I was born and raised in Millinocket, so I am deeply committed to the future of Maine and the Katahdin region. That’s why I returned to my hometown to live and work after graduating from the University of Maine.
I’m an optimist, but like many Mainers of my generation, I also worry about the future. What will Maine look like in three decades, when I’m in my 50s? How will the changing climate affect Maine’s forests, waters, wildlife and communities such as Millinocket that depend on these resources?
The science is clear. Climate change is here and getting worse. July was the hottest month ever recorded, Maine is one of the fastest warming states in the nation, and the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99 percent of the world’s oceans.
The stakes for Maine also are clear. Declining snowpack could drastically impact our snowmobiling culture and economy. Changes in the composition of our forests could harm the forest products industry. Our state’s prized brook trout could vanish if Maine’s waters keep warming, and our lobstering and commercial fishing sectors could collapse as the blanket of pollution engulfing the planet thickens from fossil fuel pollution.
My hope is that by 2050, the nation will have completed an economy-wide transition to clean energy, creating new jobs that can’t be exported. This transition is necessary to preserve the character of Maine and avert the worst impacts of climate change.
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy set the goal of reaching the moon within the decade. That bold goal was reached 50 years ago this summer. Today, we need a similarly ambitious goal of achieving a 100 percent clean energy economy within three decades.
Mainers spend $5 billion annually on oil and gas to heat our homes and fuel our vehicles and machines. We should do everything possible to keep that money here in Maine, to create jobs in the clean energy sector, reduce energy costs and curb our dependence on fuel sources from afar.
The Maine Legislature this year took several important steps toward a clean energy economy, passing laws that require 80 percent of the electricity sold in Maine by 2030 comes from renewable energy sources, with a goal of 100 percent by 2050, and requiring an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. These bills received strong bipartisan support. Now we need Congress to act.
Maine is on track to do its part in the effort to stop adding climate pollution by 2050, but this is a global problem. This is a “moon shot” challenge for the entire planet. The private sector, elected officials at all levels, and communities worldwide need to be involved.
We can do this. The generation before me didn’t grow up with iPhones, but today we each have more computing power in our pockets than the Apollo program had in Houston. Similarly, Mainers born today likely will drive most of their lives in electric cars and trucks powered by electricity from renewable energy sources.
The cost of solar energy has dropped more than 70 percent over the past decade, and Maine is on the cusp of a rapid expansion of solar energy development that will improve our energy security.
Maine’s congressional delegation can help speed our transition to a 100 percent clean energy economy. Although partisan politics have caused gridlock in our nation’s capital, our congressional delegation should urge their colleagues to look to Maine. We Mainers understand that climate change threatens the way life should be. We’ve enacted ambitious goals for 2050, and we’re starting the journey. But we also need national action, and we need it soon.
Cody McEwen is the chair of the Millinocket town council.