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Climate Change

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About Climate Change

What is climate change?

Climate change is a change in the average weather conditions of a particular location. In Vermont, warming trends and changes in rainfall patterns over the past 50 years are evidence of climate change.

What causes climate change?

Climate change is constantly occurring as part of a natural process. Continental drift, ocean currents, volcanoes, solar cycles, and variations in the earth’s orbit and tilt are all natural causes of climate change. These natural processes affect the climate gradually over long periods of time.

Human activities also contribute to climate change. When fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas are used to generate electricity, heat homes and run cars, heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide and methane are produced and get mixed into the atmosphere. These gases act like a blanket, warming the earth by trapping heat as it radiates away from the surface. Deforestation and land clearing also result in carbon dioxide emissions, while farming activities and landfills can be sources of methane emissions. 

The size and scope of these and other human activities are causing the climate to change far more quickly than natural causes alone.

What are some environmental impacts that climate change might have in Vermont?

What are some health effects that may result from climate change?

What is Vermont doing to prepare for climate change?

As a state, Vermont has set challenging goals to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases from the 1990 baseline levels:

You can find more details at:

In May 2011, Governor Shumlin established the Climate Cabinet, comprised of senior officials from many agencies and departments of state government. The Climate Cabinet is working to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases, identify climate-related threats, develop solutions and take actions to lessen the impacts of climate change.

The Governor’s Climate Cabinet is leading the development of adaptation plans to protect Vermonters and the state’s most vulnerable natural resources, geographic areas and economic sectors from the effects of climate change. As part of this effort, the Health Department will identify the populations most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and will develop public health adaptation strategies to reduce the health consequences.

What can individuals do to help prevent climate change?

You can do your part to help slow the process of climate change.

What data related to climate change are included in Vermont’s Tracking program?

The available data related to climate change focus on heat stress and heat-related deaths.

Nationwide, extreme heat events, or heat waves, are the most common cause of weather-related deaths. They cause more deaths each year than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes combined.

Vermont has not yet experienced the number of prolonged extreme heat events that many other states have. As climate change continues, heat stress will become a more significant risk in the lives of Vermont residents. People who are most at risk for heat stress are adults over 65, children under 4, people with existing medical problems such as heart disease, and people without access to air conditioning.

Heat Stress Data presented in Vermont Tracking are annual data for the months of May through September to focus on heat events from weather-related causes. The data are organized in three categories:


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