Maine can't ignore impact of rising seas

Gov. Paul LePage should re-examine his administration's decision to shelve climate-change planning, a decision that leaves Maine increasingly vulnerable to the sort of devastation recently visited upon New York and New Jersey.

The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting explored the issue in a story last week.

The climate change debate is complicated, and it is further complicated by special-interest politics.

But while we may debate the extent to which humans are causing global warming, some facts and trends are indisputable: the polar caps are melting and sea levels are rising. Meanwhile, our oceans are steadily warming.

This isn't some fuzzy-headed theory. The measurements have been made, the records kept and the results are in.

We can go on arguing about how much of this change is attributable to oil, coal, carbon dioxide and gas-guzzlers.

But if we put that debate in a separate sound-proof room, we are still left with the obvious truth when we look out the window: the water is warm and it is rising.

It is wrong to say that global warming caused Hurricane Sandy, the super storm that killed more than 100 people and caused billions of dollars worth of damage in the New York City region.

Hurricanes form for a variety of reasons and there is no evidence that we are seeing more of them than usual.

But hurricanes are energized by warmer water, producing higher winds and higher tidal surges.

And it only stands to reason that if the ocean is already six, eight or 10 inches higher than it used to be, those surges will carry more water further inland and do more damage than before.

The National Weather Service estimated that every inch of increase in the tidal surge would flood an additional 6,000 homes in the New York region. It's that predictable.

While Maine was spared the worst of Sandy's wrath, we can prudently conclude that our 3,500 miles of coastline and dozens of communities should be planning for the future.

That conclusion, in fact, was reached in 2010 when an initial climate-change report was delivered to the Legislature. 

According to the MPIRC story: "It was the work of 75 stakeholders, including Hannaford markets, the Maine Audubon Society, the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine and 13 state agencies."

In other words, a representative group spent two years studying the issue, concluded the threat was real and issued 60 recommendations on how Maine can best protect itself going forward.

One of the most sensible ideas was that the state give towns and cities the support they need to make accurate predictions and come up with practical solutions, like changing zoning codes or even moving vital services such as water and sewage treatment plants.

That work was not only halted when the LePage administration took office, but the initial report was even removed from the state's website.

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Patricia Aho explained why the original document is now unavailable: "We had to make a choice because we had thousands of documents and we needed to reduce our website."

That explanation has bogus written all over it. If computer storage space was so tight, the state could have asked any of a dozen organizations to host the report and linked to it from the state's site.

No, this was either a partisan signal that the LePage administration does not believe in a warming planet and rising sea levels, or it was done at the request of some out-of-state special-interest lobby.

We have found that the governor does not revisit his past decisions, even the bad ones.

So, it may fall to the incoming Legislature, made up, we hope, of sensible Republicans and Democrats, to revive this planning process.

That will be difficult without the cooperation of state agencies under the governor's control. Perhaps the University of Maine can be funded to carry out this important work.

But we cannot wait until hundreds of homes are off their foundations, thousands of basements full of water, and hundreds of thousands of residents left for weeks without electricity.

As the Republican mayor of New City, Michael Bloomberg, recently concluded: climate change is real and too important to ignore.

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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Amedeo Lauria's picture

I always discuss the idea and positions and not the person....

the tactic of the left continues to be one of personal attacks, it's ok because I'm a big boy and can handle it.

I know a lot of good people who stay out of the political arena because they do not like the name calling. The left continues to demonize fine Americans who happen to approach solutions to problems in a different manner. The new left on the other hand continues to hand us the same failed policies repackaged. It is certainly no longer the party of "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." That has been subverted down to pay your myriad of taxes and shut up, don't worry about how we're spending it!

Having served 30 years in the military and 10 years teaching, I have pretty thick skin and will continue to speak out regardless.

Zack Lenhert's picture

...sounds like all the

...sounds like all the problems of the world are cause by "the left" in your world.

" first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."

Amedeo Lauria's picture


Mark and Robert your comments are spot on.

I lived in California where people build homes on cliffs jutting out of the ocean...only to watch them fall in after a couple of years and collect a huge insurance settlement (which of course drives up the cost of insurance for others).

Also, every October in San Diego the entire back country bursts into flames year after year...and yet they continue to build there, even though it was originally a desert; so what can you expect.

I will gladly reverse the rising of the oceans if the government writes me a check for one trillion dollars. Trust me, I'm not like the others. (I will, of course, do some busy work, conduct "scientific" studies, hold large catered meetings, hire overpriced consultants who will agree to anything I ask them to...then declare bankrupcy after a year of operation and walk away a billionaire with several of my hand-picked friends and associates)

There are suckers born every minute; and some people depend on them to make a living. Taxpayers should be tired of failling victim to environmental ponzi schemes and stop wasting tax money to protect people from themselves and their bad decisions.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Sr. Lauria 12.11.18 16:04

