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William Lauring Somes is a political science and economics major at the University of Maine.
As Maine’s environment continues to change, solutions to the climate problem are becoming more and more important. My conversations with fishermen have led me to believe lobsters are already moving further away from shore, and scientific evidence suggests this trend will continue over the next 80 years. Of course, this is far from the only impact of climate change. In the coming years, heavy rains related to changes in climate can cause damage to Maine agriculture and infrastructure.
Climate change is an economic problem, and our livelihoods depend on how we address it.
The transportation sector accounts for the majority of all climate-warming emissions in Maine (approximately 54 percent). This means that efforts to combat climate change must focus specifically on reducing emissions from this sector.
In March of this year, the Environmental Protection Agency rolled back fuel economy standards that would have raised the new vehicle fuel economy to 54 miles per gallon. Under these rollbacks, rather than increasing fuel economy by 5 percent per year, automakers must instead increase fuel economy by just 1.5 percent per year. This equates to a 14 miles-per-gallon decline in fuel efficiency over the next four years as compared to the original standards.
In other words, at the most crucial moment in American history, we are moving backwards, not forwards.
Maine is already starting to take action. The Maine Climate Council, established in 2019, is addressing emissions from the transportation sector. Specifically, it is considering proposals to expand public transportation and increase rebates for electric vehicles.
The Transportation and Climate Initiative is another forthcoming solution. If Maine signs on to the initiative, this could mean more investment in climate-friendly transportation for disadvantaged communities.
But while Maine politicians and bureaucrats continue problem-solving, we must remember the importance of individual citizens. Policy doesn’t just happen; it is influenced, refined, and implemented with Mainers’ health and wellbeing in mind.
Of course, the process isn’t always perfect, and politicians sometimes put their own interests first. For example, Gov. Paul LePage vetoed more than 600 bills over the course of his eight years in office. For perspective, if you sum all the vetoes of Maine governors since World War II, this would still be less than LePage accumulated in his two terms in the Blaine House.
Looking forward, Mainers need a government that will address climate solutions sooner rather than later. Fortunately, at least our state government is moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, the federal government still has a long way to go. As citizens of a republic, it is our duty to vote for representatives that protect the environment. Mainers’ livelihoods depend on it.
But this isn’t about politics — or at least it shouldn’t be. Climate change affects us all, regardless of the political ideology we subscribe to. It is really more of an economics issue than anything else, and economics and climate solutions can go hand in hand. In fact, switching to a green economy could result in a net increase in jobs.
Over the next few decades, the Maine way of life could change dramatically. It all depends on us: what we choose to care about, the future we decide for our children, and the steps we take to get us there.