UVM climate change study projects snow, followed by rain

Adjusting to climate change will be costly for the state of Vermont, but scientists say the cost of inaction will be greater and even dangerous.

Researchers from the University of Vermont released a report Tuesday detailing the impacts of climate change on Vermont. The report aims to translate the scientific certainty of climate change into a grim forecast that is expected to worsen over the next century.

The researchers say Vermont must stop heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere by advancing renewable energy development and using less energy. The state must also prepare for existing climate-related threats by redesigning its vulnerable infrastructure and economy.

The report, Vermont Climate Assessment, models the Obama administration’s neatly package National Climate Assessment released in May. The findings include:

• Vermont’s temperatures are projected to rise up to 3.6° F by 2050 and 5.4° F of by 2100. The chances of record-breaking high temperature extremes will continue to increase.

• Precipitation will continue to increase over the next century, especially in mountainous regions. First, it will come as snow, but winter precipitation will then shift to rainfall.

• Pest infestations will continue to disrupt the state’s agrarian economy. New viral diseases carried by ticks and mosquitoes will threaten public health.

• Energy demand will increase 0.7 percent annually through 2030. To make matters worse, major storm events will continue to damage energy infrastructure such as poles and wires.

The report carries a sobering long-term forecast for the state, but the next few decades may actually be good for the state’s tourism and agrarian economy. The report projects more snowfall for skiing, longer fall foliage seasons and longer growing seasons suited for growing warm-weather crops such as grapes and peaches.

However, the report finds that climate change will quickly turn costly and dangerous — heavy downpours, ice storms and flooding will grow stronger and continue to damage the state’s infrastructure.

But this is nothing new. In the past four years, the state has filed nine requests for disaster declarations with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the vast majority of which were related to flooding. Heavy rains, downpours and flooding also carry nutrients that are polluting the state’s waters. And last winter’s ice storm left thousands without power.

Green Mountain Power’s 21-turbine wind project on Lowell Mountain. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Green Mountain Power’s 21-turbine wind project on Lowell Mountain. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Policy solution: cut greenhouse gas emissions

The report says one way to clear up these gloomy predictions is to reduce heat-trapping carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere. This means using less energy – through efficiency and behavioral changes – and moving off fossil fuels and onto renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

“Beyond the next few decades, the amount of climate change will still largely be determined by choices society makes about emissions,” the report says. “While Vermont does not have a remotely significant effect on global greenhouse emissions, it is in a position to demonstrate the effectiveness of various systemic changes in reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions.”

Echoing a national chorus led by Obama administration, Gov. Peter Shumlin is taking an “all-of-the-above” approach to climate change. That means building out the state’s renewable energy infrastructure as fast as possible – including industrial-scale wind and solar – and accepting natural gas as a bridge off of fossil fuels, he said.

“If this planet is going to be livable for our kids and grand-kids, we can’t move fast enough to harness all-of-the-above,” Shumlin said at an unrelated news conference Tuesday.

Vermont this year was ranked first in the nation for the number of solar energy jobs per capita. And Vermont, though it is the second-smallest state in the U.S., leads the country with the lowest carbon emissions from electricity generation.

Vermont officials hope to meet 90 percent of the state’s energy demand with renewables by 2050. Right now, only 16 percent of the state’s energy consumption comes from renewable sources. To meet the target, more electricity must be generated in Vermont, state officials say.

“There is a sea change going on,” Shumlin said. “We’ve moved from big generation out there that we never see and we never hear to power that’s going to be generated in our backyards or in our homes.”

The largest, and perhaps most controversial, example of the state taking responsibility for its power demands is Green Mountain Power’s 21-turbine Lowell Mountain wind farm in the Northeast Kingdom.

The project cleared 135 acres of mountaintop forests (through GMP paid to conserve 2,800 acres elsewhere) and was the stage for dozens of protesters who attempted to block construction.

“Any way you generate electricity, there is going to be impacts,” GMP spokesperson Dotty Schnure said during a tour of the wind farm Wednesday.