Sr. Lauria 12.11.18 16:04 HST ?
California , huh ? b t w - No taxes in NH or AZ ? You get what you pay for, no more no less . i imagine people in your neck of the woods like having their roads plowed
In action is a choice . We are the victims of our choices . No one is going to write you a check for US$1,000,000,000,000 , Amedeo , so quit dreaming and don't wait with baited breathe at your post office box for that letter from Ed McMahon
Can't win if you don't play , right ?
The colors were beautiful in Maine this past fall and i found everyone - without exception - not to be nearly as cynical , bitter and sarcastic as you continue to be . At least you are consistent
Our President carried the State of ME 60 % - 40 % ( this one - HI - too , not to mention CA ) and is continuing his historic tenure without any histrionics . .l o l . He lets VP Joe Biden ( the Deleware Destroyer ?:) do all that . Biden ripped Ryan to pieces. Lightweight , like Palin , the entitlement Queen in AK
Barack Hussein is the straight man of the duo . That's what we like about the guy . He consistentily gives off more light than heat • Immigration next and no , don't close the barn door after you've come in . We're all descendants of immigrants
/s Steve

FRANK EARLEY's picture

How much you mant to bet?????

How much you want to bet, Paul LePage won't lift a finger for this either. He wouldn't want to be falsely accused of doing something....

Robert McQueeney's picture

How much?

How much? 3500 miles of coast line? Exactly what is anybody proposing we do to stop whatever damage the seas will do? There are building codes in effect that make construction very difficult within 75 feet of the high tide line. This applies, not only to homes, but anything, including seawalls. Not impossible, but difficult.

How much? How much money does anyone advocate we spend to study this problem? There are over 3500 miles of coast in Maine. How much would it cost just to study the problem. Never mind studying what the cost to ...protect... each mile of coast would be.

How much? How much would it cost to actually implement any protection for each mile of coast protected?

How much? How much would it cost to solve the root problem involved here and lower the rising sea?

I'm not saying this is a bad thing to do, or that we shouldn't. I'm just saying that we ought to consider the staggeringly high numbers involved here, and how, pick any number, no matter how large, and consider. Would even that amount of money have any effect on the issue at hand?

This problem will not be solved by throwing money at it, or by anything that Maine has the present ability to do about it. Suppose Maine were dedicate, say, a million dollars to this issue, taken right out of the tax coffers. What would be the net result of this expenditure? Would we even walk away with a better understanding of the problem?

Aren't there more pressing matters that money could be applied to? That would have tangible results that could count on?

Again, I'm not saying this is a bad thing. But let's put it in perspective. The sheer enormity of the cost to do such things, with the end result being a whole lot of not much. Maine needs to be smart about where the tax dollars are spent, more so now in these tough economic times, but also, at all times.

Zack Lenhert's picture

Let's ask New York and New

Let's ask New York and New Jersey how much it's costing for clean-up of poor planning and zoning....


The biggest public relations

The biggest public relations scam that the world has ever seen.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

“But we cannot wait until

“But we cannot wait until hundreds of homes are off their foundations, thousands of basements full of water”

Why not?

What is the alternative?

Condemn these homes through eminent domain?

People want to live in coastal regions. They should be allowed to at their own risk. Cost of repeatedly rebuilding infrastructure due to natural disasters should be bore by them, and them alone – pay to play.

The same goes for people who live on a Volcanic island.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Mark et al ? 12.11.18

Mark et al ? 12.11.18 15:15 HST
If you ( and others ) don't get it . . you don't get it and probably never will . There's no thing we or the LSJ ® can say to peopel with minds like steel traps ; rusted and permanently closed
Everyone else ? Go tromp around on your western slopes and experience the deleterious effects of acid rain from the coal powered power plants in the mid west . Yeah . all those dead trees and sterile ponds in the mountains, too . It's the air our great grandchildren will try to breathe and the ozone hole that causes Australia to have the highest skin cancer rates in the known universe . What's worst is that Communist China ( the Reds , like Cuba and North Korea ) brings a new , soft ( brown ) coal powered plant on line every two weeks . No, not hard black coal. Peat moss . Put that in your pipe and smoke it
Things like that
To all other naysayers , it's as if your Governor is right and 10,000 N A S A and European scientists are wrong i didn't vote for the guy . You're right Frank . He'll do no thing
Denial . A river in Egypt ?
h t h /s Steve , 7 miles from the volcano and 1/2 mile from the geothermal power plant :)

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Since you are addressing my

Since you are addressing my comment, I must say you are a but off topic. My comment addressed the question what do we (Maine) do to prepare people in coastal regions for raising sea levels. My response is do nothing since we don't know where, if, and when inland flooding will occur. To that, I added that property owners in high risk areas need to bare the cost to rebuild or cleanup after a natural disaster occurs.

JOANNE MOORE's picture

Flood maps.......

I have seen the flood maps for my area that show where flooding will occur based on elevation. The internet, it's a wonderful thing.

MARK GRAVEL's picture

Got the URL for the readers?

Got the URL for the readers?

JOANNE MOORE's picture

Google it.

There are many sites to choose from. I like this one:

And it's bear the costs, not bare the costs.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Maine can't ignore impact of rising seas

Wow , Saturday night
Thanks for coming out on all this . Ignorance surely is not bliss
/s . the rest of us

MARK GRAVEL's picture

God bless diversity of

God bless diversity of thought.


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