Climate change is an economic issue. As Pope Francis so eloquently put it last week, it is a moral one as well. What it is not is far away.
The effects of climate change are not limited to disappearing ice in the Arctic and devastating floods in India – they are observable every day here in Maine, by scientists and laymen alike.
To slow and mitigate the impact of rising temperatures on a global scale, global actions are needed. But that doesn’t mean local actions are futile – Maine has a lot to gain from acknowledging both the challenges and opportunities of climate change, and readying for what is clearly on its way.
Those challenges and opportunities were laid out in an event held at Bowdoin College on June 12 by the nonprofit organization Envision Maine. Academics, business leaders and researchers spoke about higher temperatures, less snow and the changing state of Maine’s natural resources.
To observers of Maine’s outdoors, these things should be no surprise.
Lobsters are moving farther up the coastline toward cooler waters, and facing threats from shell disease and new predators brought in the Gulf of Maine, which is warming at a rate faster than 99 percent of the world’s oceans.
Last year, the shrimping season in Maine was canceled for the second consecutive year because of low numbers caused by warming waters.
In the woods, ticks are being found in numbers and in areas unheard of just a generation or two ago, carrying with them Lyme and other diseases. Native plant species are disappearing as some invasive species flourish.
Together, these changes and others like them will have a profound effect on the state’s tourism, fishery and outdoor recreation economy. And we haven’t even mentioned rising water along the coast.
But not all changes will be for the worse. Climate change is bringing higher demand for renewable energy and local agriculture, and northern areas will have a longer growing season.
With the right investments, Maine could benefit from these changes, just as it is poised to benefit from increased shipping and trade through the Arctic, through the state’s relationship with Eimskip, an Icelandic shipping line.
Pope Francis, in his encyclical released last week, asked perhaps the most important question related to climate change: “What kind of world,” he wrote, “do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?”
Globally, the answer is one that reckons with the full cost of its consumption and its excesses, and does not impose those costs on the poor and most vulnerable.
Locally, that means speaking out in favor of those global actions, but also preparing to thrive in a future we can clearly see coming.