remained UNCHANGED. The temperature rose in some areas, declined in other areas, for an average of zero,… Read more »
krister adams
2 years 10 months ago

“Vermont can do NOTHING to influence GW. Its best course of action is ADAPTATION.”

You sir, are a pessimist. Please get out of the way.

2 years 10 months ago

Krister,
Please see my above comment with positive measures to improve Vermont’s well being and reduce energy, CO2 and other resources.

Matt Fisken
2 years 10 months ago
It’s a known fact that radio frequency energy can change the weather. Since the Telecom act of 1996, the build out of wireless telecommunications has sky rocketed with hundreds of thousands of towers scattered around the country. Since then, we’ve experienced the warmest years on record. Throw in a little HAARP, some dual-pole radar, more powerful digital TV and radio antennas and presto! You’ve got nearly instant weather modification. Not to mention all the physical disruption taking place at upper elevations to install these facilities. Most facilities are not as bad as Lowell Mt, but having the tops of our… Read more »
James Maroney
2 years 10 months ago
Agriculture is the second largest industrial contributor to global, greenhouse gases (GHGs), ahead of the entire transportation sector and behind only heat generation. The raising of plants and animals for food and fiber is, of course, an essential, human activity. But because agriculture significantly impacts Vermont’s land, air and water, agriculture’s use of natural resources deserves our highest scrutiny. Conventional, i.e., chemical and energy intensive agriculture was introduced after WWII with the goal of increasing farm yields and lowering costs. From that narrow perspective, the paradigm has succeeded. But while American farm yields have increased three fold and costs fallen… Read more »
2 years 10 months ago

James,

The CO2 equivalent of the agriculture-industrial complex is just the tip of the iceberg.

What about people actually EATING, DRINKING the foods and liquids produced by the “complex”.

What about the poor-quality food fed to animals whose meat we eat?

What about approx. 20% of the US GDP going into healthcare-industrial complex and STILL having epidemic diabetics and obesity?

Vermont should become the “Community Garden State”. It would be much better for Vermonters than being the Maple Syrup State, the Ski Resort State, the Water Park State.

krister adams
2 years 10 months ago

Good thing we only have 200 or so productive farms left in VT, huh?

Greg Lapworth
2 years 10 months ago

Good grief! Most of the above comments make sense and are based on facts. I didn’t know Vermont still had people who thought for themselves. Makes one feel “all is not lost”.
But the article says sugaring production is down? Thought it was a “banner” year?! Wind and solar have made a big difference? Huh, 1/2 of one per cent of electric comes from solar. Had to shut down many wind powered generators due to grid overload. Seems like there might be a lot of BS not on farms.

krister adams
2 years 10 months ago

Way to be helpful!

Frank Seawright
2 years 10 months ago
From: Science 2 August 2013: Vol. 341 no. 6145 pp. 486-492 DOI: 10.1126/science.1237123 http://www.sciencemag.org/content/341/6145/486 Terrestrial ecosystems have encountered substantial warming over the past century, with temperatures increasing about twice as rapidly over land as over the oceans. Here, we review the likelihood of continued changes in terrestrial climate, including analyses of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project global climate model ensemble. Inertia toward continued emissions creates potential 21st-century global warming that is comparable in magnitude to that of the largest global changes in the past 65 million years but is orders of magnitude more rapid. The rate of warming implies a… Read more »
2 years 10 months ago
Frank, Please read my above comment. Vermont can do NOTHING regarding GLOBAL warming. Vermont’s ONLY approach should be ADAPTATION. That in itself would reduce CO2 at a much lower cost than the subsidized build-outs of wind turbines on ridge lines and solar parks in meadows and on roofs. It is not just the world population increase that is doing it to the world, it is the GWP/capita and the increased energy consumption per capita. In 1800, the Gross World Product, GWP, was $175.24 billion; population 1.0 billion.  In 2012, the GWP was $71,830 billion, 407 times greater; population 7.0 billion.… Read more »
Frank Seawright
2 years 10 months ago

I’ll read yours if you’ll read mine:
http://vtdigger.wpengine.com/2013/03/25/seawright-energy-policies-need-to-take-new-research-into-account/

You and I appear to have very little to disagree about.

