June has thus far been a step backward for the nation—and for Vermont—in terms of combatting climate change.
President Trump announced on the first of the month that he plans to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, the pact signed in 2015 by 195 nations that aimed to curb greenhouse gas emissions and promote environmental action in the face of rising waters and unpredictable weather patterns.
Led by the governors of California, New York and Washington, twelve states have formed the U.S. Climate Alliance to pledge their continued support for the Paris Agreement and its standards. Governor Phil Scott announced on June 2nd that Vermont will join the coalition and focus shared efforts with the government of Massachusetts to reduce regional emissions.
Although the accord states that no country can leave until November 4, 2020, the decisive speech—and the backlash that followed—marked the U.S. as a global outlier and reiterated Trump’s promises to loosen domestic strictures on climate policy, most notably the Clean Power Plan.
Consistent with that trend, there have been a number of June obstacles regarding clean power. Wind energy has come under fire in Vermont after a string of noise complaints by residents situated near turbines. To address these grievances, the Public Service Board drew up guidelines that would enforce the lowest sound levels in the nation: 42 decibels during the day, and 39 at night.
These figures starkly contrast the average across the nation, which is roughly 45 decibels—for context, that produces sound quieter than a typical conversation.
Wind proponents refuted this proposal, arguing that development would be forced to cease, as wind towers would undoubtedly be unable to meet the stringent regulations. Those on the other side of the debate maintain that the guidelines are necessary to protect human health.
As of June 8, the Public Service Board opted to delay further decisions regarding implementation. The sound guidelines are set to be revisited on June 22 by the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules.
Apart from political energy battles, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department is warning residents of a “particularly bad” season for ticks. Stemming from warming climatic changes—including the suburbanization of forest land—that have welcomed increasing numbers of white-tailed deer and the white-footed mouse, the state’s tick population has surged.
The risk of a tick bite is exceptionally high this year largely due to a strong New York crop of red and white oaks, which produce acorns that white-footed mice feed on. The mouse population, which are known carriers of Lyme, naturally saw an increase, prompting ticks in the area to feed on the mice and become carriers themselves.
Vermont is now home to thirteen varieties of ticks, four of which carry diseases that may be transmitted to humans. Under these conditions, cases of Lyme disease have spiked from 60 in 2003 to 491 in 2015—with 219 additional suspected cases. These figures mark the highest rate of infection per capita in the U.S.
The risk won’t discourage the adventurous from spending the summer in the woods—after venturing outdoors, Vermonters should just be sure to take the extra step of checking their clothing and person for ticks.
Kirsti Blow is a sophomore public communication major at University of Vermont. She writes the briefs for UVM’s Vermont research newsletter published by the Center for Research on Vermont. Learn more at http://www.uvm.edu/~crvt/. Kirsti is also a local musician in the Burlington area.