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Committee passes resolution affirming climate change

By John Herrick

For Vermont Digger

The Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee passed a resolution earlier this month declaring that climate change is real and caused by humans and calls on the state to take steps to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. The resolution has 14 sponsors.

Sen. Brian Campion, D-Bennington, the lead sponsor of the resolution, said the aim was to tell constituents that lawmakers take the threat of human-caused climate change seriously.

“It’s the basis of all of our work in that committee,” Campion said. “This is a national threat.”

Sen. John Rodgers, D-Glover, was the lone no vote on the five-member panel. He said he believes human-caused climate impact is real, but he could not support the resolution because it doesn’t address the land use impacts of renewable energy generation development, such as mountaintop wind farms.

“It upsets me that in this resolution it seems to (favor) only addressing fossil fuels by replacing it with renewables and conservation, both of which I support, but not at all costs,” Rodgers said.

John McClaughry, founder of the Ethan Allen Institute, is among the critics. McClaughry says there is no empirical evidence that human activities have any detectable effect on global temperature trends. If Vermont were to achieve the goal enacted in Act 168 — to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 less than 1990 levels by 2050, if practicable using reasonable efforts — it would have no detectable effect on global temperatures, McClaughry argues.

Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, according to NASA. Human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are driven largely by economic and population growth and are now higher than ever, according to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, supports the resolution, saying it is worthwhile because some states and political leaders deny that climate change exists.

“It will serve as a point of leverage we hope in the future. Once the Legislature says they believe it’s real and that we have a responsibility to do something about it, I think that then is when the rubber will hit the road when it comes to proposals to actually address climate change,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, [asked] all 50 governors to refuse to abide by Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants known as the Clean Power Plan.

“This proposed plan is already on shaky legal grounds, will be extremely burdensome and costly and will not seriously address the global environmental concerns that are frequently raised to justify it,” his March 19 letter states.

In a response sent last week, Gov. Peter Shumlin disagreed with McConnell.

“I disagree. Climate change is real. It’s a threat to humanity. We should be working harder to address it, not rolling back efforts to do so. I fully support the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan,” Shumlin said.