Tunnel vision on carbon reduction leaves Vermont vulnerable to next “climate storm”

July 10, 2019

By Guy Page

July 10, 2019 – Vermont’s energy leaders often warn about the dangers of climate-change related extreme weather. But the solutions they propose won’t keep people or property safer when the next Climate storm, flood or blizzard hits. Most Vermont state government policies, plans, legislation and spending address carbon emission reduction. Comparatively little thought is given to adapting our rivers, roads, power lines, homes and public buildings to extreme weather.

This emphasis is noticeable to any watcher of State House legislation and government reports. Take, for example, recent statements by Vermont Public Utilities (PUC) Chairman Anthony Roisman July 8 on WDEV’s The Dave Gram Show.

Roisman was talking up a July 1 PUC report urging a “wartime footing” approach to getting Vermonters to buy electric vehicles (EVs) to meet Vermont carbon reduction goals. reduce carbon emissions from transportation. Roismann had spent the first 15 minutes of the show calling criticism of EV cost and range a “myth” and “fake news”. Thanks to a $7500 federal rebate many models are cost-competitive, he said. EV’s simpler mechanics and electric ($1.50/gallon equivalent) fuel make them cheaper to operate than internal-combustion cars. Range is now 200 miles and getting longer all the time, he said.

And Roisman has a point, I’ve got to admit. EV technology, to quote the Beatles, “is getting better, a little better, all the time.” Toyota now sells a winter-worthy, all-wheel drive EV. This progress begs the question: if the tech is getting better why not just wait a few years until EVs don’t need rebates to compete? Cellphones don’t need subsidies to “compete” with landlines.

Still, it’s not every day average Vermonters get to ask the chief justice of Vermont’s energy court pointed questions in public about the state’s climate change policy. It’s even more rare for his revealing answers to be broadcast statewide and then preserved in a podcast. Seizing this opportunity, caller “Doug from Underhill” and I posed back-to-back questions. (No, we didn’t coordinate. We were both just trying to “be our own media.” When you do that, good things happen.)

Doug from Underhill questioned whether federal money – derived either from taxpayers or debt – should be spent on a $7500 rebate to make EVs market-affordable. Roisman said in effect that ‘we can’t afford not to spend the money’: “The question is, are we getting value for that money? What happened in this state when we had [Hurricane] Irene? What happens to our electric grid? What happens when we have the flooding with these big storms? The cost of not dealing with the climate change issue is far greater than stopping this problem before it gets to where we have no ability to control it anymore.”

I was the next caller and I asked the obvious follow-up: “then why aren’t we spending our limited amount of time and money on adaptation instead?”

Roisman answered: “Number one, if we only assume that unless Vermont can change the world all by itself that we shouldn’t do anything, then we have failed to recognized the value of setting an example. Vermont often leads by example rather than follows. Right now the US is not a leader.”

Message: This is all about setting an example to the rest of the world. To be fair, Roisman did add:

We shouldn’t be ignoring taking protective measures to deal with the effects of climate change while we are trying to get rid of the worst effects that will happen if we don’t deal with climate change. We have to do both. That’s why I refer to this as being on a wartime footing.  This needs that kind of mentality.”

It’s sort of like World War II when the U.S. prioritized the war in Europe over the war in the Pacific. Except that on this “war footing,” actual war planning (or lack of it) is leaving civilians defenseless against the invader. There’s not a word about infrastructure adaptation in the PUC report, “Promoting the ownership and use of electric vehicles in the State of Vermont.” Instead it puts EV ownership in the fast lane via subsidies, more charging stations, and ratepayer restructuring. It’s all about carbon reduction.

The same could be said about S.173, “The Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act” introduced this year by Sen. Allison Clarkson (D-Windham) and 12 other senators. It’s likely to get legislative attention in the second year of the 2019-20 biennium. Its statement of purpose declares that “It is in the interest of the people, in order to protect the public health, preserve the environment, and promote the general welfare, that the State reduce economy-wide carbon emissions [italics mine] in order to address the problem of climate change.”

S173 would empower state government to makes far-reaching decisions in virtually every arena of life, in order to reduce emissions. It would not explicitly lift a finger to actually protect infrastructure or people from the threat of climate-related disaster.

In fact, only one major piece of environmental legislation now under consideration may address infrastructure protection against extreme weather: the proposed revision of Act 250. This huge rewrite of the state’s environmental planning and development law is at least a year away from passage. No-one knows how the final version will read.

The executive branch of government has done little better. According to the prestigious Georgetown Climate Center, “Vermont has not adopted an official statewide adaptation plan.” Instead there is a 2013 “Adaptation Framework” for forest, fishery and wildlife resources, and a 2014 vulnerability report called the Vermont Climate Assessment. Follow-up and action may be quietly taking place – but if so, it’s not well known in the State House of the Vermont media.

