May 22, 2018
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Maine focus of climate change study

By Mal Leary, Maine Public

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine is not escaping the impact of climate change, Gov. John Baldacci told reporters after receiving a study he sought from faculty at the University of Maine.

“People worry that some people will lose interest in energy efficiency as oil prices go down,” he said. “But you can’t help but think of the long-range impacts when you look at this report and read this report and realize the impact it will have on all of us.”

Baldacci said the state has a track record of recognizing climate change and has taken several steps to address the pollution that has contributed to climate change in Maine and worldwide.

“Maine has already demonstrated leadership in this area, and I intend for us to continue to be a leader,” he said. “Maine state government has taken action to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions, becoming the first state to purchase 100 percent of our electricity from zero-carbon, renewable resources.”

The governor asked the university in 2007 to provide an analysis of the effects of climate change on Maine. Several faculty members responded and formed teams with more than 75 participants to study climate change and presented their findings to the governor on Wednesday characterizing the report as a “middle of the road” analysis of what may happen based on the available data.

“Maine will become warmer by anywhere from five to ten degrees Fahrenheit,” said UM professor George Jacobson, leader of the study group. “In all regions of the state and in all seasons, and probably we will have higher precipitation in all seasons. This is a change. It doesn’t mean necessarily a disaster, and we were saying this morning at this time of year and today it probably wouldn’t bother too many Mainers to hear that we are about to get a little warmer.”

The report agreed with several regional, national and global studies that the climate is changing and getting warmer. The study focused on specific impacts that may occur in Maine and listed several that have broad implications to Maine’s future economy.

“We expect the forest to change and its composition and species that are very abundant especially in northern Maine today, some of the spruces and fir and so forth that have been the basis for our wood products industry for the last century or so are not likely to do so well,” Jacobson said.

He said that other crops may benefit from a longer growing season, and there could be increases in productivity. He said the warming trend also will affect the Gulf of Maine, and that will mean changes in sea life and traditional fishing industries.

“In the Gulf of Maine, warm temperatures will restrict habitat for certain commercially important species such as cod,” the report found. “Fishermen are already noticing significant changes in the lobster fishery including altered growth and migration behavior.”

But the report noted that while some fisheries may decline, others may prosper in the warmer climate. Other Maine industries, such as tourism, will also be affected as the climate gets warmer.

“Maine’s growing tourism economy, which relies heavily on outdoor activities, must prepare for shorter ice fishing, skating, skiing and snowmobiling seasons, while simultaneously anticipating more visitors during longer shoulder seasons in spring and fall,” the study stated.

The study documents an increasing rate of warming in Maine that has occurred over the last century, as well as increased sea surface temperatures, increased precipitation, rising sea levels, and hydrologic changes in snow melt, the timing of ice-outs on lakes and the amount of spring runoff.

Professor Paul Mayewski, director of the university’s Climate Change Institute, cautioned the modeling done for the study predicts trends, not specific impacts.

“The trends are right,” he said. “Whether or not it will all occur gradually over a hundred years, whether there will be abrupt changes in climate, in sea level, how health of humans and ecosystems will be impacted, those are all things that we have yet to discover.”

Mayewski said the institute plans to continue its work to assess the current and future impact of climate change on Maine.

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