Nonetheless, state regulators approved the $165 million project, and it now generates enough power to electrify 24,000 homes, GMP says.

“In balance, [the Public Service Board’s] decision was that this project would be in the public good,” Schnure said.

The company is also leading a charge to make Rutland the “solar capital” of the region. The rapid development of ground-mounted solar panels atop the area’s agrarian landscape led lawmakers to consider legislation this year to give towns the ability to stop these projects.

Behavioral solution: use less

In addition to the state’s progress on expanding renewable energy, residents must change their behavior to use less energy, the reports says. That means driving less, monitoring their energy consumption, purchasing energy-efficiency appliances and making lifestyle changes.

“Understanding mechanisms that can increase energy efficiency and conservation behaviors are central to this challenge. Policy decisions that leverage an understanding of behavior change could profoundly support this mitigation effort,” the report states.

David Blittersdorf

David Blittersdorf

David Blittersdorf, president of AllEarth Renewables Inc., the state’s largest renewable energy developer, agrees that Vermont must build out “massive amounts of solar and wind” to replace fossil fuels.

But this is not enough, he said. People need to drive less and conserve. And one way to make sure this happens is to put a price on carbon emissions, he said.

“At the end of the day, we need to tax carbon at a very high level – at $100 a ton or more – to actually get people to change,” he said. “People don’t change without hitting their pocketbook.”

The Vermont Climate Assessment was written by scientists and graduate students at the University of Vermont. The researchers collaborated with state experts, meteorologists, state businesses, farmers and nonprofit organizations.

John Herrick

Comments

  1. Annette Smith :

    Vermont will never build out massive amounts of wind energy. Vermont does not have massive amounts of wind.

    Sheffield and Lowell are both producing below promised outputs. The RECs are being sold out of state for all the wind projects and GMP is also selling the Rutland solar RECs.

    Proponents of renewable energy are killing their own agenda when they continue to push this scam. Real renewable energy for Vermonters doesn’t look anything like what GMP, Shumlin and Blittersdorf are pushing. Vermont will not succeed with building renewables until we have an honest energy policy.

    And there is no evidence that ridgeline wind turbines reduce GHG emissions. Time to take off the rose-colored glasses. This article perpetuates the myth that there is a connection between wind energy and addressing climate change. In fact, ridgeline wind destroys critical habitats necessary for adapting to climate change, degrades water quality, increases stormwater runoff, and reduces Vermont’s carbon sink (trees), all of which make wind energy a bad choice and no solution.

    To vtdigger.org, this article is pure propaganda. You are giving air time (in the video) to people who are making huge amounts of money at the expense of many Vermonters, while providing no analysis about the claimed connection between wind energy and addressing climate change. This article is about the worst type of reporting imaginable. No “balance”, and giving only one perspective — that of the wealthy, powerful, and politically connected. It does, however, provide a good picture of how corruption and money are tainting Vermont.

    • Annette, do you know about this?

      http://www.windpowermonthly.com/article/1298015/spain-passes-retroactive-subsidy-cut-law

      Spain passes retroactive subsidy cut law

      “SPAIN: Spain’s right-wing People Party government has finally passed the decree ratifying deep retroactive cuts to renewables power, amid fears it will lead wind operators to default on loans.”

      How will this affect the Meadowsend Wind Project planned for Grafton and Windham, and the existing Iberdrola projects?

      • Annette Smith :

        Ellin, Iberdrola was the largest recipient of US stimulus subsidies according to this article from 2009: http://investigativereportingworkshop.org/investigations/wind-energy-funds-going-overseas/story/overseas-firms-collecting-most-green-energy-money/.

        While I have no insights into their corporate mentality, it is possible that the corporation has worn out its welcome in Spain and focusing in areas where there is some support.

        The only reason I can imagine they are pursuing the Windham/Grafton project is because they have been invited, first by Meadowsend Timber, and second, there are indications from comments made over the last few months that Governor Shumlin thinks the next big wind project should be in Windham County.