Vanessa Mills
2 years 10 months ago
Patricia writes: “I believe that the money and energy currently being directed at reducing CO2 would be best spent fighting legitimate environmental and human concerns.” I gotta agree there, with that particular statement. I might add that best-spent fights against legitimate environmental and human concerns would consequentially reduce man-made atmospheric co2 emissions. (Think current global agronomics and a complete overhaul- – meaning, a total shift toward local control and local distribution and local security with regards to energy/food/water.) THAT’S where we will see true differences made, if we indeed shift. If we are willing and proactive. I beleive we are… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 10 months ago

Vanessa Mills agrees with Patricia Crocker that “the money and energy currently being directed at reducing CO2 would be best spent fighting legitimate environmental and human concerns.”

Since both Mills and Crocker oppose the development of wind turbines in Vermont, I’d ask that they address this question: what energy sources SHOULD we be using in Vermont, and what “legitimate” environment and human concerns” do wind turbines raise that these sources don’t?

John Greenberg
2 years 10 months ago
Vanessa Mills: Thank you for the stirring response, with which I very largely agree, but unfortunately it doesn’t answer my question. Small steps or large, we all continue to use energy. Every source of energy, however wisely used, entails, in your words “legitimate environmental and human concerns.” Even if you’re carpooling, you’re still driving and using energy. Where will it come from? What form(s) of energy are you recommending for those local farmers to use to grow food? Your recommendations are excellent — I follow most of them in my own life – but they do not eliminate the need… Read more »
2 years 10 months ago

Vanessa/John,

Placing noise-making, health-damaging, environmentally-destructive, property-value-lowering, 459-ft high wind turbines, with 373-ft diameter rotors, on 2500-ft high ridge lines that produce variable, intermittent energy, i.e., junk energy, at about 15 c/kWh (heavily-subsidized), about 3 times NE grid prices, is definitely NOT the way forward for Vermont.

I would use as much STEADY, CLEAN, CO2-free, Hydro Quebec energy as possible at about 6 c/kWh. The environmental damage has already been done!!. About 6000 MW of iHQ capacity is unused.

That would be the rational approach. not the heavily-subsidized, crony-capitalist approach.

See my above comment to Vanessa.

Gregory Lapworth
2 years 10 months ago

Excellent comment..part of the solution, thank you.

Vanessa Mills
2 years 10 months ago
Glad you asked, Mr. Greenberg. I’m assuming we are also referring to the CO2 emissions issue here, with regard to energy solutions. I’m saying we should reach for the ‘low-hanging fruit’ FIRST and see what a proactive and exciting difference this makes, right off the bat! I’m offering that we can try new things and can, with small, personal,and positive steps, shift how we go about our lives. We can agree, I think, that we see weather and climate issues as obvious. If these are manmade or otherwise doesn’t change the fact that we can decide what side of the… Read more »
Gregory Lapworth
2 years 10 months ago

We can become Socialists with the ultimate of being Communists……..nah!!! Been tried, doesn’t work. Think again, Ms..

Vanessa Mills
2 years 10 months ago

Gregory: I thank you for your comment. But no matter, I remain hopeful about what is possible for the future of humankind. I will place my bet on the fact that we don’t even know, as a species, just how resourceful and creative we may need to be, and can truly be! and how evolved we can become! I’m not saying this will be an easy or all-rosey process. To be starkly frank, I TRULY think it won’t. But I’m still hopeful. and hope to keep trying. All good. Best to you.

Bruce Post
2 years 10 months ago
I have not read this book, but it was recommended to me. It is by Stan Cox and is titled “Any Way You Slice It: The Past, Present and Future of Rationing.” http://www.sliceit.org/about.html Cox is a senior scientist as Wes Jackson’s Land Institute. Maybe folks should seriously consider rationing as a major strategy for reducing demand for energy generation. Perhaps Shap Smith can invite Stan Cox to address the Legislature, and then, Vermont can get concrete about the oft-cited goal of “leading the nation.” Of course, with an economy built on more, more, more, I cannot imagine any politician wanting… Read more »
Carl Werth
2 years 10 months ago

When the 1%, heck even the 5-10%, start rationing, then I will believe our species has a chance. Until those who hold all the resources start contributing instead of continuing to hoard – it’s all just words and dreams.

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