A coalition of nine Northeast states, including Vermont and the District of Columbia, has announced an agreement to work to impose regional limits on carbon emissions from transportation sources.

The goal of the landmark agreement, announced this week, is to create “a regional low-carbon transportation policy proposal that would cap and reduce carbon emissions from the combustion of transportation fuels through a cap-and-invest program.”

The group said emissions from transportation sources account for the largest portion of the region’s carbon pollution.

The states will work to draft a more detailed plan within a year. At that time, each state will decide whether to formally adopt the policy. Proceeds from the program would go toward developing low-carbon and more resilient transportation infrastructure — from bike lanes to public transit to zero-emission vehicles.

This is a step in the right direction. There is cause for concern.

The report makes the following conclusions:

— Climate change is already causing problems to which Americans are already responding, from flooding in the coast, to pests in the heartland, fires out west, thawing permafrost in Alaska, and more.

— Human activities are causing the climate to change faster than it has at any point in this history of modern civilization.

— Evidence of human causation is undeniable and growing.

— Climate change is already a threat to American health and wealth, as high summer temperatures increase the risk of illness and death and the heat wave season has already increased by over 40 days since the 1960s in some cities.

— The warming in high emissions scenario is expected to cost $160 billion in lost wages; 2 billion labor hours lost annually by 2090 due to temperature extremes.

— The most vulnerable populations face the highest risk as lower-income and marginalized communities face additional barriers for coping with extreme weather and other climate-related events.

— Sea level rise is already forcing people to abandon coastal communities, and a wider coastal retreat will be “unavoidable” in some areas in all but the most optimistic sea level rise expectations.

A University of Vermont geology professor, Lesley-Ann L. Dupigny-Giroux, has authored a section of the National Climate Assessment that pertains to our corner of the world. It was released earlier this year and dismissed by climate deniers and the Trump administration.

In it, Dupigny-Giroux, Vermont’s climatologist, details significant changes to our natural world.

In her role, Dupigny-Giroux has been able to facilitate dialogue among meteorology, climatology, emergency management, agriculture, forestry and GIS users across the state. According to her UVM bio, “She continues to work closely with colleagues at these and other state agencies to better quantify the causal dynamic and impacts of floods, droughts and severe weather on Vermont’s physical landscape.”

It is affecting us here at home.

According to the National Climate Assessment, “The seasonal climate, natural systems, and accessibility of certain types of recreation are threatened by declining snow and ice, rising sea levels, and rising temperatures. By 2035, and under both lower and higher scenarios, the Northeast is projected to be more than 3.6°F (2°C) warmer on average than during the pre-industrial era. This would be the largest increase in the contiguous United States and would occur as much as two decades before global average temperatures reach a similar milestone.”

We cannot deny that climate change is already making some extreme weather more common and more intense. Climate change links have been found in heat waves, droughts, fires, floods, storms and hurricanes. Without question, climate change is affecting biodiversity, causing large-scale shifts in species and altering ecosystems, but aiding in the spread of invasive species, including a noticeable increase in ticks and the emergence of emerald ash borer, among many others.

We are moving in the right direction, but we have so much more to do. It starts with being aware, understanding the facts, and each of us doing our part to make the difference.

Read the chapter about the effects on the Northeast at https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/chapter/18/

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