        So it seems that the governor is inviting Iberdrola to come and tear apart a couple more communities — and the plan is succeeding well in Grafton — and destroy more important highland areas that will increase flooding in Grafton along with placing more than half the population of Windham within a mile of wind turbines. That’s the distance within which it is guaranteed that harm to public health will occur.

        What are they thinking? As a wise elder once said, “that’s not thought, that’s lack of thought.”

        • Annette:

          You mention that G0v. Shumlin thinks the next big wind project should be in Windham County. I presume his thinking is based on existing state policy regarding renewable energy and all the good it is supposed to accomplish. This sort of development should be able to be objectively quantified, measured, analyzed and then be made available for critical review.

          Under the state’s Comprehensive Energy Plan, a primary objective is to achieve energy independence while being cost effective.

          That being the case, will the Governor have his chief of the “government accountability program” conduct such an analysis on the Windham project and make it public? It is after all being proposed in response to state policy and will be ultimately paid for with Vermonter’s money.

          As reported on the vtdigger, recall what the Governor said this just week: “Too often government tries to do what’s best but without the right data to test government’s efficacy. We rarely ask the question, As we continue to throw more money at these programs, are we getting the data-driven results that we believe we’re getting when we give you more money?”

          Now before one twig is cut in Windham County or anywhere else in furtherance of industrial wind or solar development, shouldn’t the people of Vermont expect the Governor to show “the data driven results” proving that the money to be spent and other soft costs levied on the people and environment for this project are warranted?

  2. This article is suppose to have credibility when it highlights BEHAVIORAL SOLUTION and then gives us this:

    “David Blittersdorf, president of AllEarth Renewables, Inc., the state’s largest renewable energy developer, agrees that Vermont must build out “massive amounts of solar and wind” to replace fossil fuels.”

    • Kathy Nelson :

      Peter, let’s talk about behavior when it comes to David Blittersdorf & Co:

      On June 8th Blittersdorf held an open house at the Georgia Mountain wind disaster and had his senior project developer, Martha Staskus, run down the hill to demand that the neighbors take down their opposition signs so the people on the buses wouldn’t see them.

      David Blittersdorf has repeatedly gone on the Facebook page devoted to the victims of industrial wind to verbally abuse and degrade those who have been injured by it.

      We should never forget Blittersdorf’s attacks on the Fitzgerald’s, neighbors to the foul wind project:
      http://www.networkedblogs.com/BdHOZ

      Although Blittersdorf was fined for his illegal blasting:

      http://archive.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20121203/NEWS02/312030010/Georgia-wind-project-fined-10-000

      and ordered to pay the neighboring landowners $10,000 in penalties it wasn’t much more than a slap on the wrist by a crony-riddled PSB. Blittersdorf, whom some have referred to as a bully, has proven himself incapable of anything remotely called friendship.

  3. Glenn Thompson :

    Informative article filled with some worthless comments within the article! Most of which are political in nature. They can’t even get the 7 day extended weather forecast accurate a majority of the time! And I’m suppose to take a report like this seriously???? So in some people’s mind the obvious solution is to ‘panic’ and put forward an energy policy that will be deeply flawed and drive current energy prices through the roof which in turn will drive a large % of Vermonters and everybody else into the poor house!

    Then David Blitterdorf reporting from OZ states “Vermont must build out “massive amounts of solar and wind” to replace fossil fuels.”

    Massive amounts of solar and wind to replace fossil fuels in a small state like Vermont? Where are you going to put it all Mr. Blitterdorf? This one I gotta hear?

    Then he follows up that gem with this one!

    “But this is not enough, he said. People need to drive less and conserve. And one way to make sure this happens is to put a price on carbon emissions, he said.”

    FYI, Mr. Blitterdorf, not everyone is as wealthy as you are. In fact, my guess is very few Vermonters are wealthy then you? How much does Gasoline, Fuel Oil, Propane, Natural Gas, Kerosene, etc have to go up to make you happy? $5,$6,$7, $8, $10 or more per Gal?

