August 2, 2017

Contact:   Karl Wagener, Executive Director


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Climate Change is Happening Here:

CEQ’s Annual Environmental Quality Report Shows Many Effects of Climate Trends

       HARTFORD – Connecticut’s air, water, wildlife and human health are showing the effects of climate change, according to the state Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).
       Each year, the CEQ publishes the state’s environmental quality report. The report for 2016 was published in April and updated in June. On Wednesday, July 26, the Council met and discussed how the report’s results reflect a changing climate.
        “Our annual report is based on 30 environmental indicators,” explained Council chair Susan Merrow, a resident of East Haddam, “and while we do not label most of them as climate change indicators, they do in fact tell us a lot about the effects of climate. Regrettably, current climate trends are not positive for Connecticut’s environment.”
        The three biggest climatic factors, according to the Council, that can affect Connecticut’s local environment are rising summertime temperatures, more intensive rainfall, and higher tides.
        The clearest examples include the following:

  • The number of bad air days tracks hot weather very closely. The number of bad air days in 2016 – 31 days – was almost exactly equal to the ten-year average, even though Connecticut reduced its emissions from vehicles and power plants over that time. (Connecticut has seen 17 bad air days so far in 2017, with towns in the Madison area seeing more bad days while Danbury and some others have had fewer.)  A “bad air day” is counted when the air in all or part of Connecticut is worse than the federal standard for ground-level ozone that was set to protect human health, which means that residents’ health is being affected.
           “We had the hottest summertime ozone season on record in 2016,” said Merrow. “If summertime temperatures keep rising, we might never attain our clean-air goals.”

  • Long Island Sound, its shellfish beds and its beaches – along with small streams throughout the state – are affected greatly by pollution that washes into the water after storms. The National Weather Service published data in 2015 that confirmed what had been predicted by many: Connecticut’s rainfalls are heavier than they were fifty years ago, and heavy rains have become more frequent. Much of the rain in Connecticut falls on pavement, lawns, and other surfaces that contribute pollutants – fertilizers, pesticides, animal waste, petroleum and more – to the rainwater and snowmelt as it runs off into streams and the Sound. Even as towns and cities, their residents and the state do more every year to reduce pollution, the environmental indicators for water quality do not show a lot of recent improvement.

  • The Sound’s warming waters have not been kind to lobsters, winter flounder and other denizens that prefer cool water. The lobster index hit a new low in 2016. Meanwhile, species from warmer regions of the Atlantic Ocean, such as northern searobin, have become more common.

  • Piping Plovers and other shorebirds inhabit a narrow stretch of land between the water and higher land. While the Piping Plover, a threatened species, has been doing fairly well thanks to intensive efforts of volunteers, conservation organizations and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, it is considered by scientists to be vulnerable to any further rise in sea level. Also, as described in the CEQ annual report, several species of Connecticut’s marsh birds face extirpation or extinction, according to a University of Connecticut researcher writing in the Connecticut Audubon Society’s State of the Birds report for 2016.

      Beyond reporting the effects of climate change, the CEQ’s report also tracks several in-state behavioral trends that contribute to global climate change:

  • The average resident drove about the same number of miles -- 24 per day -- in 2016 as in 2015. Combined with data on fuel consumption, this statistic does not bode well for attaining the state's goals for reducing the pollution that contributes to global warming.    

  • Total emissions of carbon dioxide, from all sources, are not on track to meet the goal that the state set for itself for the year 2050.
      A few indicators in the CEQ annual report relate to actions that could help to absorb or reduce carbon dioxide emissions, including conservation of forest and farmland and recycling of refuse. Among those indicators, only farmland preservation is showing signs of improvement. 

      "At its meeting,” Merrow said, “the Council discussed the fact that residents who are concerned about the effects of climate change have no convenient source for updated data other than the CEQ’s annual report.”

      “The Council decided to add specific climate symbols to all of the relevant environmental indicators in next year’s report,” Merrow continued. “We actually started this a couple of years ago in an informal way, but today we took the step of formalizing the climate change component. It turns out that the majority of the indicators in our report are directly relevant to climate change.”

       “We will continue to consult climate change experts,” Merrow concluded. “Many people have come to rely on our reports for accurate and unbiased data on Connecticut’s environment, so we will make sure that all new climate change information is updated and reliable.”


       Established in 1971, the Council on Environmental Quality submits Connecticut’s annual report on the status of the environment to the Governor pursuant to section 22a-12 of the Connecticut General Statutes. Additional responsibilities of the Council include review of construction projects of other state agencies, publication of the twice-monthly Environmental Monitor, and investigation of citizens’ complaints and allegations of violations of environmental laws. The Council is a nine-member board that is independent of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (except for administrative functions). The chairman and four other members are appointed by the Governor, two members by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and two by the Speaker of the House. All serve without compensation.