The sobering reality of the most recent report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is that unless we cap the average global surface temperature at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, catastrophic climate impacts will be unavoidable. We are currently at one degree Celsius above that level, and witnessing droughts, fires and storms unimaginable just a few decades ago. Another half degree doesn’t sound like much, but climate impacts tend to be exponentially, not linearly, linked to surface temperature increases.

To accomplish the 1.5 degree goal, the IPCC urges the world to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions at a rate that is about five times faster than at present, or approximately 7.6 percent annually during the decade 2020-2030. The more we dawdle, the greater the challenge in the years ahead. Fortunately, we in Maine witnessed admirable bipartisan efforts at setting climate goals during the last legislative session, efforts that represent a sea change from previous sessions. However, the scientific fact is that these efforts are not enough. Our goal has to be carbon neutrality by 2030-2035, not 2045 or 2050. This represents a herculean task – perhaps the greatest ever required of humanity – but not an impossible one.

The governor’s climate council must recognize this urgency. We have the tools to provide heat and electricity for our homes, businesses and vehicles, all from renewable energy. We just have to use them.

Joe Hardy


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