Maine: 'The Maple Tree State'?
Back around Christmas this paper published a column by investment counselor, birdwatcher and Maine Heritage Policy Center activist Lawrence E. Dwight Jr. (a.k.a. "J.Dwight") entitled "The biggest con job in the history of man." Dwight tried to make the case that climate change is just a natural phenomenon, one that liberal environmentalists have seized upon as a power base and fundraiser.
"All the talk about the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is irrelevant against the context of macro-environmental effects over which humans have no control," Dwight wrote. "These include solar activity and ocean currents, as stated in a report from the Heartland Institute titled: ‘Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate.'
"The earth has gone through warming and cooling cycles for the last 5 million years."
I must admit I was a little embarrassed to see such flat-earth thinking in The Forecaster, but I figured intelligent readers would know that the Heartland Institute is a front for oil companies trying to debunk climate change and that the Maine Heritage Policy Center is a conservative think tank with an agenda all its own. And, hey, differences of opinion make the world go round. I think we can agree that the world is round, right?
So I forgot about "The biggest con job in the history of man" until last week when I went online to read the 72-page report on "Maine's Climate Change" prepared at the behest of Gov. Baldacci by scientists and researchers at the University of Maine's Climate Change Institute. I'm guessing that J & The Deniers would take exception to the prevailing scientific consensus, as expressed in the report (check it out at climatechange.umaine.edu), that "the influence of increased fossil fuel burning and other practices that release pollutants into the atmosphere rapidly accelerated during the 20th century, and is revealed in paleoclimatic records and direct measurements of atmospheric chemicals."
"Maine's Climate Change" is not a radical, alarmist document. It is a very measured, middle-of-the-road assessment of what Maine can expect from climate change in the 21st century, namely to become warmer and wetter – about five to 10 degrees warmer and 10 to 15 percent wetter. It doesn't even really call (as I might wish it had) for urgent conservation measures. Rather it speculates about what climate change might mean for Maine and how the state might adapt to it.
Assessing the implications for flora and fauna, for instance, the report notes that, "we may have fewer spruce, loons, chickadees, halibut, and moose; and more oaks, bobcat, summer flounder, and deer." More deer may also mean more deer ticks and, ergo, more Lyme disease. The report also foresees "balsam fir and spruce give way to red maples and other hardwoods."
Maine, The Maple Tree State?
Expect some sea-level rise, less snow for skiing and snowmobiling, shorter winters, earlier ice-out on the lakes – nothing truly catastrophic. The report even gives mixed messages on lobstering. Warmer coastal waters may already be contributing to better breeding conditions for juvenile lobsters, but then they may also start attracting more predatory fish from southern waters.
In general, what "Maine's Climate Change" projects is a gradual shifting of climate zones north such that New England essentially becomes a Mid-Atlantic region. This time of year, the prospect of Maine turning into Virginia certainly has its appeal. So there may be something to be said for global warming after all. Maybe the Maine Heritage Policy Center should stop denying it and start promoting it.
The Universal Notebook is Edgar Allen Beem's weekly personal look at the world around him.