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Panelists address climate change in Maine

October 4, 2019

Isabel Alexander
SAVING THE CLIMATE Michael Jones associate professor of economics emeritus of the College and member of Citizens' Climate Lobby speaks in Brunswick panel about implementing a carbon tax.

This Thursday the Brunswick chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) hosted a panel entitled “Solving the Climate Crisis” at Curtis Memorial Library. The discussion focused on the ways Maine residents—farmers, fishermen and coastal homeowners alike—will be affected by climate change and the details of the CCL’s proposed policy solution.

CCL is a lobbying nonprofit group that sends advocates to Washington, D.C., every year to speak to members of Congress about its bill.

According to panelist Michael Jones, associate professor of economics emeritus of the college, the CCL’s goal is to incentivize people and companies to make decisions that reduce their carbon emissions, rather than waiting for individuals to change their own behavior. As such, the organization’s preferred bill places a fee on each ton of carbon dioxide emitted. The revenue from the tax will be reallocated evenly among American citizens, making it a progressive tax rather than a regressive one.

“Yes, there will be a cost, but the cost we will incur will be as small as possible,” Jones said. He noted that the carbon tax should only be an initial step, among a host of policy changes necessary to mitigate climate change.

Kathyrn Olson, who is completing a dissertation at Boston College which focuses on the ways Maine farmers, fishermen and foresters have been affected by a changing climate, was also a panelist. Olson’s interviews with 15 workers from each industry reveal an increasing awareness of the damaging effects of climate change.

In Maine, this manifests itself in milder winters, worsening and more frequent storms and larger pest populations.

The effects can be subtle, but even small changes in weather patterns can dramatically disrupt ecological systems, often leading to financial losses for farmers, fishermen and foresters.

“Financially, it’s become challenging,” said one farmer interviewed by Olson. To some farmers she talked to, the threat of leaving a job integral to one’s identity means a tragic loss of dignity in addition to the loss of a livelihood.

Dodie Jones, co-leader of Brunswick’s chapter of the CCL, explained she wants to bring new perspectives to citizens on the issues of climate change and potential solutions to the crisis. She said part of CCL’s responsibility is to put climate change at the forefront of conversations between community members and to educate constituents. Dodie Jones noted that the CCL’s work is made easier when constituents send letters of support and call politicians.

“Every year we get more offices that are willing to talk to us, and they all appreciate our style,” Dodie Jones said. “We always start out with appreciation of something they’ve done, and then we go from there trying to find common ground.”

“We are obsessively non-partisan,” Jones added. “There may be a value in climate strikes and protests, but if we want to achieve something, we have to be smart politically.”

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