by Terry Karkos
AUGUSTA – In a warming world, this past “Winter That Wasn’t” is projected as the new norm for coming years, according to a report made public Tuesday by the National Wildlife Federation and Natural Resources Council of Maine.
“On Thin Ice,” a compilation of news stories and reports from biologists and climatologists, tells of how 2011-12’s warm winter affected hunters and anglers across the country.
Carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants is largely blamed for the climate change that threatens Maine’s outdoor heritage.
“Climate change is here; it’s hurting our outdoor traditions and it’s past time for our elected officials to take action to cut climate-changing carbon pollution,” NRCM Executive Director Lisa Pohlmann said Tuesday in Augusta.
She said she was elated to learn that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Obama administration coincidentally released a proposal on Tuesday to limit carbon pollution from new power plants.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2011 that the EPA must regulate climate-changing pollutants, Pohlmann said.
The standards announced Tuesday will limit carbon pollution from new power plants. The EPA is working to develop standards to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants and is expected to issue a draft proposal for existing plants later this year or early next year, she said.
“Every year, power plants dump more than 2 billion tons of dangerous carbon pollution and other pollutants into the air,” Pohlmann said.
“The standard announced today will establish the first national limits on carbon pollution from new power plants and help protect people, kids, wildlife and our environment from climate change and air pollution.
“We’re basically saying it’s good they released the rules, because we believe this climate change is having a drastic effect on many parts of our lives, including Maine’s winter economy,” she said.
In addition to strictly limiting industrial carbon pollution and protecting public health, many say the new standards will spark innovation in clean technologies and create green jobs, Pohlmann said.
Car emissions and other things contribute to carbon pollution. However, she said, power plants are among the biggest sources of carbon pollution.
“And so to have the federal government step in through the EPA in its authority under the Clean Air Act to actually put the first set of limits on new power plants built in the future is a really major step,” Pohlmann said.
“Maine’s senators and congresspeople should support these rules and not put corporate polluters’s profits ahead of our health.”
The National Wildlife Federation’s “On Thin Ice” report says this winter is an indication of our future.
“As we continue to spew carbon pollution into the atmosphere, we are exacerbating global warming and ensuring that cold, snowy winters will become less frequent,” author Mark Cheater said.
That’s why those who care about time-honored traditions of hunting and angling should be concerned.
“The loss of ice-fishing, waterfowl hunting, moose and showshoe hare hunting and fly-fishing would diminish the outdoor recreational opportunities of Americans,” Cheater said.
Additionally, it would be a major blow to the local and regional economies that depend on those activities.
In many places across the country, he wrote, hunting and ice-fishing never happened because record warm temperatures left water bodies ice-free and fields and woods without snow.
The lack of snow kept deer and elk high in the mountains and allowed ducks and geese to linger on their northern breeding grounds, he said.
Winters are getting shorter and warmer, with spring arriving as many as two weeks earlier than it did two decades ago. Winter is also becoming less white.
Pohlmann said that in Maine, mild and low-snow winters can reduce production and revenues for smelt operators and maple syrup producers; increase populations of Lyme disease-bearing ticks, and cause lost sales for winter recreation goods and services.
“Climatologists expect these trends to continue, and they project that by the end of the century, parts of the Northeast will lose as many as half of their snow-covered days each year,” Cheater said.