Researchers: Climate change predictions will have local impact

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) A group of the world's top scientists are painting a grim picture of the future if global warming is not slowed down. The U.N. Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change released a new report saying temperature rises are on track to rise 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2030 and the hope is to avoid temperatures rising by 3.6 degrees.

"Vermont will be affected," said University of Vermont researcher Scott Merrill.

He says the temperature increase would be bad news for Vermont's major industries, with droughts and sporadic heavy rainfalls. That almost three degree difference could mean cold sleet instead of snow -- bad news for skiers.

"If you like maple syrup, you're not going to see as many of these freeze-thaw events that we require, and the maple trees are not going to do as well," Merrill said.

While a rise in temperature may be inevitable, Merrill says farmers would need more time to adapt and figure out way to protect crops from insects and heat.

U.N. scientists are warning a 3.7 degree increase would have even worse repercussions.

"I mean it's really terrifying to me to think that if we reach 2 degrees Celsius, we're going to lose our corals -- we're not going to have coral reefs anymore. I want my kids to be able to see coral reefs," Merrill said.

There are a lot of small ways people can help fight the temperature increase rise, like carpooling or turning off the lights.

"Some of the solutions take big steps," said Steve Crowley, energy chair for the Vermont Chapter of the Sierra Club. He says change has to come from the Statehouse too, with legislation specifically targeting transportation emissions. "It's probably the toughest to get a handle on, so we have to figure that out, whether it's by electric cars, but more importantly I think shifting away in the long term from our reliance on individual cars."

Crowley says that means investing in public transportation like commuter trains and creating walkable downtowns. "We really can make this happen," he said.

"When you see this sort of gloomy report, you realize it is happening. We have to make a change," Merrill said.

The Sierra Club is now waiting for the results of a state de-carbonization study. It will examine the costs and benefits of policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Joint Fiscal Office at the Statehouse is expecting that final report in January.

Read the IPCC report.