The barest glance through the news last Thursday painted a sobering picture.

A new twist in the protracted battle over the construction of the offshore wind energy facility in Searsport; Maine park rangers warning that patches of “supersaturated sand,” the likes of which startled a beachgoer who sunk at Popham last week, are becoming more common because of accelerated coastal erosion; three significant global climate records shattered (last month, the global heat record was broken for the 12th straight month); and the Gulf of Maine reported to be warming three times faster than the global average.

“Another way to say it,” wrote Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram reporter Penelope Overton, “is that Maine has logged more than a decade’s worth of sea level rise in only 16 months.”

The Gulf of Maine’s “shallow underwater topography” was likened to “a kiddie pool sitting out in the sun,” the warming steadily killing marine life and driving the rise in sea level that threatens coastal environments and communities.

Elsewhere, the coverage was no better. Temperatures soared into the hundreds in many U.S. towns and cities. “Welcome to the subtropics,” trumpeted a headline of a New York City blog post that was doing the rounds on social media. “Southerners share tips on dealing with our new daily thunderstorms.”

As a thick blanket of humid fog reminiscent of last summer settled on southern Maine, USA Today published a guide explaining “how to cope” with soaring electricity bills that come with the potentially astronomical cost of cooling a home in 2024. Unsettling images out of Phoenix showed a fireman demonstrating a zippered “ice immersion” bag, newly on offer to an increasing number of heatstroke victims, on a plastic dummy.


Urgent steps to protect ourselves from dying, drowning or losing property are appropriate and have to be taken. The same goes for storm damage relief, which Maine has promptly made available to residents most affected by the latest devastation.

But far, far more urgent again is the need for rock-solid consensus on climate action and vastly expedited timelines for both decarbonization and the transition to clean energy.

For years, sensible, proven policies have been let languish on desks and in legislative chambers at the state and federal level. It is as if we were not in a clear state of emergency, as if addressing climate change were not the burning imperative of our time.

Look no further than what’s been happening in Searsport. Although the bickering would lead us to believe otherwise, there is – as this editorial board noted in the spring (“Perfection is the enemy of our environment,” April 14) – no perfect location for an offshore wind turbine port.

And yet, it is the federal picture that requires the most correction. America needs national policies to arrest the descent into what the head of the U.N. referred to last week as “climate hell.”

In an excellent and memorably clear-minded February 2023 op-ed in these pages, retired landscape architect and urban planner Peter Monro, of Portland, set it out as follows.


“If all U.S. annual emissions were hurled into the air in 24 hours, Maine’s emissions would be done in less than five minutes. If Maine stopped all our emissions tomorrow – went to carbon zero not in 2050 or 2035 but by March 1, 2023 – nobody would notice. Our state’s success would be lost in the statistical noise of everyday emissions’ variability,” Monro wrote.

All eyes are still, then, on Washington, D.C., where Maine continues to be overrepresented – with both Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King – on the bipartisan Senate Climate Solutions Caucus. These senators are best-placed to push, hard, for legislation and reforms that may once have seemed dramatic and now look like the minimum reasonable response. We’re talking about:

• instituting carbon pricing, a taxation framework that charges leading emitters and gives back to ordinary Americans
• implementing more stringent clean energy standards
• forging new international agreements – and sticking with them
• approving major investment in new clean energy technology

Any political split over climate change simply should not be able to survive contemporary statistics and increasingly challenging realities. It is incredible that “debate” on this life-or-death matter has been sustained.

Last Wednesday, the Guardian published a recap of the general election in India – where the temperatures soared to 121 Fahrenheit last week – contrasting the life-endangering process of going out to cast a vote in deadly heat with the political candidates’ inconceivable unconcern.

Or is it inconceivable? Should we settle for political candidates who do not appropriately prioritize climate change – or, indeed, for candidates who act too slowly or not at all, or who belittle or deny the climate crisis out of ignorance, convenience or a toxic mix of the two – it becomes an accurate preview of a very disturbing future.

Comments are no longer available on this story