September 20, 2019
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Maine voters agree it’s time for action on climate change

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Saco Middle School student Antonia Farago-Dumsch, 14, holds a sign outside Portland City Hall as part of a worldwide rally to draw attention to climate change, March 15, 2019.

Mainers recognize the threat posed by climate change and strongly support taking action to fight it. And while federal initiatives languish in the U.S. Senate graveyard, state leaders are responding to the growing consensus that the time for climate action is now.

Maine Conservation Voters recently partnered with Moore Information, a well-regarded Republican polling firm with extensive experience in Maine, to ask voters what they think about climate change, the impact it is having on Maine and our state’s opportunities to fight back. The results were fascinating.

We learned that there’s nothing partisan or theoretical about climate change in Maine. Seventy-one percent of Mainers agree that climate change is a serious problem, and 59 percent say it’s already hurting our state.

Nearly two-thirds cite negative impacts on the health of people in the state, including an increase in cases of asthma and dangerous insects, such as ticks. Seventy-one percent say that climate change is hurting Maine’s marine economy, including the lobster fishery.

These impacts matter in the daily lives of Maine people—more than 75 percent agree that we need to take action—and they matter in the voting booth.

Strong majorities of voters support expanding access to solar power for people of all income levels, providing cities and towns with matching grants to invest in clean energy and energy efficiency, and transitioning Maine to clean energy. And whether they’re Republicans, Democrats, or independents, 66 percent of Maine voters are more likely to support a candidate for the state Legislature who supports growing a clean energy economy and addressing climate change.

Finally, lawmakers are listening.

Gov. Janet Mills, who focused on climate change during her campaign in 2018, has shown tremendous leadership on the issue, including setting a goal to transition Maine to 100 percent clean energy by 2050 and creating a Climate Council that will help set a long-term strategy to get there. The governor has made clear that she understands that good environmental policy is also good economic policy and that by reducing carbon pollution and developing renewable energy we can also create good-paying jobs for Maine people.

We’ve seen critically important climate action proposals gain bipartisan support in the Legislature this session, including a comprehensive solar bill to help people, businesses, and communities invest in low-cost renewable energy and legislation to increase the amount of clean, renewable energy that powers Maine. There’s still work to be done to ensure that these landmark clean energy bills make their way to the governor’s desk before the Legislature adjourns for the summer, but it looks like we’ll see more progress for Maine’s environment this year than we have in a long time.

The political debate that often rages among competing pundits might suggest that this kind of climate action is nothing short of miraculous. But the recent poll results show that the real surprise is how out-of-step national leaders are with what Maine people already know: the impacts of climate change are real, and they are serious.

Now we know that voters are demanding something be done – now. State lawmakers have a small window of opportunity to deliver meaningful change this session, and when they do, they’ll set a powerful example for our nation.

Kathleen Meil is director of policy and partnerships at Maine Conservation Voters, where she leads the Clean Energy for All campaign.

 



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