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Climate Change Adaptation


“The time for debate over the realities of global climate change is over. Global climate change is occurring, and every Vermonter will experience its impacts on the quality of life for which Vermont is justifiably famous.”     
GCCC, 2007

The climate of Vermont has been changing quickly in recent decades, as increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere drive changes in the global climate. These changes in regional climate have and will continue to affect Vermont’s landscape: agriculture, forests, streams, lakes and wildlife.  In addition, much of the societal infrastructure of Vermont was designed under the assumption that climate would change little from decade to decade. This is no longer true, so a more adaptive approach is needed for the rest of this century, if we are to preserve the environment and quality of life we enjoy in Vermont.

The primary driver of climate change is the increase of atmospheric CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels. Atmospheric CO2 has now reached 390 parts per million (ppm). This is 30% above its highest value in the past million years, and it is still increasing by 2ppm per year.  Stabilizing CO2 in the atmosphere will require an 80% reduction in our global emissions. Even if stabilization is achieved, the climate will continue to warm for many decades.  For this reason, natural resource managers and state agencies cannot focus only on mitigation efforts to reduce our CO2 output. We must also pursue adaptation strategies that will increase our society’s ability to adjust and respond to the effects of climate change. 

Vermont can expect to see a wide variety of effects as a result of climate change, and the Agency of Natural Resources is developing an adaptation plan to protect the most vulnerable resources, areas, and sectors in the state. 

This set of Adaptation White Papers provides a brief overview of the challenges facing the different sectors of Vermont, what programs are already in place to address those challenges, and what steps need to be taken next to continue adapting to the impacts of climate change.

For a more detailed look at the science behind climate change in Vermont, also check out Alan Betts’ new paper: Vermont Climate Change Indicators

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