Recently, we joined fellow scientists from 10 states to meet with legislators on Capitol Hill about climate resilience and clean energy. As Maine scientists, we represented industry, academia and entrepreneurs, and we went to Washington to provide evidence to members of our Maine delegation for the pressing need for bold climate action.
The 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says the nations of the world have 12 years to make drastic reductions in carbon emissions if we are to avoid the worst of climate impacts. We took this message to Congress with specific ideas for solutions, first and foremost of which is research and development to foster climate and clean energy solutions.
In our meetings, we learned that government-funded research and development to address climate change impacts and energy independence are priorities for both Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King. Collins is a primary sponsor of the Driving America Forward Act (S.1094), which extends tax credits to consumers purchasing electric vehicles. We were delighted to share Collins’ bill with our other legislators. Electric vehicle tax credits are important for Maine because cars, trucks, and other vehicles contribute 52 percent of the CO2 emissions we produce here in Maine.
Rep. Chellie Pingree is sponsoring the Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act (H.R.1716), one of four such bills in the House. Pingree’s bill is the only bipartisan ocean acidification bill to have a companion bill in the Senate, co-sponsored by Sens. Collins and King. Rep. Jared Golden also cosponsored the House bill. Maine’s entire congressional delegation is working together to seek ways in which Maine can prepare for the impacts of ocean acidification on vulnerable shellfish industries, other marine livelihoods, and ecosystems.
The Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) is a research and development program vital to Maine. Fully funding ARPA-E will allow projects that grow seaweed for biofuel to move forward, potentially increasing US energy independence and cutting our reliance on fossil fuels. The Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act of 2019 (H.R.2096) deserves support from the Maine delegation; energy storage is critical to enabling renewables to replace fossil fuels. The proposed 30 percent tax credit would help make distributed grid solar and wind achievable for rural Maine communities.
In between meetings we attended a House Oversight Committee hearing, “The Need for Leadership to Combat Climate Change and Protect National Security.” We witnessed firsthand the now-infamous exchange between former Secretary of State John Kerry and Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky. We, along with others in a standing-room only gallery, groaned and chafed at Thomas’ nonsensical attempts to undercut Kerry’s use of scientific evidence. Massie introduced what he claimed were “facts” contradicting the evidence Kerry summarized from the National Climate Assessment. Massie’s questions were clearly meant to distract from evidence-based science on the matter of sea level rise and the dangers of runaway carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere.
Climate and energy solutions are more important than ever for Maine, the United States and the world. We are feeling climate change impacts today in Maine; but the state is also home to incredible research and technological innovation. We traveled to Washington with scientists from nine other states who participated in the Union of Concerned Scientists efforts to share local climate change evidence related to erratic weather patterns, heat waves, rising seas, invasive species and threats to farms fisheries and industry. While we were encouraged by the reception we received from members of our Maine delegation, the congressional hearing we witnessed was an unambiguous reminder that Maine citizens, and our federal delegation, must continue to fight for bold climate action and reach across the aisle to achieve the required solutions.
Robert H. Dodge is a retired vice president of research and development at Idexx Laboratories. Nichole Price is the director of the Center for Seafood Solutions at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. Theodore V. Willis is a professor of environmental science at the University of Southern Maine.