This summer has brought home the stark truth that climate change impacts are not just projected future events, but are a current reality and accelerating faster even than predicted: floods in the U.S. and around the world; deadly record heat and wildfires in the American West; unprecedented rain on Greenland’s ice sheet; startling speeds of melting at both poles.

Maine has been spared the worst of these so far, but even here there are signs it is overtaking us – towns are forced to set up cooling shelters, public works departments see it in the increasing numbers of road washouts and tree falls on power lines, and coastal towns see that rising seas are putting shoreline infrastructure at risk.

As scary as the prospect of the planet hurtling toward an unimaginable future is, what is scarier to me is our slowness to act, our ability to argue over the right balance of one form of renewable energy over another, or whether a new transmission line is ideally located. The truth is we need so much more electricity from renewable sources to replace our current fossil fuel use and convert transportation and heating to electric power that the answer is all of the above and as fast as possible. And yes, many of these will require new transmission lines.

Bill Nemitz’ Sept. 16 column (“Introducing Maine’s latest bogeyman: Retroactivity!”) suggested that the pro corridor advocates were using retroactivity as the scapegoat to avoid addressing the benefits of the corridor. But there are crucially important benefits we should all. know.

The Clean Energy Corridor could be ready to go very fast, immediately eliminating more than three million tons of carbon dioxide emissions from the New England power grid every year, making a bigger dent than any other renewable project currently planned. It involves a relatively short new corridor, which, thanks to the improved environmental permit requirements, will be the most environmentally sensitive utility transmission corridor in Maine.

I plan to vote “no” on Question 1 because a yes vote would not only kill the near term prospect of bringing significant additional renewable energy to the New England grid, but would hamstring our ability to attract future clean energy investments – setting a precedent for political interference in what have long been impartial, fact-based permitting decisions, and slowing down every new transmission line proposal by having to go through the legislature, at a time when we need prompt action.

I am voting “no” not despite my lifelong career in conservation, but because of it. Because I think we should all be worried about the permanent and escalating impacts of a heating climate, not just on our health and economy, but on flooding of habitat for piping plovers and salt marsh sparrows, scorching of boreal forests and alpine zones, and a warming and acidifying Gulf of Maine driving out lobsters and whales.

These are a greater concern to me than the impacts of adding 1,000 acres of early successional habitat to Maine’s already intensively managed forest mosaic. Maine and the planet can’t wait.

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