On Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022, the American Security Project (ASP), the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) and the University of Maine’s School of Policy and International Affairs collaborated to host a public panel discussion in the Buchanan Alumni House. This hour-long talk, “Consistent and Compelling: Maine’s Model for Mitigating Climate Change” addressed the current efforts underway in the state of Maine to combat the looming consequences of climate change, as well as the national security concerns that an increasing number of climate-related disasters present.
Panelists included Capt. James Settele, USN (Ret.), the executive director of Graduate School of Policy and International Affairs at UMaine. He is joined by Rear Adm. Jamie Barnett, USN (Ret.), representing the APS Consensus for American Security; Hannah Pingree, the director of Governor Mills’ Office of Policy Innovation and the Future and Jessica Olcott Yllemo, a senior fellow for Climate Security on the American Security Project. These panelists shared extensive knowledge of climate efforts within the state of Maine and nationally, along with some positive steps to take as an increasingly climate-conscious society moving forward.
The Maine Climate Council has a four year climate action plan titled “Maine Won’t Wait.” The one-year progress report on the action plan revealed that 45% of Maine’s grid now uses renewable energy. Pingree also noted that the primary goal of the council’s plan is to reduce the state’s emissions, which can be achieved through measures such as electrifying Maine’s transportation and heating systems, both of which require the implementation of clean energy. Solar and on-shore wind are the current leading producers of renewable energy in the state.
Pingree explained how the recent passing of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) has three elements that are particularly important for Maine moving forward. These relevant aspects include investing in the innovation of clean energy, lowering the costs of solar and energy-efficient technology as well as offering tax credits on solar energy, wind energy and transmissions. Moves toward cutting energy efficiency costs and providing tax credits are a step in the right direction toward Maine’s goal to aid its people, especially those in the low to moderate income range.
Settele stated that the well-being of all people is in part due to whether or not they are energy independent, which also reduces the demand for oil. It is crucially important that the state of Maine can reduce its own oil demand.
“We are the most heating oil-dependent state in the country. We are by far an outlier. We have 60% of our families relying on heating oil to heat their homes. The national average is 4%,” Pingree said.
Yllemo highlighted Maine Senator Angus King when discussing the significant actions the Department of Defense (DOD) has taken in paving the way for climate action in the United States. Senator King is specifically credited as a co-sponsor of the in-progress Military Fleet Electrification Act, which requires 75% of non-tactical vehicles purchased by the DOD to be zero-emissions automobiles.
“The Department of Defense, believe it or not, has been on the leading edge of climate change research and development,” Settele said. The IRA legislation looks to follow the DOD in its mobilization of climate change impact.
The average Mainer may wonder what they can do to help the state meet its current goal of mitigating climate change. The panelists provided some noteworthy advice for those who wish to join the fight and make a positive long-term impact on the environment. The importance of leading by example was reiterated many times by all panel members, but what does this really look like?
The recommended first step is to get out and vote for those who support climate change efforts and environmentally friendly legislation.
Other practical steps could include switching to heat pumps and adopting energy-efficient methods within individual households. Although effective climate change efforts will take a lot of time, effort and money, the panelists expressed their excitement for the future. Federal and state governments are recognizing the problem that continued climate change presents and are beginning to take the necessary measures to limit future consequences.
For more information on the National Resources Council of Maine and how to get involved in conserving Maine’s environment today, visit nrcm.org.