Sen. King joins anglers casting vote for climate controls

U.S. SEN. ANGUS KING (I-District 1) holds a card that shows climate change data. On Thursday, King made a stop in Naples, supporting local environmental groups and area fishermen in their quest for federal legislation to slow climate change. (De Busk Photo)

U.S. SEN. ANGUS KING (I-District 1) holds a card that shows climate change data. On Thursday, King made a stop in Naples, supporting local environmental groups and area fishermen in their quest for federal legislation to slow climate change. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — This winter might not be the best example of global warming — with lower than normal monthly temperatures, belated ice-outs, and snow flurries landing atop unmelted snowbanks in early April.

This winter is the exception to the documented trend, according to scientist David Hart.

More than 100 years of ice-out dates on Maine lakes stand as a testament that climate change is a reality, Hart said.

“Between the late 1800s and late 1900s, the ice-out dates have moved forward earlier in the year by about a month,” he said.

Additionally, years-long data reveals that Maine’s average air temperatures are rising, Hart said. Plus, other research illustrates an increase in extreme flooding, especially at Maine’s coast where the sea level has risen a half foot in the last decade, he said.

Hart likened the activities that continue to release CO2 into the earth’s atmosphere to a person driving a vehicle “with pedal to the metal” and no concern for the upcoming conditions.

Hart, a biology professor and director of the University of Maine’s George Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions. was one of the guests during a panel discussion on climate change.

Other speakers included the Sebago Chapter of Trout Unlimited President David Miller, Loon Echo Land Trust (LELT) board member Connie Cross, and Taryn Hallweaver, the director of Environment Maine, the advocacy group which hosted the forum.

Maine’s U.S. Senator Angus King (I-District 1) joined the panel — making a brief stop in Naples and showing his support for the region’s fishermen, winter sports enthusiasts and environmental groups.

The forum discussion, which was held at the Naples Town Hall on Thursday, was called “Fishing on Thin Ice.”

Sen. King, like Hart, cited scientific evidence as the proof that global warming, also known as climate change, was not an exaggeration. In fact, the senator carries a card called, Climate Change in a Nutshell. It shows graphs of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) levels in the air compared to average temperatures. Those reading are rising simultaneously, he said.

Spikes in the atmospheric CO2 levels are now happening in a matter of decades, instead of centuries, King said.

“Now, we are off the scale in terms of CO2 in the atmosphere,” he said.

Many Mainers have expressed their concerns about global warming and even made changes in their individual lifestyles. But, in order to be effective, the shifts in CO2-producing activities will have to go nationwide, the senator said.

“We could shut off every vehicle in Maine, and we would still get carbon emissions from cars in Ohio,” he said.

The current federal legislation designed to accomplish this, the Clean Power Act, faces an uphill battle, he said.

“The first clean air act passed the U.S. Senate unanimously,” Sen. King said, adding. “Can you imagine anything passing the Senate unanimously now?”

“For the life of me, I cannot figure out how this became a partisan issue,” he said.

“This is science. We don’t debate in Washington, D.C., that light goes 186,000 miles a second. You know, there’s not a Republican or a Democratic position on the boiling temperature of water. This is science,” he said.

The solution is further complicated because it is not just an issue from state to state or a national problem, he said.

“America can’t solve it alone. It is a worldwide problem. It has to be a global effort,” King said.

King pointed to promising movement in that direction.

In November 2014, President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping put their pen and promise to a climate control accord designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“That was a big deal. It was the first time China acknowledged there was climate change,” King said.

Signing the accord showed that leaders from different countries are willing to address the global warming issue at its source, and try to bring about change before another decade ends, he said.

During Thursday’s forum, King announced that Iran was prepared to sign a nuclear arms reduction deal — a sign that global agreement in the right direction is possible.

King’s message — taking actions from the grassroots community into the worldwide political arena mirrored the ideas expressed by Hallweaver, the director of Environment Maine.

Hallweaver wholly supported the movement of individuals making conscious efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. She encouraged people to become politically involved on the state and federal level.

Hallweaver said that she believes in the creativity and entrepreneurship of Mainers, and that the state “is very well-positioned” to lead the charge because of its “participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative” (RGGI) since 2009.

“We urge Maine’s federal delegation to fully support the Clean Power Plan, the biggest step the U.S. has ever taken to limit global warming pollution,” she said, thanking Sen. King for his support of the legislation.

During the afternoon, some of the discussion panelists attested to the changes in the environment, impacting fish habitats and fish mortality rates and the weather.

“Maine is the last stronghold for brook trout in the United States,” said Miller, president of Trout Unlimited’s Sebago Chapter.

“The brook trout is a gorgeous fish. Wild brook trout is a treasure. And, the brook trout is a canary in the coal mine,” he said.

Keeping that species alive in area lakes and rivers “will do a lot for fishing” for residents and tourists alike, he said.

“The brook trout is under threat. Not just counting climate change,” he said.

Other culprits include manmade and natural interruptions in the streams and the introduction of invasive species that compete for food or spread disease.

“Climate change is adding insult to injury,” he said, predicting with warming water temperatures, the brook trout “just won’t make it here.”

Miller advocated for dam removal, culvert replacements, and backing policy that mitigates climate change at the rate it is occurring.

“We need to get to the root problem. That is the emission of greenhouse gases,” he said.

Casco resident Connie Cross, LELT founder, described the disappointment that smelt populations had decreased during the past few decades. Although the company of friends was still great, the catch was not. On previous trips to Bend River, everyone walked away with 70 fish apiece. In 2014, one fish was all the four friends caught between them, she said.

“I am neither a scientist nor a fisherman. What I am is an observer,” Cross told the audience before describing changes over the past 40 years.

She talked about the frequency of having to remove ice shacks because lake ice has been melting sooner than when she moved to the area in the 1970s. Increased rainfall has caused her road to wash out almost every summer now, she said. Some ponds — once clear — have experienced “explosive growths of algae,” she said. Recently, Cross read that there could be a connection between smaller smelt runs and warmer temperatures on the river.

“I really want to pass my Maine on to my grandchildren. I am increasingly fearful that my Maine is not the Maine they are going to get,” Cross said.

To view the climate change card that Sen. King carries on his person, go to www.king.senat.gov/download/climate-card

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