BATH — John Zittel admits that he’s not a climate scientist. But he’s done enough research over the decades to be certain climate change is quite real, and needs to be addressed.

The 14-year Bath resident aims to get that message across at a talk he is giving at Patten Free Library at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23.

“I have worked in ocean science through my whole career, so I’ve been watching the literature on climate change for well over 30 years,” said Zittel, who has spent four decades in the Navy, in an interview Sept. 12.

Zittel

As chief scientist, he led many research cruises on the open ocean, and retired in 2017 from his role as technical director of the office that oversees anti-submarine warfare for the chief of naval operations, according to a library news release. He is still a consultant with the Navy as he pursues a deep interest in climate change. He is also a corporator at Patten Library.

Chatting on the subject with members of the Bath community, “I began to discover that there was an appetite to understand better what the (climate change mitigation) options were, and what kinds of actions should we be thinking about,” Zittel said. “… Casual conversations began to get more organized as I started building some notes on things that would be good to talk with people about.”

Those notes snowballed into the foundation of a presentation, which “might be a useful tutorial for folks that were interested,” he said.

The impact from global warming can already be seen in the Gulf of Maine and its fisheries, Zittel said. “We’re seeing increasing acidity that in the long term is going to have impacts on the lobster population,” and new species of fish are making their way north as water temperatures increase.

“What that means for the long term is less clear,” he said. “How long will those new species stay, and what further movements and migrations will we see?”

The Midcoast is seeing a steady increase in extreme weather events, Zittel said, noting “it’s not possible to pin any single event to climate change, because it is climate we’re talking about; it’s not individual weather events. But in the long term, as we begin to see this continuing pattern of them, the evidence is building that we’re seeing an accumulation of effects.”

Due to melting ice causing ocean levels to rise, some insurance providers are not offering homeowners coverage for waterfront properties in certain areas along the coast, which impacts the value of those homes, Zittel said. “It’s not clear what the flooding risks are going to be in the long term, so they’re just backing away from it,” he added.

A steady warming of the oceans cause the water to expand and heat levels to rise. “We begin to see more extreme weather events, so you can get aggravated storm surge on top of the higher sea levels,” Zittel said.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency charts at epa.gov indicate that the sea level has increased nearly 10 inches since 1880, and that the sea surface temperature has risen roughly 2.5 degrees since 1910. Maine’s temperature has increased about 3 degrees since 1900, and precipitation in the Northeast U.S. has jumped 70 percent since 1958, according to one 2017 EPA report.

Zittel pointed out that “the models are somewhat debatable if you get into the details, so I prefer to avoid trying to talk about specific numbers.”

He did mention floodiq.com, which, in part, allows people to enter an address and determine the risk of flooding. It states that sea levels in the Bath/Brunswick area will rise 5.64 inches by 2034, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers data.

Important as it is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, people must also take steps to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, Zittel said. Flowers, phytoplankton, and seagrass are three methods of doing that.

Leslie Trundy, Patten’s adult services manager, is looking forward to more community members hearing Zittel’s message.

“It’s a very, very timely and important topic,” she said Sept. 12. “… I think people will come away with a better understanding of some practical things that they can start doing immediately, that might not make them feel so overwhelmed.”

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