This year, Maine’s open water angling season got underway in mid-March instead of the traditional April 1, as another disappointing season of canceled ice fishing tournaments came to an early end.
The shrimp harvest was shut down for the second consecutive year because the shrimp haven’t come this far south in sufficient numbers, but lobsters are expected to migrate toward shore sooner than they usually do, potentially adding a few more weeks of Maine’s most lucrative fishery.
Frogs, toads and salamanders are making an early appearance. So are ticks, which are expected to have survived a mild winter and will strike in force this spring and, killing moose and deer and spreading Lyme disease.
What sounds like a long list of things is really one thing: Burning fossil fuels is making the climate change, and the effects are not just something that our children or grandchildren will have to worry about, but something that we are experiencing right now.
Don’t let a little April snow fool you. The trend is undeniable: According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, last year was the warmest year on record since 1880. Previously, the hottest year had been 2014, and 15 of the 16 hottest years in history have been since 2000. The 16th was 1998.
The most dramatic change has been in the ocean, where the water is warming at an accelerating rate. 2014 was a record year for the speed that warming was occurring, with surface temperatures 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the 20th century average. In 2015, temperatures were 1.33 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 20th century average.
Warming oceans could be an economic disaster for Maine as well as an environmental one, if native species can no longer survive off our shores and sea levels rise, flooding coastal development.
Fortunately, since it is a man-made problem, there are man-made solutions. New technology is making the price of renewable energy decline rapidly. India and China, the major polluting countries in the developing world, are investing billions in clean energy, and the United States has made steady progress, requiring cleaner cars and, if the courts approve, cleaner power plants.
A state like Maine, with so much to lose from a rapidly changing climate, should be at the forefront of this effort, but we are lagging way behind. Under Gov. LePage, state energy policy looks only at electric rates in the immediate term and doesn’t account for the long-term costs of over-reliance on fossil fuels. In 2013, LePage scuttled a deal with the Norwegian energy company Statoil, which intended to invest $120 million in an experimental ocean wind turbine on a floating platform.
This year, the administration is using its leverage to kill a bill that would dramatically expand solar power.
We know what causes the lakes to melt early, the lobsters to migrate out of season and the ticks survive the winter. Maine should be a leader in doing something about it.