by David F. Robinson, staff writer
FARMINGTON — Maine is going to look a lot different in 100 years if climate change trends continue on the same upward trajectory.
Moose may all but disappear from the forests, replaced by migrations of white-tail deer.
The forests themselves will probably be taken over by trees found today as far south as Maryland, rather than the red spruce that make Maine’s woods unique.
Even black-capped chickadees, the state bird, may start to head farther north for cooler climes.
These are just a few of the potential changes in store for Maine according to many scientists, who have been predicting what will happen in various parts of the world over the next century if global warming doesn’t slow down.
That’s the message biology professor Andrew Barton delivered Friday morning on the campus of University of Maine at Farmington, where about 25 people participated in the international climate change awareness day organized by 350.org.
But while data shows climate change will inevitably redefine the ecology and weather in Maine and beyond, there are bound to be some surprises depending on how warm the Earth actually gets, according to Barton, who has taught about climate change at UMF for 16 years.
The drastic differences in global warming’s effects will ultimately hinge on human’s choices to reduce their impact on the otherwise natural climate change cycles, Barton told the audience.
“We still have choices to make,” he said.
The gathering was among hundreds of others held worldwide Friday to support 350.org, a global advocacy group promoting climate change awareness, according to Greg Kimber, who organized the event in Farmington.
Barton’s hour-long climate change presentation inside Lincoln Auditorium in Robert’s Learning Center was followed by a flash-mob gathering on campus. The group of mostly community members and UMF faculty stood outside the center’s entrance in a slight drizzle and recruited a few other people passing by.
They then posed for a picture as they held up colorful dots representing that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached dangerous levels, threatening to make the planet uninhabitable.
Behind the row of demonstrators, a few people held up a giant white sheet with a black dot that read, “Climate Change — Connect the Dots.”
Kimber, 40, lives in Temple and teaches English as a second language via websites and international exchange programs. He said raising awareness about the dangers of climate change has been a lifelong passion, leading him to get others involved by promoting the 350.org mission.
The advocacy group will be posting photos taken Friday at similar Connect the Dots gatherings on its website, Kimber said. He added the events in other states hit by recent spikes in wildfires and other extreme weather, which many attribute to climate change, will help to show that global warming is already affecting people’s lives.
Kimber knew of at least nine other 350.org events planned for Friday across Maine. The presentation by Barton, however, made the event in Farmington unique from others because many only featured the public demonstrations, he added.
Bob and Diane Guethlen drove three hours Friday morning from northern Somerset County to hear Barton speak in Franklin County. The couple, ages 64 and 60, said they woke up at 5:30 a.m. to leave their Tomhegan Township home because they didn’t want to miss a chance to participate in such an important discussion.
Bob Guethlen, bearded husband with long salt-and-pepper hair, said Barton did a great job describing how climate change is threatening the Maine economy, ranging from tourist industries that rely on snow to businesses that harvest and process specific timber.
“This is the kind of thing that needs to be done all over the state,” he said.
During his presentation, Barton clicked through pages of data, charts and photos projected on a giant screen. He flipped back and forth between images of glaciers taken in 1920 and 2005, the once ice-covered landscape transformed into green meadows.
Barton explained how the greenhouse gases produced by humans since the Industrial Revolution have affected timeless climate change cycles. These cycles otherwise are controlled by naturally occurring atmospheric greenhouse gases, rather than the by-products from burning fossil fuels for example.
Although there are some questions about climate change that scientists have yet to answer, Barton said there is no arguing that rises in greenhouse gases, whether naturally occurring or not, cause the Earth’s atmosphere to trap more heat from the sun.
“You can’t get around that physical fact,” he said.
The challenge is figuring out what that will mean to future generations, he said, adding that makes this something that affects all aspects of life on earth. Barton noted that includes answering questions about everything from the effects on politics and economics to morality and religion.
“It’s not just a science issue, it’s an everything issue,” he said.