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Assessment on Vermont’s changing climate released

View of Vermont looking south from Mt. Philo
Pat Bradley
View of Vermont looking south from Mt. Philo

Vermont is getting warmer and wetter. That’s the conclusion of the 2021 Vermont Climate Assessment.

The University of Vermont’s Gund Institute for Environment and the Vermont chapter of the Nature Conservancy released the assessment Tuesday.

It shows there has been an average annual 2-degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature and a 21 percent increase in precipitation in Vermont since 1900.

Gund Institute Director of Policy Dr. Stephen Posner says those are two of the five key findings in the report.

“Climate change is here. It’s impacting communities across Vermont now, today. We can see that happening when we look at the data and the scientific evidence. Vermont is getting warmer. Vermont is getting wetter. Multiple complex impacts could lead to surprises. Climate impacts and risks will increase without action. And fortunately there are opportunities for Vermont to reverse the trend and to do better preparing for climate impacts.”

Dr. Posner says the assessment’s data shows that climate change is already impacting human activity and the state’s biodiversity.

“More variable snow conditions have already begun to impact the ski industry as well as other winter sports. The other impact that’s coming to mind right now has to do with many of the iconic species and the wildlife in Vermont that is already responding to climate change," reports Posner. " The shifts in where these animals are living and where they’re able to survive are pretty clear in the data. And some of the projections show things like the common loon may be losing a great deal of its habitat in just a few decades and maybe not even having enough habitat to viably continue to be common in Vermont.”

UVM Research Professor and Gund Fellow Dr. Joshua Faulkner focused on the agriculture and food sectors to highlight the interconnectedness of climate change impacts. Faulkner said a primary goal of the assessment is to provide specific data to support planning at all levels.

“The Vermont Climate Assessment presents information and data that would be critical, and is critical, for those who are trying to make decisions and to look to the future and see what it may hold and to make smart business decisions based upon Vermont-scale data. And then especially for our legislators and policymakers who really need Vermont-scale data to make decisions that are going to impact Vermonters in a very real way.”

This is the first comprehensive Vermont climate assessment since 2014. Rubenstein School for Environment and Natural Resources Research Professor and Gund Institute Fellow Dr. Gillian Galford talked about how conditions have evolved.

“We are seeing this increased variability in extremes between very wet years and years that are very dry. So we’re not just talking about that as something that might happen in the future anymore. We’re talking about it as something that we are currently experiencing. So I think that’s one of the biggest changes in terms of the status of climate and climate change in Vermont.”

Dr. Posner concluded:

“In the mid- to long term I think everybody will be impacted and will need to adapt to these changes and I think eventually we’re all going to be feeling the impacts if we aren’t already.”

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