Markowitz: Heat Wave

Aug 9, 2018

This summer, I’ve been spending a lot of my free time swimming in the lakes and rivers of Vermont, and if the filled parking lots and packed beaches are any indication – so are most Vermonters.

We’re lucky that we have so many places to go to get relief from the heat, because this July was notable for being the hottest on record here.

And we’re not alone. For the third year in a row, record high temperatures have been reported across the world. With greenhouse gasses warming our planet, these heat trends may, unfortunately, be a new normal.

This latest heat wave hit the state just as Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources released its progress report on Vermont’s efforts to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions - the pollution known to be the main cause of climate change. And the numbers are discouraging.

Despite many and sustained efforts, from a 1990 baseline, we’re not on track to meet our statutory goal of reducing climate pollution by 50% by 2028. In fact, we appear to be heading in the wrong direction. According to this report, Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions rose 10 percent in just two years, adding to our challenge by bringing our emissions to 16 percent above the baseline.

This report is a wakeup call - and our response should be bold action.

Vermont’s Climate Commission recently advised the Governor to initiate a broad transformation of the economy “away from carbon-based energy sources,” noting that it’s “imperative that Vermont more aggressively addresses emissions … from the transportation, residential, commercial and industrial sectors.”

I agree. Every household, sector of the economy and the government have important roles to play when it comes to taking action on climate change. We can use less, recycle and compost more. We can move our heating systems to electric heat pumps or to wood. We can buy an electric car or live with only one. We can ride the bus more, or bike and walk. We can eat less meat and more food that’s locally grown.

When it comes to curbing climate pollution, Vermont is well placed to be a leader. But we can’t do it without government leadership. The climate commission report is a good first step, but we must find the will to develop new policies, financial incentives and investments if we ever hope to meet our climate goals.