Energy & Environment

Senate votes to recognize man-made climate change

Brian Campion

Sen. Brian Campion, D-Bennington, presented a resolution stating that humans contribute to climate change before it passed the Senate, 23-5, on Tuesday. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

[T]he Vermont Senate gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a resolution that declares climate change is real and that humans are mostly responsible.

The nonbinding resolution, S.R.7, passed by a 23-5 vote. Final approval is expected Wednesday.

Sen. Brian Campion, D-Bennington, the lead sponsor of the resolution, said the Senate should recognize that climate change is a real and present danger to the state. Climate change is expected to increase precipitation and flooding in Vermont, according to researchers at the University of Vermont.

“We will base our policy on this,” Campion told the Senate before the vote, adding that the resolution sends a clear message to young people. “[We] take this very seriously and will do our utmost to make what we are passing on to them, which has been passed onto us, the best it possibly can be.”

A few senators opposed the resolution. Sens. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, Brian Collamore, R-Rutland, Peg Flory, R-Rutland, Norm McAllister, R-Franklin, and John Rodgers, D-Essex-Orleans, voted against the resolution. Two others were absent.

Benning said he believes humans contribute to climate change, but said the Senate should not “grandstand meaningless resolutions” that “serve as fodder for political advocacy organizations to attract dollars from their followers.”

“By forcing us into categories, these proclamation resolutions position us into making decisions based on passion and emotions rather than careful deliberative thought,” he said.

Last year was the hottest year on Earth since record-keeping began in 1880. Scientists link the warming planet to economic development and population growth and say the warming of the planet poses a risk to human civilization and the environment. Research indicates 97 percent of scientists agree humans have caused most of Earth’s warming.

Sen. David Zuckerman, P/D-Chittenden, who co-owns the Full Moon Farm in Hinesburg, has observed high winds in recent years, which have torn the plastic off his high tunnels, which are impermanent metal structures encased in plastic to extend the growing season.

“If the plastic gets ripped off our high tunnel because of high winds, as occurred to our farm about three years ago, that’s going to reduce the food supply,” he said. “It’s remarkable that this isn’t one of the top issues that we have to deal with in this body on a regular basis.”

Vermont has passed policies aimed at driving down the costs to build renewable energy generation in order to curb the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. But some lawmakers are hearing from towns and residents concerned over where utility-scale wind and solar projects are located.

Among them is Rodgers, a member of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, who voted against the resolution. He said he believes in human-caused climate change, but is opposed to large wind and solar projects in Vermont. He said the Public Service Board, which reviews energy generation projects, “rubber stamps” unwise renewable energy projects.

Sen. John Rodgers, D-Essex-Orleans, a member of the Natural Resources and Energy Committee. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Sen. John Rodgers, D-Essex-Orleans, a member of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Rodgers told lawmakers he drove by a solar project this weekend where water that once infiltrated the soil on a former farm field is now concentrated due to runoff from the panels and a road around the back of the project.

“I think just having a discussion about carbon reduction and not having a full discussion about how we responsibly site these new, large renewable projects is irresponsible,” he said.

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John Herrick

About John

John Herrick joined VTDigger in June 2013 as an intern working on the searchable campaign finance database and is now VTDigger's energy and environment reporter. He graduated from the University of Vermont with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in Spanish. He wrote for the Vermont Cynic, university’s student newspaper, before interning and later freelancing for the Burlington Free Press.

Email: [email protected]

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