Maine Won’t Wait,

That’s the name of Maine’s four-year plan to tackle our climate challenges. It captures the mindset everyone – not just Mainers – needs for that plan to succeed. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth climate change report, released in August, warns of increasingly extreme and deadly heat waves, droughts, and flooding unless we begin “immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

While headlines about the IPCC report trumpeted doom and gloom, the report noted that we can avoid the worst impacts of climate change if we take smart, strategic actions quickly. The IPCC made clear that we still have time to change our ways — and our world.

Here in Maine, we’ve been national leaders on adopting tactics to thwart climate change. In 2019, we became the first Eastern state to commit to a timeline to transition from fossil fuels to 100 percent renewable energy sources. Last December, Gov. Mills and the Maine Climate Council unveiled the Maine Won’t Wait plan, one of the most ambitious in the U.S. This summer, Gov. Mills signed a first-in-the-nation producer responsibility bill aimed to reduce waste, which is a key emitter of greenhouse gases.

Still, we’re feeling the effects of global warming on a regular basis. While many Americans may group us in with the “Great White North,” and most of us have never even considered getting air conditioning, August brought heat indexes of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

We’re seeing a wide variety of negative repercussions because of increased heat year-round. On land, about two-thirds of the state faced drought this summer. Extended periods of summer temperatures have a domino effect, leading to shorter winters and limiting our enjoyment of the weather-dependent activities we love, from skiing to ice fishing. And let’s not forget that those mild winters and dry summers help dog ticks, browntail moths and other itch-inducing pests thrive.

Climate change’s impacts extend to our coastal waters, too. Sea-level rise has evolved into a persistent threat to Mainers who live near the shore. And that sea water isn’t just rising rapidly – it’s changing rapidly. The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99 percent of the world’s ocean, forcing many marine species, including shrimp, to seek out cooler waters. While that evacuation has been good for our world-famous lobster, without swift action, they, too, will soon be forced out by the heat — if acidification doesn’t eradicate them first. Ocean waters absorb about a quarter of our excess CO2 emissions, which increases the water’ acidity. That can hinder the ability of shellfish to build strong shells, feed and even breathe. Meanwhile, invasive species such as black sea bass are moving to Maine, as their native waters warm.

We can’t wait any longer to confront this existential challenge. Fortunately, we have several proven solutions to implement.

First, Maine has an abundance of wind. Let’s use it! It’s time to increase our investments in offshore wind, like our neighbors in southern New England are doing. The more clean, renewable energy we get from wind, the less fossil fuels we need.

We can also eliminate copious fossil fuel emissions from our transportation sector. A whopping 54 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions in Maine come from transportation, and 59 percent of those come from passenger vehicles. We need to increase incentives in two ways to get drivers out of their gas-guzzlers. First, we need to make public buses more accessible, reliable and useful for Mainers everywhere – from downtown Portland to the County. And all public transit and school buses should be electric. It’s time to retire diesel buses that pollute our air and make us sick. For Mainers who choose to drive personal vehicles, we need to upgrade our charging infrastructure so automakers’ burgeoning lines of EVs can find homes in Maine and we can leave our gas-powered cars in the dust.

Change is never easy. But as the IPCC report makes clear, we don’t have a choice. We have to change our ways or the climate crisis will worsen at an increasingly fast pace. We can do our part here in Maine to make sure future generations have a livable planet with cleaner air, cleaner water and healthier people. And we should. Maine can’t wait.

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