“After the final no there comes a yes and on that yes the future of the world hangs” ~Wallace Stevens
Local Impacts of Climate Change
The climate has changed in Maine but people and governments around the world and here in Maine are embracing solutions and reducing their carbon footprints. As we work for more clean energy, more efficiency and more effective laws to slow and eventually arrest these changes, please use this local-impacts information sheet to discuss this urgent issue with legislators.
What follows is a 2015 document from The Climate Reality Project titled, “What does climate change mean for Maine?,” that lists some of local impacts of climate change.
Temperatures in the Northeast have risen by 2° F and rainfall increased by nearly five inches between 1895 and 2011. From 2000 to 2009, Maine saw the average number of extremely hot summer days a year increase by 9.1 to 13.8 days more than expected. All three of the state’s climate zones have warmed over the last 30 years and resulted in a shift of horticultural plant hardiness zones by one zone to the north.
By late century, average temperatures in Maine may increase by 10 to 13° F in winter and 7 to 13° F in summer, and summer days exceeding 90° F are also expected to increase.
Heavy downpours increased over much of the East Coast from 1958—2010, with the highest increases (74 percent) in the Northeastern U.S.
From 1950 to 2007, Maine’s three climate divisions or zones (northern, southern interior, and coastal) experienced wetter than average conditions. Between 2000 and 2011, the state was declared a disaster area 15 times due to severe storms and flooding. In 2011, Maine broke 14 heat records, 13 rainfall records, and nine snowfall records.
Summers may start earlier and droughts may become more frequent; winters and springs will likely be milder and shorter and see less precipitation falling as snow and more as rain.
By mid-century, about six percent of the state’s counties are expected to experience water shortages due to increased droughts. Rainfall across the state is expected to increase 20 to 30 percent by late century, leading to increased flooding and erosion. Shoreline erosion will be exacerbated by sea levels rising up to three feet this century and inundating low-lying coastal areas.
Wildlife migrations are expected to increase as species with habitats in the northern and southern climate fringes adjust. Species that are already endangered, such as Atlantic salmon, will be particularly stressed by Maine’s changing climate due to their dependency on cold, fresh water.
Sea Level Rise
Sea-level rise along parts of the East Coast may exceed the global average—projected to range from one to four feet by 2100—by four inches.
What is Maine Doing About It?
The Maine Climate Action Plan 2004 established incremental goals: reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2010, 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and up to 80 percent below 2003 levels beyond 2020.
Maine is a member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)—a 10-state cap-and-trade system requiring power plants over 25 megawatts (MW) to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions or to buy allowances from other plants. By 2020, RGGI is projected to reduce the Northeast’s annual power sector carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 45 percent, or up to 90 million tons of CO2, from 2005 levels.
Maine is one of 29 states that have a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) policy mandating that a certain percentage of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources. Maine’s RPS is 40 percent by 2017.
The state government of Maine purchases 100 percent of its power from renewable sources and legislation in 2009 requires all state-owned buildings to use renewables energy.
Maine has an installed wind energy goal of at least 2,000 MW by 2015; at least 3,000 MW by 2020, with 300 MW to be generated offshore; and at least 8,000 MW by 2030, with 5,000 MW offshore. As of April 2014, Maine had 431 MW of wind power from more than 220 turbines, which provided over seven percent of the total electricity capacity in the state.
The Good News……!
If Maine and the rest of the world take action and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions dramatically, through the promotion of clean energy, many of the worst impacts will be avoided. Clean energy and efficiency retrofits needed to address this crisis create jobs that cannot be outsourced, benefitting us all.