The Obama administration Tuesday released a scientific report that found human-caused climate change will create more heat waves, extreme weather, rising sea levels, flooding, and heavy downpours – all of which can be mitigated with policy aimed at curbing carbon emissions.
“This important report is another loud and clear warning that greenhouse gases are rising faster than ever and our refusal to recognize and deal with the crisis could have catastrophic consequences,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in a statement Tuesday.
Sanders, a member of the Senate energy and environment committees, has proposed a bill to tax carbon and methane emissions and use the revenue to fund energy efficiency projects. He called on the Republican-controlled Congress to act on climate change policy.
The Obama administration’s National Climate Assessment report found that climate change will create more extreme weather events and heavy rains over the next century.
Heavy downpours during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 dumped more than 7 inches of rain in some areas of the state to cause up to $250 million in damages to the state’s transportation infrastructure, according to the Agency of Natural Resources.
With much of Vermont’s settlement and infrastructure located along streams and floodplains adjacent to steep slopes, heavy rainfall and runoff during Irene surged through many communities that are still struggling to repair flood damage two-and-a-half years later.
The report states that precipitation during “heavy precipitation events” measured 70 percent more in 2010 than in events in 1958. Under continued carbon emission increases, precipitation in the Northeast could increase by 20 percent to 30 percent by the end of the century.
“Heat waves, heavy downpours, and sea level rise pose growing challenges to many aspects of life in the Northeast,” the report states. “Infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries, and ecosystems will be increasingly compromised.”
For farming in the region, the report predicts more crop damage from heavy precipitation, more invasive weeds and pests associated with warmer winters, changes in species distribution, and losses to biodiversity.
“The 12 Northeastern states have more than 180,000 farms, with $17 billion in annual sales. The region’s ecosystems and agricultural systems are tightly interwoven, and both are vulnerable to a changing climate,” the report states.
Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., said it is undeniable that climate change is real and having an impact on the nation’s environment, economy and health.
“In Vermont, we have experienced extreme weather that has wiped out roads, bridges, and homes. Our farmers are challenged by unpredictable growing seasons. And the futures of our ski areas and maple industry are threatened,” he said in a statement Tuesday.
“The good news is that there is still time to act,” Welch said.
The report states of the 12 states in the northeast, 11 have developed climate change adaptation strategies, including the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a regional carbon emission cap-and-trade program where Vermont made $3 million for energy efficiency program last year.
“Local and state governments in the Northeast have been leaders and incubators in utilizing legal and regulatory opportunities to foster climate change policies,” the report states.
Gov. Peter Shumlin said the time to prepare for climate change is now.
“In light of this climate assessment we need to rededicate ourselves to ensuring that we are prepared for what the future holds, and we must work even harder to meet our greenhouse gas reduction goals by implementing our state energy plan,” Shumlin said in a statement.