FALMOUTH — The recently released third annual national report on climate change is a sobering one. Climate change is happening here, now.

Southern Maine is experiencing increased ozone levels that negatively affect our health; fishermen are experiencing the rise of acid in the ocean and the negative impact on shellfish; farmers are experiencing severe weather disruptions that negatively impact crop yield.

Experts agree that climate change events are occurring at a rate more rapid than anticipated. Some highlights from the climate change report:

n Rising temperatures are reducing ice volume and surface extent on land, lakes and sea. The Arctic Ocean is expected to become essentially ice-free in summer before mid-century.

n Climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including through impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfire, decreased air quality, threats to mental health and illnesses transmitted by food, water and disease carriers such as mosquitoes and ticks.

n The oceans are currently absorbing about a quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere annually and are becoming more acidic as a result, leading to concerns about intensifying impacts on marine ecosystems.

While it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by such a big problem, there are some things we can do to address it.

Maine is ahead of much of the nation in reducing carbon emissions through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

The RGGI is an agreement among the nine Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states (except New Jersey) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by capping the amount of carbon that power plants can emit. Power plants that don’t meet the standard have to purchase carbon credits from cleaner plants. The pact incentivizes clean power, has helped Maine reduce emissions and has funded significant energy-efficiency programs.

In the words of Shawn Moody, president of Moody’s Collision Centers, “There is a perception that environmental measures increase costs. But we find that conserving energy supports our growth: The less electricity we waste, the more money we have to expand our operations.” In other words, reducing carbon pollution is not only good for the planet but also good for business.

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed carbon reduction rules for new fossil fuel-fired power plants, and the agency is drafting a proposal to limit carbon from existing power plants that is expected to be released in June.

With these rules, the nation can follow the example of Maine and other Northeastern states by expanding the concept of the RGGI. Reducing carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants is smart policy to address the climate change problems outlined in the new report.

Maine is fortunate to have leaders in Washington who have taken actions to reduce carbon pollution.

Sen. Susan Collins, the only member of Maine’s congressional delegation from my party, said that the climate change report “reinforces my belief that climate change is a threat to our communities and a challenge that requires global solutions in order to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. By promoting clean-energy alternatives and efficiency, we can reduce pollution, advance the goal of energy independence for our nation and spur the creation of new manufacturing jobs in our country rather than in China.”

Sen. Collins has also shown her independent streak by opposing legislation to weaken climate change efforts. She voted against a significant attempt to roll back the Clean Air Act, which would have prohibited the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions forever — regardless of the health consequences, no matter what future scientific research reveals, never mind the environmental impact.

The amendment also would have prohibited new emission standards for motor vehicles beginning in 2017, essentially halting the tremendous progress that has been made in reducing vehicle emissions and improving fuel economy.

She also voted against a resolution of disapproval that would have blocked implementation of the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.

I applaud Sen. Collins’ leadership on climate change, and I hope she will support the EPA’s soon-to-be-released carbon reduction rules.

— Special to the Press Herald