    Projections as mentioned in the article is just that…projections made by assumptions! No different than attempting to project an accurate weather forecast In this case, IMHO politically motivated projections. No doubt, we are experiencing Climate Change. We have 100’s of millions of years of Geological Scientific History data to prove it. What we can’t do is accurately predict the future. Anyone who thinks they can are fooling nobody but themselves or perhaps they are attempting to fool the masses with projections based on Cherry Picked data and assumptions to achieve the desired conclusion?

    There are a couple good points in the article. I have no problem developing energy sources to replace fossil fuels. I have no problem with encouraging conservation. But I do have a problem with anyone who thinks we need to build ‘massive’ amounts of unreliable, inefficient, and unpredictable energy sources that are not only costly, but produce very little in the way of energy without filling an extremely large land footprint.

    I also emphatically reject any proposal that will have a detrimental effect on people’s livelihood and whatever is left of their disposable income!

    • John Greenberg :

      “Massive amounts of solar and wind to replace fossil fuels in a small state like Vermont? Where are you going to put it all Mr. Blitterdorf? This one I gotta hear? ”

      VPIRG did a report in 2011 called “Repowering Vermont” which attempts to present figures on what precisely would be needed in a variety of scenarios. It’s ONE way to do it and at least provides a starting point for discussion.

      If you go to this page, http://www.vpirg.org/download/repowering-vermont/ you can download the report.

      • Glenn Thompson :

        You do understand VPIRG has ZERO credibility from my perspective? Nothing but a special interest group with Utopian ideas and spreads false propaganda! I just visited their website….and they haven’t changed over the past 20 years I’ve been following their antics! Only difference now is….VPIRG doesn’t want to hear any public input if it disagrees with their Utopian goals.

        This is the same bunch who once stated all the power produced by VY could be replaced by Industrial wind built within the state. Given the fact, industrial wind development has come to a screeching halt after the negatives learned regarding Lowell, Sheffield & Georgia. I would guess you will become a strong Pro-Nuclear supporter long before the state is filled with enough solar and wind power to offset fossil fuels…let alone the power currently produced by VY!

        • Paul Lorenzini :

          JOHN GREENBEER, please tell us what energy to use, sir. Are all energy sources the enemy?

          • Richard Ratico :

            PAUL LORENZANI, please tell us again how you are mostly carbon and worried about the UN.

  4. I’m all for renewables, but what happened to the Lowell Mountain forest is horrific from a wildlife and biodiversity standpoint. Vermont’s own state bird, the Hermit Thrush, will suffer.

  5. Yes, “hit them in the pocketbook”! That’s what this is really about.

    For 50 yrs. we have been told to go out and buy, buy, buy – see the USA in your Chevrolet, built Ford tough and Dodge Ram Power! Every imaginable household appliance that can be thought up has been produced and marketed. There is no job now that can be accomplished without an electric or gas driven divice, right down to gas powered brooms.

    Ok, now, we are the BAD people and we have to pay and pay and pay and pay some more.

    I am amazed and frustrated with this! To think that this is reported to be GLOBAL and in China, India, Russia they are building coal fired plants to the tune of 3 per week and the coal used is not nearly as clean as the Anthracite Coal we have in the US.

    This is a scam being pushed by the Globalist Industrialist Bankers to bring us further down the rabbit hole and further under their control. WHEN, I ask, will these Thieves tell us we HAVE to go to the Bank and borrow money to meet these demands.

    Maybe this will be the last of Obama’s lies. He has been caught time and again lying to us so why would anyone believe him about this. All other attempts by Obama to do anything to improve our Country have failed – because it’s all lies.

    • Paul Lorenzini :

      Oh, definitely you are an optimist, we have not gotten the biggest lie yet, that is coming sometime soon I believe, and it will challenge Americans like never before.

  6. Paul Lutz :

    Who funded this study? What process was put in place to assure the results were not bias towards a predicted outcome?

    John?? These are questions you should answer.

