At the September 7 meeting of the Vermont Climate Council Steering Committee, member Chris Campany committed a bit of candor regarding the Global Warming Solutions Act. Discussing the goal of greenhouse gas emission reduction – which is the primary focus of the law – versus strengthening and modernizing infrastructure, Campany admitted, “We can go negative emissions tomorrow, and for everybody in Vermont we’re still going to be dealing with the same issues.”
In other words, reducing Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions, even if we did so all the way to zero, solves absolutely nothing. It doesn’t solve the problems of extreme weather. It won’t have any impact on temperature trends. From a climate standpoint, regardless of how much time, treasure and sacrifice we put into this effort, it won’t actually solve ANY problems our state currently faces, environmental or otherwise. However, it may create a bunch of problems along the way.
Campany’s comments were focused strictly on environmental issues. He’s still in favor of some greenhouse gas reduction, but recognizes it won’t stop flooding, won’t stop algae blooms in our waterways, etc. His point is if we actually want to solve the problem of, for example, future floods, it’s investing in culverts, roads, and infrastructure construction that will do it, not putting a taxpayer subsidized EV in every garage. But this is not how the Global Warming Solutions Act works.
There is a bigger picture that needs to be considered as well. The money and resources required for GHG reduction will be diverted away not just from environmental infrastructure, but from other real problems, too, such as our public pension crisis, affordable housing crisis, workforce development crisis, economic development, not to mention the crushing tax burden most Vermonters would like some relief from. All of which begs the question: why are we doing this again? Why are we preparing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of scarce resources per year – billions of dollars over decades – on a project that even if successful beyond expectations will solve no problems in a state that, let’s face it, has many problems that need to be solved?
This is a question every Vermonter should demand a detailed answer to.
- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute