Commentary and opinion by Deb Markowitz, Visiting Professor at the UVM Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources and former Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources

It’s not hard for Vermonters to relate to the photos from Hurricane Harvey; families on rooftops waiting for rescue; roads, passible only by boat; cars and houses, completely washed away. It was just six years ago that Tropical Storm Irene destroyed communities across our state.

Just as we’re seeing today in Texas, state, local and national governments worked together to address the most urgent needs, and individuals, nonprofits and businesses came forward to help the response and recovery efforts.

While the immediate priority must be public protection and rescue, we know from experience that a long road to recovery lies ahead. The people of south Texas have a lot of experience with Hurricanes, but this storm was like no other. Harvey dumped more than four feet of rain in just a few days, leaving the millions of people who live in and around Houston facing a disaster of unprecedented proportion.

Climate scientists warn that storms, like Harvey, are expected to only get worse as the planet warms. When oceans and seas heat up, more water evaporates, resulting in storms that produce greater rainfall. It’s not inconsequential that, this year, for the first time ever, the Gulf of Mexico, never cooled below 73 degrees Fahrenheit.

So it’s not just Texas that has a lot of work ahead. With the federal government stepping back from its leadership on climate change, and going so far as to reverse policies that require agencies to predict and account for the likely impacts of climate change, state and local governments must step in to fill the breach.

Listen to the complete Vermont Public Radio commentary piece.

The comments or opinions here expressed are my own and should not be taken as a statement, opinion, position or endorsement by the University of Vermont.


Deb Markowitz