McKibben Addresses Vermont Legislature

McKibben spoke at the Vermont statehouse at the invitation of House Speaker Shap Smith (D-Morristown). Photo by

On Wednesday January 30th renowned climate change activist Bill McKibben spoke from the well of the Vermont statehouse in Montpelier to rally legislators to the urgency of preventing further climate change. McKibben came at the invitation of House Speaker Shap Smith (D-Morristown). Calling climate change, “the biggest challenge by far that humans have ever faced,” McKibben cited a slew of alarming statistics about how the climate has already changed and what further changes could mean.

Locally, there has been an 85% increase in severe rainstorms. McKibben referred to Hurricane Irene as a “defining moment” for our region. He noted that local public works officials are often the easiest audience for him because they must constantly grapple with the damage left by severe storms.

McKibben emphasized that we must work to keep additional carbon, in the form of fossil fuels, in the ground. According to him, the fossil fuel industry estimates they have five times more resources that could be extracted than the climate can safely absorb. In order to prevent them from mining and drilling for these resources we must move swiftly and aggressively to develop renewable energy resources. By developing affordable renewable electric generation we will make it easier for consumers and industry to consider heating homes and moving vehicles with electricity. For this reason, McKibben opposes the three year moratorium on wind energy development that the Vermont Senate has been discussing.

When asked what measures the Vermont legislature should consider to address climate change, McKibben offered three proposals. As his highest priority, he urged the legislature to invest in thermal efficiency for houses and other buildings. Second, he asked the legislature to do everything in its power to prevent conversion of a pipeline in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom to transport tar sands oil from the west to the east. Third, he called on the state to divest from fossil fuel companies.

McKibben praised the legislature for steps it has already taken. In particular, he noted the ban on fracking, a bill supported by LCC in last year’s legislature, as an important step. He also cited the value of Efficiency Vermont’s energy reduction programs and said the wisdom of their work has spread to even remote locales in China.