Spencer Rendahl: More Than Talk

Mar 29, 2017

According to poll data published recently by The New York Times, Vermonters worry and talk about climate change more than the rest of the country. The Times even published a series of maps showing how people in different regions view climate change.

Intrigued, I went to the source: the Yale Program on Climate Communication, which compiled data based on a 2016 nationwide survey from 18,000 respondents. The results uphold Vermont’s reputation as forward-thinking and progressive and show that in this, at least, New Hampshire isn’t much different.

Vermont’s Chittenden, Addison, and Windham counties had some of the highest percentages in the country of people who believe that global warming is happening, all three around 75 percent. Those counties were also the most concerned in New England that global warming is hurting them personally.

40 percent of Chittenden and Addison County residents talk more frequently about global warming than the average US citizen. People talk about it only a little bit less in New Hampshire’s Grafton County, as well as in Sullivan County, where I live.

But I found it shocking that Vermont’s 40 percent is considered high, as only 33 percent of people talk about global warming nationally. It’s especially concerning in light of President Trump’s rollback yesterday of the Obama Administration’s international commitments to curb carbon dioxide emissions – an action that threatens the 2015 Paris agreement and effectively turns climate science denial into US policy.

But even in my small New Hampshire town, evidence of climate change is hard to ignore. While waiting for the school bus, I show my kids new growth on our apple trees. In another month and a half, we’ll see flowers. With proper care and some luck, we’ll pick apples this fall.

But last year, our trees didn’t produce fruit - partially because of a record-setting drought in New England – which some scientists attribute to the hydrologic extremes of climate change. It’s just a small glimpse of a larger future that climate change is expected to bring if human contribution remains unchecked.

We Northern New Englanders may lead the country in talking about climate change, but given yesterday’s decision to roll-back our promise to the world to curb carbon dioxide emissions, it’s beginning to look like we’ll need to do much more than just talk.