BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A new climate assessment released Tuesday by a group of scientists from the University of Vermont says the state is getting warmer and wetter and the changes pose long-term challenges for the state. The changes caused by a warming planet will make droughts and floods the most likely natural disasters the Green Mountain State will face.
The state is expected to lose around 70 species of birds, while moose numbers will decline and populations of white-tailed deer will increase due to rising temperatures in the coming years, the report said. The climate will become less favorable for several Vermont tree species, including the sugar maple, and warm waters will increase the risk of harmful algae blooms in the state’s waterways.
UVM climate scientist Gillian Galford says the new report shows that some effects of climate change predicted in the state’s last climate report, in 2014, are happening now. “We are seeing this increased variability in extremes between very wet years and years that are very dry,” Galford said during an online news conference with Vermont reporters. “’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.”
The 2021 Vermont Climate Assessment was released Tuesday by the Gund Institute for Environment at UVM. It found that, since 1900, average Vermont temperatures have increased by nearly 2 degrees and precipitation has increased by 21%.
Despite the warming climate, Vermont will remain attractive as a tourist destination. The state can expect to see an increase in summer “seasonal climate refugees” as rising temperatures prompt people to flee extreme summer heat in other parts of the country. The rising temperatures may benefit some farms with longer growing seasons, but the increased and more varied precipitation will complicate growing conditions for many crops, including apples and maple syrup.
The Vermont ski season will be shortened between two to four weeks. With artificial snowmaking, the ski industry will be able to remain viable until about 2050, the report says.
“We want to help people to feel more prepared, to make better decisions—and be more resilient to climate change,” read a statement from Joshua Faulkner of UVM’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and UVM Extension.
The study recommends greater planning and investment in infrastructure for managing water, stormwater, and irrigation. It also recommends steep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Electrifying transportation and heating can significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse gas that would be emitted in Vermont.
The findings are being made available to the Vermont Climate Council, which is drafting a state Climate Action Plan by December 1. Vermont’s Global Warming Solutions Act requires greenhouse gas emissions reductions by 26% below 2005 levels by 2025, 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.