  7. Paul Donovan :

    Hints at ulterior motives, ad honimem attacks, conspiracy theories, absurd allegations, outright denialism…at least there are a few things we can depend on.

    • Paul Lorenzini :

      That is correct Mr. Donovan, I am a denier of Nostradamus Science, and rain dances too.

  8. Kim Fried Newark, Vermont :

    Blittersdorf has proven his agenda time and time again, get rich on the backs of citizens and the environment, that’s his business. For those of us really committed to assisting in solving the global warming problem, it’s just disgusting to be grouped in with this arrogant person. UVM will probably get a gift form Blittersdorf now.

    • Bruce Post :

      Kim, that horse has already left the barn.

      See: http://www.uvm.edu/rsenr/?Page=news&storyID=16989&category=rsenr

      First paragraph in UVM news release: “A $1 million gift commitment from alumnus David Blittersdorf will establish a new professorship in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont.”

      • This “gifting to educational institutions” is the corporate hijacking of America. It was the brainchild of Cecil Rhodes, the Rothschilds, and is carried on by NGOs to supersede democratic republic governmental decision-making. Give money to put in place a teacher and a curriculum that will teach the next generation what will sell you stuff.

        The UN Agenda 21 sounds wonderful until you learn how it is being used. Read: Behind the Green Mask. “Let no crises go to waste” is their motto, and global change is the current “wind-fall” (pun intended).

        • walter judge :

          “This “gifting to educational institutions” is the corporate hijacking of America.”

          Good point. Isn’t that how Bill McKibben got his professorship at Middlebury College?

          • Paul Lorenzini :

            Tim, that was a great observation. Thank you.

      • Recently, there has been concern expressed in the state about funding our institutions of higher learning.

        With the Blittersdorf endowment serving as an model, our colleges can now sell research to the highest bidder to solve funding problems while the benefactor goes on to make millions using the resulting research.

        Sounds like a win-win to me with massive solar and wind development to follow.

        Wait a minute, someone just handed me a note saying that this system is already being used by 97% of the climate change scientists and UVM is just late to the party.

  9. Paul Lutz :

    Taxing Carbon??!!!! Right out of the kids movies the Lorax. In the end, that is what this is all about. Money. The sun and wind people see how the fossil fuel industry has made money over the years, so they want in. The left will jump on board because it is a revune to tax, tax, tax. The difference of course is fossil fuels have improved the quality of life for so many for so long that solar and wind dont have a prayer to comepete. And, the left knows this. If you can’t compete, take out the competition.

  10. Paul Lutz :
  11. Peter Everett :

    One of the largest producers of carbon in the atmosphere is people. There are now over 8 billion people in the world, each expelling Carbon Dioxide at an average rate of about 60 times a minute 24/7/365. No one has ever addressed the problem caused by too many people. Then, we have wildlife that also breathes out Carbon Dioxide. Forests, which utilize CO2 and return O2 into the air, are continually being cut. Fossil fuel use in our vehicles is decreasing because the vehicles are more efficient (yet we are being punished with higher taxes because of this efficiency…can we ever catch a break?).
    So, if we lessen the growth of people & wildlife, we can help lessen CO2 production, leading to possibly less fossil fuel vehicles on the road. Fewer people leads to fewer buildings that need heat and power…again, less use of fossil fuels over time.
    This scenario is in just, but, the problem seriously didn’t begin until the rapid growth of the population began.
    I do not know to what extent there is climate change caused by man, to be politically correct, women also, what I do believe is the Earth has definite cycles of warming and cooling in it’s history, some caused by events volcanic eruptions, etc. Maybe our behaviors are causing the change we’re experiencing now, I’m not totally sold on Al Gore and his predictions. After all, he is a politician and it is real easy to tell when they are not telling the truth…their lips move.
    Yes, there has been change. To what extent have we caused it, I don’t know. I am more apt to think it is more of the cycular type.

