The harm that warming is doing now will only get worse unless citizens, businesses and governments make mitigating actions part of their daily lives.
by Rev. Richard Killmer, retired Presbyterian minister and Yarmouth resident
Portland Press Herald op-ed
YARMOUTH — “Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities,” 13 federal agencies declared in the Fourth National Climate Assessment. It was issued on Black Friday. You can read it at https://nca2018.globalchange.gov.
According to the report, the impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the U.S. and are projected to intensify – but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur, like the devastation caused by the California wildfires. Those actions will need to be taken by you and me, corporations, the state of Maine, President Trump and the federal government. Sadly, much of the work needed to end the damage and dangers caused by climate change will become the responsibility of my grandchildren’s generation.
Observations collected around the world provide significant and compelling evidence that the global average temperature is much higher, and is rising more rapidly, than anything modern civilization has experienced, with widespread impacts. Poor people and others who are marginalized will likely be affected disproportionately by actions to address the underlying causes and impacts of climate change.
The harm caused by climate change is occurring now, and the results are many. “High temperature extremes and heavy precipitation events are increasing. Glaciers and snow cover are shrinking, and sea ice is retreating,” the report notes. “Seas are warming, rising and becoming more acidic. Flooding is becoming more frequent along the U.S. coastline. Growing seasons are lengthening, and wildfires are increasing.”
The report goes on to state that the “annual median sea level along the U.S. coast … has increased by about 9 inches since the early 20th century as oceans have warmed and land ice has melted.” Since the early 1980s, fish, shellfish and other marine species along the Northeast coast have, on average, moved northward and to greater depths, seeking cooler waters.
Without more significant global action by ordinary citizens, corporations, states and national governments, climate change is expected to cause substantial losses to infrastructure and property and impede U.S. economic growth over this century. Regional economies and industries that depend on natural resources and favorable climate conditions, such as agriculture, tourism and fisheries (all important in Maine), are increasingly vulnerable to the harm caused by climate change. The climate impacts in other countries are expected to have increasing effects on our trade and economy, including import and export prices and U.S. businesses’ overseas operations and supply chains.
So, what do we do? The bottom line is that we need to use less fossil fuels (like coal, oil and gas) and more renewable energy (like wind, solar and tidal). We also need to fix things that get broken by climate change and to adapt to the changes that it brings.
Each of us can take steps to reduce our own use of oil and gas, like taking public transportation or driving a more fuel-efficient hybrid or an electric car. Many people in Maine and elsewhere in the country are putting solar panels on the roofs of their houses to produce their own electricity. My daughter in Falmouth has put solar panels on her house, as has the church I attend in Yarmouth. The state of Maine needs to help its citizens find ways of using fewer fossil fuels and using more renewable energy.
The federal government can play a huge role in moving us from fossil fuels to renewables now. Congress, including the Maine delegation, can be leaders in protecting our nation from the damage caused by climate change and repairing those things that become damaged. Certainly President Trump, using his bully pulpit, could help our nation confront the reality of climate change. The United States needs to cease being the only country in the world that is not a participant in the Paris climate change pact. Our nation should rejoin that treaty.
The path before us will have many bumps, but I trust the American people to do the right thing and to do it quickly and wisely.