Earlier this week, world scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change delivered another urgent warning about the damage climate change is inflicting on the world’s oceans. Rising temperatures, increasing acidity and ocean depths starved of oxygen are threatening wildlife, endangering coastal communities and undermining our economic future. This is a threat on our doorstep — research shows that the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than nearly any other body of water in the world.
From our iconic lobster industry to the warming, rising fish-rich seas that bathe our shores, climate change is threatening the very heart of Maine.
Maine’s lobster industry is worth $423 million — the nation’s largest, most profitable fishery. The livelihoods of many Maine people and the success of our coastal communities depend on the viability of our working waterfronts.
While the future of our fisheries is in doubt, Maine’s farms, crops and wildlife are also threatened by climate change. Unpredictable seasons marked by warmer weather and erratic frosts have robbed Maine farmers and stunted our famous blueberry crops. Maine moose, already dwindling in numbers, are now prey to a growing tick population, which has been linked to our changing climate.
It is often said, “as Maine goes, so goes the nation.” Our little state is already witnessing the consequences of climate change. We are also leading the fight to meet this threat head-on.
Maine has joined the United States Climate Alliance — a 25-member coalition of governors who have committed to upholding the Paris Climate Accord.
We enacted major bipartisan renewable energy and climate change legislation into law in what some have called one of the most productive sessions for climate action by any state in the country.
With overwhelming bipartisan support, we created the Maine Climate Council, charged with leading our efforts to reduce Maine’s greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and at least 80 percent by 2050. We committed to achieving 80 percent renewable energy by 2030, up from 40 percent today and a goal of 100 percent by 2050 — one of the most ambitious renewable energy standards in the nation.
We incentivized solar programs, created an electric vehicle rebate for consumers and small businesses, and supported energy-efficient home heating solutions such as heat pumps to lower our dependence on heating oil.
We committed to completing development of the country’s first floating offshore wind project.
And this week at the 2019 Climate Action Summit — as the first sitting governor of Maine and the only elected official from the United States to address the United Nations General Assembly during the summit — I announced that Maine would be carbon neutral by 2045.
These efforts will not hurt our economy; in fact, they will improve it. We know that investing in renewable energy creates the good-paying jobs of Maine’s future, from technicians installing solar panels to builders weatherizing homes and engineers running wind farms.
Maine’s elected officials — from every political party — as well as industry leaders, automobile dealers, environmentalists, business owners and youth championed these changes, united in our shared love for our great state. Our progress is a reminder of what we can achieve when irrefutable science — not politics — drives our decisions.
On Thursday, several department commissioners, key state leaders, science and technical experts, business and nonprofit leaders, municipal leaders, a tribal representative and a Maine youth representative met for the first time as members of the Maine Climate Council.
I look forward to the council’s recommendations for additional actions our state can take to make sure our communities, industries and people are resilient to the changes our state is facing.
The threat of climate change has loomed for decades, but we know now that we do not have any more time to act. The IPCC report shows that climate change is happening much faster than we thought and poses an immediate threat to Maine.
We all have what it takes to combat climate change, to protect the irreplaceable Earth we share and care for. Maine won’t wait.
Janet Mills is the governor of Maine.