The national agenda to combat climate change suffers from fits and starts. It may fizzle out altogether. We need to address the issue close to home.

While it’s an off-year election for many state positions, candidates for office in 2018 are announcing their bids and developing their platforms.

Voters should insist that climate change be a prominent policy position and litmus test among the candidates at every level.

Progress at the state level has been slow. It’s time for local politicians on both sides of the aisle – candidates as well as incumbents — to ramp up. Legislators who claim it is a national issue and avoid the topic are not doing right by their constituents.

We need pay attention to what our state representatives have accomplished before we return them to office next fall. Have they set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions? What about promoting renewal energy and plug-in vehicles? Have they pressed for national action?

If the answers are disappointing, then we need to elect candidates we know will commit.

Let’s encourage our members of the U.S. Congress – Senators Angus King and Susan Collins and U.S. Congressmen Bruce Poliquin and Chellie Pingree — to press for legislation that puts a fee on carbon at its source, to account for the true cost of fossil fuel emissions, and then returns that fee as a dividend to all citizens. It is an option that could garner bi-partisan support.

Mainers go to the polls next month. I can’t say I know the climate policy positions of my local candidates. I am not alone. That has to change. Local representatives mirror a community’s values.

You may ask why voters should insist that all who seek office, even those running for town council, address climate change when it’s viewed as a national issue. Because climate change impacts everyone. Think about what is happening now in Maine.

We have sea level rise that threatens residential and commercial property, a dwindling of fisheries due to ocean warming, an increase in tick-born illnesses, diseases that are damaging our native trees and forest industry, extreme weather events that ruin property, and air pollution that endangers our health. Paying to combat these problems puts a huge strain on the local economy.

This month South Portland flipped a switch to turn on a municipal solar energy project built on the city’s capped former landfill. It’s expected to generate 12 percent of the electricity used by the school and municipal buildings. Portland is on track to do the same.

Let’s look for similar commitments from Brunswick, Bath, and surrounding communities. We should ask our local governments to set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

One year from now we will elect a new governor. There are plenty of hats in the ring. At last count, we had eighteen: Democrats James Boyle, Adam Cote, Mark Dion, Patrick Eisenhart, Mark Eves, Janet Mills, Ken Pinet, Diane Russell, Betsy Sweet, and J. Martin Vachon; Republicans Kenneth Fredette, Garrett Mason, Mary Mayhew, and Michael Thibodeau; Jay Dresser and Betsy Marsano of the Green Party; Independent Terry Hayes; and Libertarian Richard Light.

When comparing the candidates, find out their positions on climate change. The health of the planet should be high on their agenda. Call upon the media to include every candidate’s stance on this issue in their election coverage.

Mainers care about many issues, not all of them related to health and the environment. But we can’t lose sight of the fact that global climate change affects us all, and threatens our way of life, wherever we live.

As we sift among local and statewide candidates, keep the environment a big part of the conversation. Combatting climate change needs to be part of the platform of everyone running for office in our state.

Nancy Heiser lives in Brunswick.



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