How to Tackle Climate Change

How Mainers can best approach the most imposing challenges to come.

Kate Dempsey, State director, The Nature Conservancy in Maine
Kate Dempsey, State director, The Nature Conservancy in Maine
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From its vast forests to its highlands to its iconic coastline, Maine has a wealth of natural resources. For 65 years, The Nature Conservancy in Maine has played a critical role in conserving those resources, helping protect 1.7 million acres and stewarding 75 nature preserves around the state. With the support of thousands of Mainers, TNC works to keep Maine’s rivers, lakes, and streams clean and flowing, its forests connected and resilient, and the Gulf of Maine healthy and abundant.

This conservation work also has an important side benefit: it has helped prepare the state to face the effects of a changing climate. “Conservation is one of our most important and powerful tools in the struggle against climate change,” TNC’s state director Kate Dempsey says. We asked how Mainers can best approach the most imposing challenges to come.

How is climate change affecting Maine?

We already see a wide range of effects on our landscape, our health, and our economy. The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99 percent of the world’s oceans, affecting lobster and fish populations and the people who depend on them. On land, warming temperatures have allowed invasive plant and animal species to thrive, and contributed to the proliferation of ticks and the spread of tick-borne diseases. We’re seeing shorter winters, altered growing seasons, and more violent and unpredictable storms — all changing at a faster rate than we’ve ever experienced.

How can conserving land and water help address these effects?

Keeping nature intact — letting rivers flow, managing forests sustainably, leaving coastal marshes undeveloped — creates the “natural climate solutions” we need to weather the effects of climate change. One acre of forest soaks up over a ton of carbon each year. Salt marshes absorb increasing storm surges and provide a buffer against sea level rise. Stream crossings that allow fish and other animals to pass under roads also help prevent flooding, which protects the public and makes our communities more resilient.

What steps can individuals take to curb climate change?

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the face of climate change, but don’t underestimate your ability to make a difference. One of the most powerful steps we can all take is simply to talk about it. Discuss the changes you’re seeing with family and friends. Talk with your representatives about where they stand, and support people and organizations that are working to address climate change. After all, we can’t fix what we don’t talk about.

The Nature Conservancy, 14 Maine St., Ste. 401, Brunswick. 207-729-5181.