You’ve definitely heard stories about how, because the world is getting hotter, the polar ice caps are melting. And while you know that’s bad news, you don’t necessarily know how it affects you.
That’s the same exact thought that the state of Vermont had, which is why they conducted their own report on how climate change will directly impact their 630,000 residents.
Compiled by Gillian Galford, an Earth systems scientist at the University of Vermont, and seven graduate students, the study is the first to analyze the effects on an individual state. In the past 15 years, the U.S. has released three reports on how the nation will be affected, but Vermont is the first state to analyze the next 100 years of climate change’s effects on its own land.
With most climate change reports, top scientists are consulted, but Galford took a slightly different approach: going directly to the heart of the state. Instead of solely using scientists, Galford spoke with state officials, citizen scientists and local famers. Her data consists of an interview with a local apple farmer who keeps detailed records of every growing season as well as the results of the annual competition which guesses what spring day Vermont’s famous Joe’s Pond will melt, among others.
Galford wanted to see how rising temperatures, longer growing seasons and flooding would affect the state. What did she learn?
Perhaps not surprisingly, farmers and low income communities will be most affected. And interestingly, each climate change factor will have both positive and negative effects on the community. While longer growing seasons will boost fruit and vegetable production, higher temperatures will hurt the dairy industry. Hot weather means cows eat less, and consequently produce less milk. Increased rainfall will also yield some mixed results. One positive is that more rain will help with crop growth, but it wasn’t determined how that increase in precipitation will affect the dairy industry. The main negative consequence though is that flooding will ruin the mobile houses in Vermont’s flood plains — affecting thousands of the low-income residents.
Galford’s research adds that personal touch to a topic often viewed in such scientific terms. Hopefully other states will follow in this example and conduct similar research, as this could get more people on board with helping to save the planet.