Amid the windstorm of concerted judicial, executive and legislative branch activity to reduce emissions, there’s barely a whisper about helping Vermonters cope with the next Hurricane Irene. A our leaders go to war as a shining Joan of Arc-like example to the nations, many Vermonters just want to survive the next Irene.

Guy Page is the publisher of Statehouse Headliners and Chronicle of the State House. This piece originally appeared in Headliners and is reprinted with permission. 

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Kenyon July 13, 2019 at 12:30 am

Guy, I’m so glad everyone in your office knows it’s CO2 that is causing the climate crisis. That is the basic assumption leading the piece. So that I can stop thinking about this thing, would you forward to me the empirical data that shows that CO2 is Earth’s primary climate driver? So far, the data I’ve seen suggests strongly that CO2 has had nothing to do with climate changes. Al Gores version of the Vostok ice core data shows a lovely correlation between global temperature and CO2. Up they go and down they go chasing one another. The problem is that it was temperature that lead the CO2 changes, not the other way around. The lag is between 400 and 1200 years, temperature leading CO2. And there is the graph by Dr. Humlum showing the last 10,700 years of CO2 and global temperature. There it is, the global temperature rising and falling through the Minoan, Roman and Medieval Warm periods and the Little Ice Age while CO2 meanders in a nice sine wave between 260 ppm and 280 ppm showing not a hint of correlation to temperature. There are other examples both modern and ancient. CO2 doesn’t seem to have anything to do with global temperature, and, for those paying attention, there are other indicators that correlate far better such as cosmic rays. Lacking data supporting the CO2 as GW driver, I don’t see how any argument can be made on those grounds supporting the reduction of fossil fuel use. In fact, if we’re looking around and noticing how lush and green everything is, we might think that more CO2 is a good thing–drive a mile, make a tree smile–rather than a bad thing given that plants and animals that eat plants and animals that eat animals that eat plants love CO2, the more the better, at least for quite a while; just ask someone running a greenhouse growing flowers. CO2 is good and more is better! Until the data showing a solid connection between GW and CO2 appears, I think the responsible thing to do would be to adapt to the weather extremes that, for one thing, have always happened in the past and are very likely to keep happening. That argues for sensible adaptive strategies, not tilting-at-windmills approaches to potentially nonexistent problems. A friend who lives in Beach Haven, NJ recently told me what has happened there after Hurricane Sandy in late October 2012. They’ve taken down the little cottages I knew there that were damaged by the storm and replaced them with palaces…her words. So, yes, the next time a hurricane goes ashore near Beach Haven the price tag for the clean up is going to be not just huge, it’s going to be astronomical. And just watch the blame for the increase in clean up cost be put on CO2 and “Climate Change.” The polar bears are doing fine at a new high population of around 30,000, according to NOAA data there are no trends regarding any of the famous indicators, fires, drought, number and strength of hurricanes, and tornadoes, yet all we hear in the news is that the polar bears are starving because of vanishing ice, that we’re having more fires, more droughts, more and stronger storms, all, of course, because of CO2. Just what the heck is going on here? It’s as though it’s those pushing climate alarmism who are in denial of the facts.

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Thaddeus Cline July 13, 2019 at 3:40 am

97% of climate scientists believe that humans are causing climate change and its carbon that’s doing it . That’s all the worlds scientists.
Your picking so called facts from out right liars. And I think deep down you know it .
But you don’t want to admit it to yourself. The evidence is so large and coming from every direction. Our own military says it’s so . And both they and our intelligence agencies say war are and will happen just from climate change .
If you know more then all the worlds scientists and our military and intelligence agencies. I suggest you go and explain it to them .
We who “get it “ relies it’s an emergency and one as bad as Peril Harbor was .
And the majority of Americans get it . They see the ice sheets as big as states melting .
They see crops flooding , fires happening , heat simply killing people, and storms coming that are larger .
And sir they see the ice cores , unlike what you described , that show how it’s happening.
It’s time sir to stop being the mouth piece for the oil and gas companies.
It’s time to get over your cognitive dissonance, it’s time you stop your gas lighting .
And it’s time you sir act like an adult in our modern world .
You do what you can to clean up your house . Now it’s time to do what normal responsible people do and help clean up the world .
Solar panels are cheap and a smart way to go even if ya don’t believe in climate change . And electric cars are to . Even with tax brakes there’s few large car companies that make a profit from electric car sales yet . But they do the right thing and they know they will in just a few years , make normal profits. And like solar panels they make sense to have because they cost way less to run . Ya add it up and you save in the long run .
What dose Vt’s sky areas know that your hiding from yourself. ? Killington for instance has 47 electric car chargers . What possible reason could they have that many for ?
Could it be that they want to keep their business by lowering their carbon foot print ?

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William Hays July 17, 2019 at 12:41 pm

Mr. Cline’s command’ of the English language is utterly embarrassing. Thanks, NEA/UFT.

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