By ANR Secretary Julie Moore
Last year will be remembered for a series of environmental disasters and is a clear indication that our changing climate is already threatening Vermonters’ health, safety, quality of life and economic security.
Vermonters are strong, and tough too, but this past year has left many feeling at the limit of endurance and recovery. And, understandably, it has created a demand to do something, anything, immediately.
I share that same sense of urgency. But as climate scientist Kate Marvel has said so brilliantly, “We have to do something, it does not follow that we should simply settle for anything.”
The devastating floods this past summer impacted our bridges and dams, impacted our homes and businesses, and left indelible marks in communities throughout Vermont, amounting to more than $500 million in losses. Estimates from the December floods are still being calculated, but we know that Vermonters, businesses, and infrastructure were impacted – again – across the state.
And it wasn’t just flooding that created adversity this year. We saw several of the most widespread and expensive power outages of recent years. A number of days this summer were marred by hazy skies and unsafe air quality due to wildfires in Canada. Before mid-summer, much of Vermont was in drought. And there are likely new challenges that we haven’t encountered in the past that will further expand our view.
The raft of resilience-related draft legislative proposals released last week, in addition to the work already under way by state agencies, makes it clear the legislative and executive branches share an understanding of the magnitude of the challenge – and a sense of urgency in addressing it.
But as Dr. Marvel says, we must not only do something, but the right thing.
The joint effort announced by Governor Scott and Treasurer Pieciak last week to develop a resilience implementation strategy recognizes the need to act swiftly and prioritize projects and funding to greatest effect.
The community-centered strategy they describe requires collaboration across branches and at all levels of government, as well as active involvement from businesses, nonprofits, and community organizations, to develop a workable plan. A coordinated approach ensures that all the available scientific, technical, financial, and administrative tools are being used to maximum impact in navigating and adapting to the consequences of climate change as a State. Resilience must be a priority in and of itself, rather than simply an added benefit from other initiatives.
The Governor and Treasurer’s statewide approach will draw in and improve on efforts already underway, while also revealing to us the gaps where we fall short. This will ensure we meet the challenge and are doing so in a way that is efficient in its use of money and effort.
I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and working with many of you to accelerate the work needed to better withstand more frequent and stronger climate-change events.