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Climate change — and the need for action to combat it — will be a particular focus for the next week. Drawing more attention to the impacts of climate change is important, of course. But the difficult task, especially in the United States, is prompting action.
Around the world and across the United States, including in Maine, thousands of young people took to the streets on Friday to call attention to climate change. On Monday, the 11th annual climate week begins in New York, coinciding with a United Nations meeting focused on climate change.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called on global leaders to come to the summit with plans for action, not simply speeches.
With increasingly dire warnings about the global consequences of climate change — including parts of the world becoming unlivable — Guterres, and the thousands of sign-carrying young people around the world, are right: world leaders must commit to concrete actions to both combat climate change and to plan for its impacts.
Gov. Janet Mills will speak at the UN meeting, at Guterres’ invitation, about Maine’s actions. They include adopting new goals, proposed by Mills, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and at least 80 percent by 2050. She has also signed legislation to increase the state’s share of renewable energy to 80 percent by 2030 and set a goal of 100 percent by 2050.
Lawmakers also passed laws aimed to increase the production of solar and wind power in Maine.
Mills on Thursday named the membership of a statewide climate council. The group, which includes representatives of state government, businesses, Maine tribes, environmental groups, lobstermen and others, is tasked with identifying strategies to increase renewable energy generation and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, which trap heat around the Earth. The group will also look for ways to prepare Maine for changes that will continue to come from a changing climate, including warmer and higher oceans, new diseases and changed growing seasons for crops and forests.
On Tuesday, the Bangor Daily News is hosting a sold out conversation with researchers from the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute about the state’s climate history and future.
While Maine, and other states and local communities, are taking steps to reduce pollution, increase clean power production and increase awareness of environmental impacts, the federal government is moving in the wrong direction.
This week, the Trump administration announced it was revoking California’s authority to set and enforce fuel economy standards that are higher than the national standards. Maine is among 23 states, including California, to sue the Trump administration on Friday in order to maintain the higher standards.
National gas mileage standards were set to rise under an Obama administration rule, but the Trump administration put the change on hold and proposed a smaller increase. California pledged to go ahead with the higher standards and the state signed an agreement with four automakers that pledged to meet them.
The U.S. transportation sector is the nation’s biggest single source of planet-warming greenhouse gasses. In Maine, transportation emissions made up roughly half of all carbon emissions in 2015.
The Trump administration has also rolled back dozens of regulations that protect our environment and reduce pollution that contributes to climate change.
This is in direct opposition to the conclusions and recommendations from 13 federal agencies that collaborated on a report on climate change last year. Global warming “is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us,” the authors said in their report, which was requested by Congress.
And they conclude that humans must act aggressively to adapt to current impacts and mitigate future catastrophes “to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.”
We don’t expect the president to suddenly change his mind on climate change. In the face of his administration’s inaction on climate change, sustained pressure on other decision makers, both in government and business, is another means to prompt needed action.