Addressing Climate Change to Protect Maine’s Economy

Sat, 02/06/2021 - 11:30pm

The challenges of a warming climate is real for Maine’s economy. From tourism to the fishing industry, we must find ways to promote sustainability and help address the effects of climate change.  Congress must work together and implement practical, market-driven solutions to address these issues.

Thankfully, Maine has leaders like Senator Susan Collins fighting for commonsense climate solutions.

As a former public servant, I applaud her effort to work across party lines in order to help pass the Energy Act of 2020. A legislative package comprising dozens of bipartisan energy solutions and initiatives, the Energy Act will help the United States address climate change while creating well-paying, 21st century jobs and powering a stronger economic recovery from Maine to California. Just like any piece of legislation coming out of Congress there is something for everyone to not like in the package, but fortunately there is much to love about this new law as well.

The Energy Act of 2020 invests some $35 billion dollars in developing America’s bountiful renewable energy resources, advancing critical clean energy technologies like next-generation energy storage—which Senator Collins helped champion—and reducing carbon emissions. All of this adds up to a healthier environment and economy, particularly for states that feel the impact of climate change more acutely, including Maine.

As I alluded to earlier, two of Maine’s largest economic sectors—tourism and fishing—are particularly susceptible to changes in climate. Research from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that, over the last two decades, the Gulf of Maine has warmed faster than 99 percent of global ocean waters. Right now, that warming has benefited Maine’s lobster industry in a major way.

Maine lobster is not just a revered symbol or icon for our state—it is a pillar of our economy. The industry built up around this delicacy employs thousands of Mainers and contributes more than $1 billion to our economy annually. When people think of Maine, they think lobster—and rightfully so.

Maine’s lobster industry has seen a massive influx of lobsters migrating from warming waters off the coast of New York and southern New England states. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released findings that showed lobster landings in New York dropping by nearly 98 percent, 97 percent in Connecticut, and 70 percent in Rhode Island.

The 220 percent increase in lobster landings off our coast only bolstered Maine’s reputation of having a constant and dependable supply of our most tasty export. In other words, lobsters have moved north to our colder waters and our economy has benefited from that.

Now is the time to learn from history and embrace sustainable practices in the lobster industry and climate smart solutions that will stabilize temperatures in the Gulf of Maine. Thankfully, the industry has embraced sustainability practices that will ensure the lobster population is healthy and thriving for years to come. They also take great steps to ensure that the environment in the Gulf of Maine is protected not only for the lobster population but for all who work and play in our waters. The Climate Act of 2020 is something we can do together in a bipartisan way to start stabilizing the temperature in our waters and continue the preservation of Maine’s lobstering tradition.

For all these reasons, I am grateful to Senator Collins for her leadership on climate issues and hopeful that she will continue to work with her colleagues to advance climate-smart, economically sound solutions that will safeguard both our environment and our economy for generations to come. 

Abden Simmons lives in Waldoboro