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Climate Council Seeks Public Input on Strategies to Protect Coastal Communities, Economies

In June, the Maine Climate Council released 35 draft strategies in six different topic areas for the state’s Climate Action Plan, due to the Legislature in December. The Council is charged with developing a plan to reduce Maine’s greenhouse gas emissions and to ensure that the state is resilient to the impacts of climate change. The Climate Action Plan is part of Governor Mills’ efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions 45% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050.

Climate Change will likely lead to loss of natural buffers such as tidal salt marshes. Photo courtesy of Maine.gov.

Each of the six working groups recommended strategies to achieve this. The Climate Council’s Energy Working Group included a recommendation to develop targets for offshore wind as part of its strategy to purchase more clean energy. The strategy emphasizes the need to give careful consideration of siting these assets and solicit stakeholder input early in the process. The Council is seeking comments from the public throughout the summer on the draft strategies. Visit https://climatecouncil.maine.gov/surveys to take a short survey to give feedback on the strategies in each of the Council’s focus areas: coastal and marine, energy, buildings and infrastructure, transportation, natural and working lands, and community resilience. This fall it will refine and finalize the strategies for the Plan.

Coastal communities can expect increased flooding as sea level rises. Photo courtesy of the Free Press.

The effects of climate change in Maine are not easy to dismiss, particularly when it comes to the Gulf of Maine. While the annual air temperature in the state has increased 3.2o F. during the past century, the water temperature in the Gulf of Maine is increasing much more dramatically. Scientists report that the Gulf is warming faster than 99% of the world’s oceans, becoming less subarctic in character as it does so and experiencing ocean “heat waves.” That means that certain marine species, accustomed to the cold, oxygen-rich Gulf, are moving elsewhere and other, warm-water species are moving into the region.

As the ocean water warms, it expands. Thus sea levels along the Maine coast are rising as well. It is likely that by 2050 coastal communities will be facing between 1.1 and 1.8 feet of relative sea level rise. The effects of this steady increase will soon be felt: a one-foot rise will lead to a 15-fold increase in the frequency of damaging floods.

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