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Maine should take the lead

December 6, 2019

This piece represents the opinion of the author.

It is time for the state of Maine to be a leader.

Individual towns throughout the state of Maine—Portland, South Portland, Bar Harbor and, most recently, Brunswick—are already setting an example. Each has recently passed a resolution declaring a climate emergency, putting them in the company of cities such as San Francisco and New York City.

At the urging of student activists—many of them students—throughout the state, these town councils and communities have made a powerful statement. We call on the Maine State Legislature to follow suit.

It is time for Maine to declare a climate emergency.

Maine would be the first state to do so—a fitting move, since it is especially vulnerable to the repercussions of continued inaction and increasing global warming. The Gulf of Maine is warming more rapidly than 99 percent of the world’s oceans, which could lead to the collapse of our iconic lobster industry. In addition, seasonal flooding will endanger vulnerable coastal communities, and farmers will see decreased agricultural productivity and increased unpredictability. In short, our state and the people in it will suffer.

Governor Janet Mills has already taken action against climate change. She’s committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and by 80 percent by 2050. She has also committed to ensuring that Maine is carbon neutral by 2050. These actions signal that the state has begun to recognize the severity of the problems that it, this nation and the world face. It seems like a natural next step to recognize climate change for what it is: an emergency.

Declaring a climate emergency delivers a mandate for further policy action, regulation and education. It also calls for a commitment to fund these initiatives. It mobilizes communities around the common and increasingly daunting threat of a planet transformed by greenhouse gas emissions.

This is not an empty gesture. In a nation where it seems impossible to even agree that climate change is occurring, we lose vital, nonrenewable time in debating the facts.

Maine must be on the side of scientific consensus, particularly given how much it stands to lose in the coming years. Declaring a climate emergency unequivocally places Maine on the only side that offers any hope for a better future.

We are grateful for the actions of Bowdoin students who are working for climate justice, including the members and leaders of Bowdoin Climate Action. They have done and continue to do all that they can to further this cause. Now, it is up to our elected leaders to hear the fear and urgency in young people’s voices and enact legislation that will respond to the needs of our planet and our communities.

In the face of this coming crisis, it is no longer enough to follow. It is time for Maine to lead.

This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is composed of Emily Cohen, Brianna Cunliffe, Roither Gonzales, Alyce McFadden, Nina McKay and Reuben Schafir.

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