Vermont Governor Bemoans Climate Inaction After Flood

Saying his state is under siege after Hurricane Irene swept through his state early this week, the governor of Vermont had some choice words about the failure of leaders at the national and international level to cut carbon pollution that is linked to extreme weather events.

The costs of climate change: more extreme flooding in places like Vermont. Image from

“I find it extraordinary that so many political leaders won’t actually talk about the relationship between climate change, fossil fuels, our continuing irrational exuberance about burning fossil fuels, in light of these storm patterns that we’ve been experiencing,” Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin said in an interview with “Democracy Now.”

Flooding from the storm’s torrential rainfall washed out roads and bridges, isolated around a dozen towns, left thousands of homes and businesses without power, and killed at least three people.

Since Shumlin took office seven months ago, there have been two major disasters as a result of storms. Climate scientists are warning there’s even more on the way as we continue to belch heat-trapping pollution from burning fossil fuels that is saturating the air with moisture, leading to increased extreme weather events like hurricanes and floods.

“”We in the colder states are going to see the results of climate change first,” the governor also said. “Myself, Premier [Jean] Charest up in Quebec, Governor [Andrew] Cuomo over in New York, we understand that the flooding and the extraordinary weather patterns that we’re seeing are a result of our burnings of fossil fuel. We’ve got to get off fossil fuels as quickly as we know how, to make this planet livable for our children and our grandchildren.”

Amen, governor.

Firm Science on Extreme Weather

Climate scientists have firmly concluded that global warming has caused more heavy rainfall events in the United States over the last few decades along with an increased likelihood of devastating floods. While no single storm or flood can be attributed directly to global warming, changing climate conditions are at least partly responsible for past trends. Because warmer air can hold more moisture, more and heavier precipitation is expected in the years to come. At the same time, shifts in snowfall patterns, the onset of spring and river-ice melting may all exacerbate some flooding risks.

Stronger hurricanes, heavier rainfall and rising sea level is going to increasingly be the norm for the Atlantic states the Gulf of Mexico.  The latest science indicates that maximum hurricane wind speed will increase 2 to 13 percent and rainfall rates will increase 10 to 31 percent over this century. At the same time, sea-level rise will cause bigger storm surges and further erode the natural defenses provided by coastal wetlands that buffer storm impacts.

We can help the flood victims by making a donation to one of the many charities working on disaster relief in the area, such as the Vermont Red Cross.  But we also need to take a longer view, and you can help.

Take Action

Visit NWF’s action page to send a letter to your member of Congress urging action to reduce the ravages of climate pollution.