The Vermont Senate has officially acknowledged the existence of human-caused climate change and recommitted to reducing the state’s carbon emissions.
The Senate passed a climate-change resolution Tuesday, on second reading, 23-5. The resolution needs a third reading before proceeding to the House.
Sen. Brian Campion, D-Bennington, proposed the legislation and said he and those supporting the measure believe Vermonters – “particularly Vermont’s young people” – need to know that climate-change policy is made “based on science.”
“We acknowledge that by passing this we respect science,” he said, “and we as policymakers will in essence base our policy on this.”
The federal government “has not gone as far as this resolution,” Campion said.
The U.S. Senate passed a resolution stating climate change exists but stopped short of acknowledging that humans have contributed significantly to the phenomenon.
Campion’s original proposal included language that would have chastised the U.S. Senate’s lack of action. The language was removed during meetings of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy. Committee Chairman Christopher Bray, D-Addison, suggested the change. Bray said he wanted the resolution to focus on the goals of the state and the committee rather than interfere on the national political scene.
Four Republicans and one Democrat voted against the resolution. They were Sens. Norm McAllister, R-Franklin; Brian Collamore, R-Rutland; Peg Flory, R-Rutland; Joe Benning, R-Caledonia; and John Rodgers, D-Essex-Orleans.
“I do believe the climate is changing, and I do believe humans have exacerbated that situation, but I do not believe this body should grandstand with meaningless resolutions, which ultimately only serve as fodder for political organizations and advocacy organizations which frack dollars from their followers,” Benning said.
“By forcing us into categories, these proclamation resolutions position us into making decisions based on passion and emotion rather than careful and deliberative thought. We, in the Senate, should strive to be above all that.”
Rodgers, a member of the Natural Resources Committee, said he opposed the resolution because the measure excluded language to address the negative environmental impact of solar and wind energy installations, such as encroaching on high-elevation forests.
Sen. David Zuckerman, P/D-Chittenden, voted for the resolution but said he would have preferred the resolution to include language disapproving of the U.S. Senate’s decision not to recognize that human activity is the primary contributor to climate change.
“It would be a stronger resolution, especially if we are sending it to our congressional delegation,” Zuckerman said. “I would also point out that this current Congress is not observing science in their deliberations in respect to climate change, and the consequence of federal inaction in respect to energy policy is going to be quite extreme on all of us.”
The resolution accepts that “warming in the climate system is unequivocal,” and “human influence on the climate system is clear.”
“The combustion of fossil fuels (for uses including transportation, electricity, heat, industrial processes, cement production, oil refining and more) accounts for 77 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions by humans globally,” according to the World Resources Institute.
Sen. Flory expressed doubt about the accuracy of that estimate.
“My understanding is there was some fairly reliable scientific information that came out at 38 percent,” Flory said.
The resolution also renews the state’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions and admits that the state has not yet met its goal of reducing emissions by 25 percent by 2012.
The state’s emissions are at the same level as in 1990, according to the Department of Public Service.