LePage’s sunny view of climate change is insult to Maine’s fishermen

By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN
Posted Dec. 06, 2013, at 2:56 p.m.

I do agree with Gov. Paul LePage on one thing.

It is difficult to keep up with the latest official title of what is basically the warming of our planet.

In this week’s story about LePage offering up the sunny side of this well-established yet heavily disputed and debated phenomenon, he was quoted as telling an audience, “It used to be global warming, I think they call it climate change now, but there are a lot of opportunities developing.”

Actually, further up in the story, BDN reporter Mario Moretto referred to it as “global climate change” and further down a Sierra Club spokesperson called it “global climate disruption.”

Since the governor has pretty much denied its existence or at least any human involvement in it, we probably should let him ease into the idea before expecting him to latch onto the term “global climate disruption.”

Whatever you want to call it, what I know is that there will be no delicate, luxurious Maine shrimp on my table this winter … and that makes me sad.

Climate change — that is what I will call it — is a concept that some of us who live in cold-weather climates struggle with.

In many ways it is like getting a suntan the old-fashioned way or wolfing down a bag of chips, having that third martini or being intimate with an ex: you know it is bad for you, but it feels so damn good in the moment.

There are not many of us in Maine who won’t wallow shamelessly and take respite in a stretch of sunny 50-degree days in December.

We smugly cast aside our parkas for mere wool sweaters, trade out boots for sneakers and shout “I’ll take it” at one another as we lumber lazily across sun-drenched parking lots that could just as easily be coated in ice.

We know those days are fleeting. We relish each one. We know that plenty of stinging, icy sleet will pummel our faces before spring arrives. We know we will shovel snow, turn up our furnaces and scrape our windshields over and over again before the spring thaw — and often after, for that matter.

There is plenty of winter left up here, climate change or not.

But, then again, did I mention there will be no Maine shrimp on my table this winter?

“Everybody looks at the negative effects of global warming, but with the ice melting, the Northern Passage has opened up,” LePage noted at the conference this week. “So maybe, instead of being at the end of the pipeline, we’re now at the beginning of a new pipeline.”

The melting of polar ice has opened up that northern sea route in recent years, which Icelandic President Olafur Grimsson claims could be a potential boon to Maine and his country.

LePage’s remarks made front pages across the state and drew the ire of environmental groups for good reason — because as usual he didn’t say it right.

One can’t blame any governor for exploring new economic interests for his or her state, even if they have developed from bad circumstances.

Is the Northern Passage such an opportunity?

Of course it is and it deserves exploration as such.

But on the heels of the news that the Maine shrimp season would be sidelined because of frighteningly low stocks which experts blame partly on the warming of the Gulf of Maine, the governor’s remarks making light of the issue showed a ridiculous lack of insight, understanding and empathy, especially to Maine’s fishing and lobster industries.

The opportunities for the Mainers whose livelihoods depend on healthy marine populations are shrinking as fast as that ice surrounding the Northern Passage.

By saying that “Everybody looks at the negative effects of global warming, but,” the governor suggests he has found a good side.

It’s one thing for us to take pleasure in a mild winter, despite the nagging worry that it might be a sign of something ominous. It’s quite another for the governor of a state to belittle the idea of climate change until someone points out that it may somehow be beneficial.

It may not matter what you call it, but once again governor, what you say and how you say it matters.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/12/06/living/lepages-sunny-view-of-climate-change-is-insult-to-maines-fishermen/ printed on April 21, 2014