Based on current forecasts like the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report, it is clear that we have little more than a decade to bring humanity into balance with the biosphere while our children's future hangs in the balance. A just transition to 100% renewable energy is not only possible but imperative. We must take appropriate action individually and collectively to make it happen. We must act quickly.
Recent climate change is more consistent and directional than anything seen in human history. 99% of scientists agree that global warming is a major threat. The climate is becoming destabilized by excessive amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere like carbon dioxide (CO2). The “350” from our organization’s name represents the amount (in parts per million) of CO2 we must stay below in order to maintain a stable climate and avoid devastating effects.
We have already surpassed 350 ppm, and unfortunately this number keeps climbing. Maine has experienced numerous climatic changes over the past 100 years, including mean temperature rise, mean sea level rise, and an increase in severe weather events. To learn more about the science behind climate change, visit 350.org’s page The Science of 350.
Placing us on the front lines of climate change, the waters of the Gulf of Maine are warming faster than 99% of global oceans. Rising sea levels and mean ocean temperatures aggravate severe weather and jeopardize critical ocean ecosystems. Warming drives changes in precipitation patterns, species distribution, storm frequency and ocean acidity. Warming waters have allowed invasive species like black sea bass to move north into Maine waters, driving out species vital for Maine’s ecosystems and economy. According to current research described in this article, cod habitat could shrink by 90 percent by the end of the century, while lobster populations might shift 200 miles north due to warming waters. For more information on how climate change affects the Gulf of Maine, check out this fantastic video.
Credit: Joachim S. Mueller
Similarly, the Maine woods are threatened by climate change. The University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute explains that Maine’s forests are in a transition zone between the eastern temperate forest to the south and boreal forest to the north, so that climate induced changes to our forest are likely to occur quicker and be more pronounced here than in other places. This could threaten Maine tree species like the balsam fir, trembling aspen, and white birch. Additionally, invasive species are moving into Maine with warmer temperatures and decimating some of our favorite species. For example, the hemlock wooly adelgid has destroyed hemlock stands south of Maine, and will likely do the same in Maine with continued warmer winters. Even Maine’s iconic moose will be affected by climate change, with warmer winters killing fewer winter ticks that often threaten moose calves with anemia.
Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
With warming waters, our fishing industry is in peril. The Gulf of Maine is experiencing shifts in key zooplankton species, changes in when and where key commercial species are caught, declines of cold-water species, and an influx of southerly species. Ocean acidification stresses calcifying organisms like lobsters and clams, making it difficult for them to produce shells. These factors will cost the fishing industry in Maine. For example, the Atlantic sea scallop, which is projected to move 430 miles north in coming years, alone brought Maine fishermen $9.3 million last year. Another major example is the shrimp fishery, which has been closed for five consecutive years due to climate change affecting shrimp populations.
On land, our economy is threatened too. Drought stresses crops like blueberries, and the phenology (the timing of biological events like leafing) of sugar maple trees is changing, which affects the production of maple syrup. Additionally, sea level rise threatens real estate, with flooding occurring in critical areas along the entire coast of Maine. Check out these maps showing projections of how sea level rise will affect many of Maine’s coastal communities.
Key public health indicators such as Lyme disease and anamasplosis are on the rise. In just 10 years, the occurrence of tick and mosquito vector-borne diseases has shot up over 1800%. Asthma, impaired immune function, and increased susceptibility to respiratory infection are more common. Weather extremes have wide-ranging impacts on human health by disrupting energy supplies, compromising access to health services, contaminating water, and affecting sanitation and food storage. Harvard Medical School conducted research on Climate Change and Health in Maine, detailing many of these growing health threats.