June 24, 2018
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Trump’s tweetstorms overshadow the very real threat of climate change

George Danby | BDN
George Danby | BDN
By Jim Boyle, Special to the BDN

It’s hard to avoid the president’s tweets, even if you’d like to. Whether he is coddling white supremacists or threatening to abandon American citizens in Puerto Rico, we wake up almost every day to a new distraction.

I say distraction because while the president’s tweets are often offensive and should be refuted, the hysteria they create overshadows a policy agenda that is making life worse for Maine people.

Just last week, the Trump administration announced plans to roll back the Clean Power Plan — one of America’s most effective tools to combat climate change. As an environmental scientist and former forester, this move is not only mind-boggling, it is the perfect example of what’s wrong with our politics.

Running for governor was never my plan. For 21 years, I owned a small business that helped Maine companies create jobs while protecting the environment. This allowed me to provide for my family while fulfilling two lifelong goals — to work for myself and to spend my days in Maine’s forests.

Like a lot of people, I have long been frustrated with how things are going in Augusta and Washington. A lot of good people run for the Legislature, but the system is so stacked against positive change that things are not getting better for regular Mainers.

The lack of action on climate change is a perfect example.

Maine is uniquely impacted by the warming of the planet. The temperature in the Gulf of Maine is increasing faster than 99 percent of the world’s large bodies of saltwater. Cod, herring and other pillars of Maine’s $700 million fishing industry are fleeing to colder waters. Fishermen are finding more and more fish in their nets that are normally found off the coast of mid-Atlantic states.

The warming planet is harming more than just the fishing industry. Heavy rainstorms are more frequent. Summers are hotter and drier. Severe storms are causing increased property damage and placing increased stress on infrastructure.

And while an earlier arrival of spring sounds good to a lot of us, the impact on our ski and snowmobile industry is real. The impact on sportsmen is real. About 70 percent of moose calves in Maine and New Hampshire are killed by ticks, whose numbers have exploded as the planet warms. And with the risk of rising sea levels, the impact on homeowners and towns is real.

Regardless of what some politicians claim, science tells us that carbon pollution is a root cause of global warming. Human activity has contributed to climate change, and human activity is needed to reverse the negative impacts we are seeing.

This is a problem too big for a system that is powered by campaign contributions and special interests. We can take on climate change, but only if we elect leaders who will take serious problems seriously.

This rigged system has me as frustrated as anyone.

Reading about out-of-state lawyers coming to Maine to get multimillion-dollar tax breaks and then turn around and close the East Millinocket mill — a mill my great-grandfather helped build — makes my blood boil. Watching Gov. Paul LePage kill legislation that would have brought hundreds of millions of dollars to Maine and made us a leader in offshore wind makes me want to throw up my hands. A failed effort to pass a comprehensive solar policy is a slap in the face to ratepayers and people who care about climate change.

By putting ideology aside, we can invest in solar and wind power to reduce our carbon footprint and our long-term electricity costs. We can repurpose mills to manufacture the batteries and turbines needed to do so. We can weatherize old homes and buildings to reduce consumption and home heating bills.

These steps will create good-paying jobs, where if you work hard you will be able to support your family and enjoy the kind of security that was taken from the middle class by Wall Street greed and the politicians who benefited from it.

Climate change is real.

It is just one of the big challenges we face and one of the challenges we need to get serious about solving. But we won’t solve it by chasing tweets. We’ll solve it by being honest, working together, listening to science and finding solutions that benefit future generations, not just politicians.

Jim Boyle is an environmental scientist and Democratic candidate for governor. He lives in Gorham.

 


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