  12. TPTB will manufacture seemingly good solutions to apparent problems so long as it transfers wealth to them. The carbon tax is the big one for financing a global government. That is reason enough to resist it. If you want to limit fossil fuel use, then stop subsiding the industries. How much sense does is make to give the coal and oil companies write-offs, flat out subsidies, below reasonable leasing fees, and then tax users of the fuels.

    Forget the carbon tax and thus cut off the NWO folks funding… stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industries, and charge them for the extraction leases and damage to the environment the extraction causes at the site.
    How much money does the U.S. government give oil, gas and coal companies? $52 billion.

    Fossil Fuel Subsidies in the U.S.
    http://priceofoil.org/fossil-fuel-subsidies/

    Taxes in the USA are robbery. Because Congress borrows money from the Fed without concern for paying it back, taxes aren’t necessary at all for them to finance the war machine. If you want to have a Constitutional system that works, insist that Congress finance their wars though taxes, as the Constitution requires, not by borrowing. That would put a stop to wars too because the people would not vote for a Congressman that increases their taxes for war expenditures. Any Congressman who did would be replaced with a fiscally honest candidate… a win-win situation.
    But to keep the same corruption and then add more taxes, like carbon taxes, is only adding to the parasite’s theft.

  13. George Coppenrath :

    “Nonetheless, state regulators approved the $165 million project, and it now generates enough power to electrify 24,000 homes, GMP says.”

    You know this is a PR piece when you see this statement… How about including the number of homes for which VY provided electricity. Approximately every home in VT would be close with zero carbon emissions.

    • Glenn Thompson :

      It would also be helpful to report how often those 24,000 homes are being powered by wind? There are people out there who believe wind produces constant power continuously when the facts are, wind seldom produces power at rated capacity.

  14. Chet Greenwood :

    Follow the money–
    Rate payers –>providers –>AllEarth Renewables (Blitterdorf) –>Shumlin’s campaign AND UVM School of Environment & Science for propaganda

    Vermont occupies .00041 of the earth’s surface(9620 sq mi of 196,940,000) and .00009 of the population (626,600 of 7,000,000,000).
    Somehow or someone insists that Vermont save the world– at RATEPAYER’s expense.

  15. David Black :

    UVM CLIMATE CHANGE STUDY PROJECTS SNOW, FOLLOWED BY RAIN.
    My data derived by living in Vermont for over 35 years is entirely opposite to the above hogwash statement. Rain followed by snow followed by slush followed by snow followed by rain. Repeat cycle.

  16. Paul Lorenzini :

    Did we somehow go back in time to 1977? I would think that the students there would be smarter then to try and predict the future.

    They must be majoring in Nostradamus Science.

  17. Paul Lorenzini :

    Please do not let facts get in the way of religion, they never have.

  18. Paul Lorenzini :

    I am guessing that Mr. Blittersdorf rides a bike to work and never flies on jet airplanes. He also rides a stationary bicycle to power his computer right? Demanding lifestyle changes is a sure sign we are under Agenda 21 leadership, that lives one lifestyle and taxes others out of theirs. What a bunch of green tyrants.

  19. Paul Lorenzini :

    ALL YOU GAS GUZZLING AMERICANS MUST PUT DOWN YOUR CAR KEYS, MOVE TO THE COMMUNE, AND RIDE BICYCLES!

    the great green oz has spoken

  20. Paul Lorenzini :

    The words “climate change” cover all possibilities, and in essence means that these folks have no idea what is going to happen, only that they can capitalize from whatever happens. Please, all you believers, tell me where I am wrong.

  21. Paul Lorenzini :

    There must be a UVM student out there with the courage to retort, or do none of them read the news? Most of them are well trained debaters I would guess, not at all like myself.

  22. Paul Lorenzini :

    NOT EVEN A PEEP FROM THE COURAGEOUS GREEN CROWD? it was a whole week and you cannot even find one Mckibbinite to defend their position in public.

    They are perfectly willing to sneak into the capital, on their days off of course, and ben the ear of the politician who will write the laws based on inconvenient truths. Wormtongues.

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