Maine scientists, academics and physicians were dismayed by President Trump’s decision Thursday to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, saying his action will endanger the health of Mainers and harm the state’s fisheries and agriculture.

The move will make the United States look ridiculous in the eyes of world leaders who are trying to effect change, one prominent scientist said.

“China and Europe will become the heroes and we will look like fools,” said Paul Mayewski, director of the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine.

Paul Mayewski, director of UMaine’s Climate Change Institute: “China and Europe will become the heroes and we will look like fools.”

Mayewski has led more than 55 expeditions to some of the remotest polar and high-altitude locations on Earth, has been published in more than 450 scientific publications, and led climate-change research programs in Antarctica, Greenland and Asia.

Mayewski said that while countries such as China are taking steps to reduce carbon emissions, the U.S., under Trump’s leadership, stands to lose credibility because it remains the second-largest producer of carbon dioxide in the world. He noted that Syria and Nicaragua were the only countries that did not sign the Paris climate agreement.

“We’re giving up, at least politically, the high road on being a leader in climate change,” he said.

Mayewski said Mainers could be harmed by the president’s decision. As temperatures continue to rise and weather patterns become more unstable, extreme heat will make more people vulnerable, especially the sick and the elderly. Climate change also will impact tourism and lobstering, Mayewski said. Health care costs also could increase.

Jacquelyn Gill, paleoecologist and plant ecologist at UMaine: “I hope that people don’t see this and think that all is lost.”

Jacquelyn Gill, his colleague at the Climate Change Institute, also expressed disappointment at the president’s decision, calling it “grandstanding in a very empty way.”

“I’m disappointed in the lack of leadership on climate change at the national level, but I hope that people don’t see this and think that all is lost because that is not true,” said Gill, an assistant professor of paleoecology and plant ecology at the University of Maine. In addition to teaching at the School of Biology and Ecology, Gill also does research for the University’s Climate Change Institute.

Gill said the responsibility for fighting climate change squarely falls now on the shoulders of state and local groups. There is hope, she emphasized, because companies are starting to embrace the movement away from dependence on fossil fuels and investing resources in renewable energy.

Gill said Maine already is seeing the early warning signs of climate change, citing the increase in tick-borne diseases as evidence of a warming climate.

The College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, a school known for its support of the environment, issued a harshly worded statement Thursday.

“President Trump’s abandonment of the Paris climate accord is dangerous and misguided,” said Darron Collins, the school’s president. “The abdication of any official, global role for the United States in confronting climate leaves our country sitting like a dunce in the corner of the international arena.”

Darron Collins, president of College of the Atlantic: “President Trump’s abandonment of the Paris climate accord is dangerous and misguided.”

College of the Atlantic, which was founded in 1969, became one of the first colleges in the United States to focus on the relationship between humans and the environment. Since 2009, a delegation of students has participated in United Nations Climate Change negotiations.

Collins said the president’s decision, while disheartening, means that climate advocates will need to do more work at the local and state level.

“College of the Atlantic will continue to support our students’ work for climate justice financially and institutionally, regardless of where the U.S. stands in the international arena,” Collins said. “We will do so because the beauty of the Paris Treaty is its attempt, if imperfect, at global cooperation on an issue that doesn’t recognize local or international boundaries.”

The Maine Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, which represents more than 3,000 health care professionals and health advocates statewide, also issued a statement that warned withdrawal from the Paris accord “threatens human health in Maine.”

The group said that by ignoring climate change, the Trump administration will drive up costs for health care for Mainers.

“President Trump’s plan to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord endangers the health of all Mainers in all communities no matter where we live,” said Karen D’Andrea, the group’s executive director.

“As medical professionals and healthcare advocates, we strongly condemn this decision that will adversely affect the health of all Mainers and will impact, disproportionately low-income communities, children, the elderly, and ill,” D’Andrea said.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine issued a statement that said the president’s decision has dealt “a devastating blow to Maine and the planet.” The organization said Maine is vulnerable to climate change. Rising sea levels could flood coastal towns, smog from states in the Midwest are making asthma sufferers sicker, and fast warming waters in the Gulf of Maine are threatening commercial fisheries.

“Pulling out of this agreement puts the U.S. on the wrong side of history and against the rest of the world. It is a colossal mistake that stains our nation’s leadership, reputation and status among global powers,” said Lisa Pohlman, executive director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “This is terrible news for our environment.”

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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