November 07, 2019
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As Maine’s summers get hotter, researchers say the state is ready to take action on climate change

The sporadic 90-degree summer days in Maine are going to occur much more often in the next century. The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99 percent of the world’s oceans, which means uncertainty for the lobster industry.

However, University of Maine climate change researchers are hopeful that from the individual level to the state Legislature, Maine is ready to take action on climate change.

A day after Gov. Janet Mills announced her intention to make Maine carbon neutral by 2045 at the United Nations Climate Change Summit in New York, three climate change experts from UMaine had a conversation with the public about threats, impact and mitigation of climate change at a Bangor Daily News event.

“We need to think about climate change being this very, very immense change,” said Paul Mayewski, director of the Climate Change Institute at UMaine. “Not just temperature.”

Climate change also impacts air quality, Mayewski said, and poor air quality has been linked to diseases such as cancer and autism.

Based on the Arctic warming, Mayewski said that climate change is happening faster than expected. The eastern Arctic climate has changed by 8 or 9 degrees in about five years, according to the Climate Change Institute’s research.

Watch: Dr. Cindy Isenhour discusses social sciences and climate change

“Climate can change faster than a political cycle,” he said. “We need to not prepare ourselves for linear change; we need to prepare ourselves for very, very fast change.”

However, extensive climate data collection and verification as well as mathematical modeling allow for precise climate future predictions, according to state Climatologist Sean Birkel.

“Looking into the future, there are different outcomes depending upon the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions, land use changes and broader societal decisions,” he said.

The speakers also dismissed some of the common misconceptions about climate change.

“There is no such thing as a tipping point for the entire planet where everything goes downhill,” Mayewski said. “As long as one is prepared for plausible scenarios for the future, you can look for opportunities.”

Anthropologist and climate change professor Cindy Isenhour attended the U.N. summit in New York on Monday, and she said that she was hopeful that people were treating climate change as the serious issue that it is.

Mayewski echoed the hopeful sentiment.

“There is a tremendous groundswell in this country, in particular in places like Maine where we’re so dependent on our natural environment,” Mayewski said, “to understand what’s going on, and to try and effect change.”

Watch: Dr. Sean Birkel discusses creation of Maine Climate Council

 

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Sean Birkel’s title.


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