And while you're at it, please join the growing number of colleges and governments divesting their holdings in fossil fuel companies. These companies are the ones spending the big lobbying bucks to make sure change never happens in DC and other capitals--please help undermine their legitimacy by removing the state's pension funds, the UVM endowment, and other holdings from their shares. As the mayor of Seattle said last month, why would they simultaneously spend millions building new seawalls and invest in the companies making that necessary. Why would we pay tens of millions to try and recover from Irene and at the same time support those corporations making the next Irene inevitable?
It's in the shadow of Irene that I want to end. We've already increased the temperature a degree, and another degree is in the offing. There's no going back on that--that's where we live now. It's not as sweet as the world we were born into; our iconic Vermont of long winters and glorious falls will be badly stressed. But there is no use crying about it; we must adapt to that which we cannot prevent. And so we need those strong local farms that offer us some guarantee of sustenance, and we need strong local communities of the type that came together to repair the damage of Irene. We need more of our own energy and more of our own capital--shortening supply lines is a necessary task, and often a beautiful one. It gives me great pride to come from a state that leads the world in breweries per capita, to know there are some things we won't run short of come what may.
But just as we adapt to that which we can't prevent, we also have to prevent that to which we can't adapt. Temperature increases beyond two degrees are impossible, unthinkable--and yet they are coming, fast, unless we help lead the charge against them. I began by reviewing climate history, but let me end by considering the political future: the issue on which you, and every other legislator on this planet, will be judged 50 years hence is: how quickly and how boldly did you move to address the greatest challenge humans have ever faced. I have confidence that if any political body is up to the challenge, it is this one.