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New study identifies Addison County climate emissions

ADDISON COUNTY — Farming accounts for more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Addison County than any other sector, according to a new study released Thursday by the Climate Economy Action Center of Addison County (CEAC).
The report estimates emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N20) released by Addison County in 2017, the most recent year for which comprehensive data are available.
“This in-depth inventory draws on numerous data sources to provide a baseline estimate of local climate change emissions,” said CEAC board member Richard Hopkins in a Dec. 3 media release. “The analysis fills a gap in what was known about local emissions and creates a basis for measuring the effects of present and future efforts to reduce emissions.”
In 2017, agriculture accounted for 40.8% of the county’s GHG emissions, which contribute to global climate change. The second largest contributor, transportation, accounted for 27.2%. Buildings and industrial processes made up the third-largest contribution, with 25.9%.
Within agriculture, methane released when cows and goats digest their food was the major contributor, at 60%, while passenger vehicles accounted for 78% of transportation-related emissions. Major contributors to building and industrial emissions included delivered fuels (oil, propane, kerosene), natural gas, electricity and wood.
The entire inventory can be found online at ceacac.org/ghg-emissions-data/.
CEAC is a nonprofit organization that acts as a hub to convene the community around climate change and a sustainable economy, while fostering partnerships among businesses, nonprofits, education and local governments.
Its greenhouse gas inventory contains a substantial amount of original research, as well as information obtained from state and local agencies, utilities and nonprofit organizations.
Vermont reports overall state emissions data but does not break them down by town, city or county. The new study is the first of its kind researched and reported for Addison County alone.
Having that information is key to understanding how to think about — and pursue — solutions to the climate crisis.
“Only when emissions are tracked locally, using local data, can the community implement and monitor the success of targeted and informed programs to reduce these emissions,” CEAC officials said.
CEAC intern and Middlebury College junior Acadia Hegedus conducted the primary work on the report, with guidance from Hopkins, a retired epidemiologist and climate data expert, and Steve Maier, who heads the CEAC board.
“This report provides valuable new information about local sources that contribute to climate change,” Maier said in the media release. “We see the effect and increasing dangers of climate change in Vermont in various ways, including more extreme weather and significant, harmful warming overall.”
But the inventory is not itself an action plan, Maier added. It’s merely a snapshot of county emissions data. “Looking ahead, CEAC hopes to work with all sectors of the county’s economy and community to create a climate plan that will help direct our community’s efforts to bring down our GHG emissions and grow a sustainable economy.”
Local emissions data turned out to be somewhat different from Vermont’s.
Noting that a quarter of the state’s dairy cattle live in Addison County, the study concluded that the proportion of GHG emissions produced by local agriculture was more than three times that produced statewide — 40.8% vs. 12.2%.
At the same time, transportation here contributed a lower percentage of GHG emissions than it did statewide — 27.2% vs. 44.5%.
Meanwhile, the global climate crisis continues to unfold.
“Time is fast running out for us to avert the worst impacts of climate disruption and protect our societies from the inevitable impacts to come,” said United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guerres this past March, after the UN release a climate report filled with dire warnings. “More severe and frequent floods, droughts and tropical storms, dangerous heatwaves and rising sea levels are already severely threatening lives and livelihoods across the planet.”
For more information about the CEAC, visit ceacac.org.
Editor’s note: Look for a follow-up report on this story in next Thursday’s Addison Independent. 
Reach Christopher Ross at christopherr@addisonindependent.com

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