by Clark Tate
If you’ve noticed milder winters, warmer waters, and a peak in sweltering summer days, you’re not alone. “Many, many people, hundreds of people, have told us that they have noticed during their lifetimes that Maine is getting warmer,” said Dr. Cassaundra Rose of the Governor’s Office for Policy and Innovation Innovation. to come up. “Climate change is already a reality for Maine.”
A newly formed Blue Hill Peninsula planning group is working on what to do about this. Members include Allen Kratz of Brooksville, Randy Curtis and Jeff Milliken of Blue Hill, Bailey Bowden of Penobscot and Jim Fisher of Deer Isle. The grassroots group hosted a Zoom meeting on June 4, attended by members of the public, community leaders and, most notably, Maine District 133 representative Sarah Pebworth. The stated aim was to “combine usable information and possibilities for action”.
The meeting started with some background information on the fire hose mode, with Dr Susie Arnold, Marine Scientist at the Island Institute, and Rose, Senior Science Analyst and Climate Control Coordinator, discussing the state of the climate science.
Temperatures and sea level rise
Air temperatures in Maine are 3.2 degrees higher than they were in 1895. They could rise an additional two to four degrees by 2050, and up to 10 by 2100, according to Maine Climate Council of Climate Change and Its Effects in Maine scientific assessment published. in 2020. The Council’s interactive climate dashboard shows ocean surface temperatures 3.8 degrees warmer than historical averages. In a worst-case emissions scenario, they could climb to 55 degrees by 2050, temperatures found today in southern New England, according to the Maine State Climate Office. CMIP5 model predictions, with data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
This is not good news for Maine’s fishing industry, valued at nearly $ 673 million in 2019 and $ 517 million in 2020, according to the Department of Marine Resources. Lobsters, which accounted for over 70% of those profits in 2019 and nearly 80% in 2020, moved north and into deeper waters offshore to escape the heat. Eventually, Arnold said, this will bring them to Canada, forcing the fishery to adapt. (Conversely, fish such as menhaden and black bass may become more abundant.) Acidity is also not good for shellfish, and the oceans are now 30% more acidic than historical records, most of it decline that has occurred over the past 70 years. years, according to the scientific assessment of the Climate Council.
The sea level rises. Storm surges and high tides will infiltrate further inland. No one knows how much it will get worse, but the Climate Council’s most likely projections range from an increase of 1.1 to 1.8 feet by 2050 and 3 to 4.6 feet by 2050. 2100. High Council estimates put sea level rise at 3 feet in the next 30 years and 8.8 feet in the next 80; its scientific assessment notes that annual precipitation in Maine has increased by more than 6 inches (largely due to the wet years from 2005 to 2014) and that severe storms are more frequent.
The costs of doing nothing are high, explained Rose, summarizing the findings of last year’s joint Eastern Research Group and state report. By 2050, the State GDP can fall by more than $ 118 million from forecasts of medium-term sea level rise alone, and hospital visits and heat-related emergencies on sweltering summer days could cost 2 to 3 million dollars per year. Then there are the lobsters that will walk slowly north, the seashells that will suffer, and the houses, roads, bridges and causeways that will be inundated.
Solutions look to emissions, resilience
After Arnold and Rose outlined the challenges Maine faces as a result of climate change, other speakers turned to solutions, including working to reduce emissions and build the resilience of infrastructure, natural systems, and landscapes. communities.
Joyce Taylor, chief engineer at the Maine Department of Transportation, led the conversation on reducing carbon emissions, as transportation accounts for 54% of the state’s emissions. According to Taylor, electric vehicles are the key to reducing them. “It’s unrealistic to think, in a rural state like Maine, that you’re really going to have a lot less vehicle miles,” she says. MDOT is also reorganizing the GO MAINE Carpooling program for a relaunch in 2022.
Resilience projects range from raising roads and bridges to widening culverts and creating living shorelines. They also include acquisition and demolition projects, where government funds buy dangerous properties, such as houses, and then demolish buildings to create open space.
Three presenters provided a wealth of information on the planning and financing of the project. Martha Sheils noted that donors like to support regional collaborations and large-scale climate resilience projects. She works for the New England Environmental Finance Center, which provides training and technical assistance to communities.
Nathan Robbins, Department of Environmental Protection, reviewed a long list of DEP grants and loans. He also said that building resilience is a cyclical process and shared a useful community action framework. Anne Fuchs, Maine Emergency Management Agency, spoke about Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (BRIC) financing. She said that BRIC the grants go to profitable projects that help a lot of people for a minimum amount of money. Fuchs sees this as a challenge in rural Maine.
In the discussion that followed the presentations, Arnold and Rose explained that the state is committed to managing sea level rise estimates of 1.5 feet by 2050 and 3.9 feet by 2100 and will consider preparing for the worst-case estimates of 3 feet by 2050 and 8.8 feet by 2100. It’s hard to say what this means in the real world.
When Taylor brought up a plan to raise a local 4-foot bridge, Blue Hill’s Scott Miller leaned into it. “The new bridges are 100 year old assets,” he said. “You know, we’re actually told to plan 9 feet over the next 80 years, but the state itself decided 4 feet was enough.” He respectfully asked for clarification, later saying: “What should cities get out of this in terms of their own infrastructure investments? “
Taylor, Rose and Arnold have confirmed that the plan is in line with state recommendations. Taylor then spoke about the complexity behind these decisions. Currently, MDOT removing the necessary infrastructure in Maine because they don’t have the funds to maintain it. They don’t want to spend the money to build a working bridge that might never get flooded. But, better information may be on the way.
“There’s a conversation with the state agency in two weeks about going out and getting a sea level rise flood model, and our goal would be to be able to share it with the cities, so we all speak the same language, ”Taylor said. , although she doesn’t know if they will be able to afford it.
Taylor is also concerned about whether communities will still be at the end of a road when the project is finished. “I could build a 9-foot road that doesn’t fit anyone,” she said. “Are people going to retreat?” “
“We were asked NOAA a few times to go to 8 feet, ”Taylor explained. In one case, the construction of such a high bridge would have destroyed six historic buildings. “You can’t have it all when you start talking about coping,” she said. “And I don’t think we’ve had enough of this conversation about tough tradeoffs.”
Discussion moderator Kendra Jo Grindle, Island Institute, responded: “I think today’s hope is to start some of these tough conversations for the Blue Hill Peninsula region and pursue them with a more collaborative regional group.
To view the presentations, visit tinyurl.com/BlueHillPenCC.