2015-12-18 / Letters

Let’s protect Kennebunk from climate change

To the editor:

It is a time to celebrate the actions of our board of selectmen. As reported in the Post last week, selectmen voted 4-3 to affirm the importance to Kennebunk of decisions and actions made in the international Paris climate change negotiations known as COP21.

Bravo for sending a letter to President Barack Obama encouraging the United States negotiators to help achieve agreement to reduce and eliminate carbon pollution which is driving global warming and climate change. Regardless of the outcome, we will suffer serious negative impacts in Kennebunk, and these impacts will become catastrophic without a global agreement and local and international action now and for years to come.

In another great move, it was reported that Kennebunk selectmen recently re-upped their commitment to implement the U. S. Conference of Mayor’s “Climate Protection Agreement, 2014.” This establishes a clear priority for Kennebunk to invest now to protect our local infrastructure from the negative effects of climate change. The policy also commits us to develop a climate protection plan and to take local steps promoting energy efficiency, energy independence, renewable energy, alternative transportation, and education of the public, especially our youth, about climate change. Let’s get going.

But wait, have we actually jumped on the climate bandwagon and is there a growing divide over climate, as reported in these pages? After 40 years of debate according to our very own NASA, “Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities. In addition, 71 percent of the public (according to Yale University), the University of Maine, the World Bank, and even EXXON/Mobil all acknowledge that climate change is real. As even a quick reading of the United Nations IPCC 2014 report makes clear, the scientific data on climate is now quite clear, substantial and overwhelming. The U.S. Republican Party is the only major party on Earth that disputes the basic facts of climate change and its existential threat to people and life as we know it. We have not jumped in haste, nor can this be called a bandwagon.

There is a clear and present danger right here in Kennebunk. We are past the mights and maybes when it comes to the basic facts. Even if carbon pollution were halted today, climate change would impact Maine and Kennebunk in major ways. While the details of each of the impacts, its probability, timing and magnitude is still a work in progress, the basic outlines are clear. Carbon pollution is up and rising, global average temperatures are consistently rising, ice caps are melting (just take a look), sea levels are rising, and many species are losing their life supporting ecosystems (including humans).

Unchecked, climate change will cause up to a 200-foot sea level rise, with a 1-3-foot rise very likely in the next 30 years. There is enough uncertainty about timing that we could even face a 20-foot (or greater) rise sometime this century. Imagine oceanfront property on Main Street, whose elevation is about 19 feet above high tide, according to my Android app. The ocean temperatures are already impacting our fishing industry and Gulf of Maine ecosystem. Just ask Professor Ivan J. Fernandez, University of Maine, School of Forest Resources and Climate Change Institute (ivanjf@maine.edu), who will be telling local towns how to mitigate climate change at a presentation at the University of Southern Maine’s planetarium on Thursday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. Let’s go.

It is time for all of us, our town leaders, and our newspapers to do our own homework and take appropriate local action to stop denying and contributing to climate change, and start planning to mitigate the worst effects here at home. First assignment – check out “Inside Climate Change” a Pulitzer Prize winning nonprofit, nonpartisan, news organization dedicated to covering climate change, energy and the environment.

Let’s all keep talking about the issues. I am sure we can all learn from the dialog. Then, we can take action in a united and smart/lowest cost way to protect our community and be a part of the national and international fight against climate change.

The good news; If almost 200 nations can agree in Paris, we can get there from here.

Jay Kilbourn

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