Summit Packet

Climate Solutions Summit
Wednesday, March 12
Augusta Civic Center

 Dear Summit Participant,

We have a new opportunity to begin solving climate change here in Maine. At the Climate Solutions Summit, you’ll have the chance to join an amazing group of leaders to consider our vision for Maine in 2020. By the end of the day, you will better understand our challenges and possible solutions—and you will be connected with a powerful network of people who can help you create positive change.

Please review this reading packet, which should answer questions you may have about the schedule, format and goal of the Summit.

In the interest of saving resources, we will not provide print copies of this material at the Summit. You are welcome to print your own copy, of course, or you may wish to bring an electronic copy. Free wi-fi is available throughout the Augusta Civic Center.

The Summit will be an excellent opportunity to network. We are structuring it to give everyone the opportunity to meet and have meaningful conversations with other Summit Participants. Please be prepared to be an active conversation partner in your small groups.

More than 110 people have registered for the Summit. We are accepting walk-in registrations. Based on past experience at other events, we expect to be able to accommodate everyone who desires to participate. Our goal is to provide an opportunity to everyone who desires to be part of the conversation. So if you have colleagues who missed the registration deadline, please encourage them to arrive at 8:30 to register as a walk in.

I’m delighted you will be participating in this first-of-a-kind statewide Summit here in Maine.

Best regards,

Fred Horch
Climate Solutions Co-coordinator

P.S. You should have already received information about subscribing to an email mailing list for Summit Participants. More information about the event (including a copy of this packet) and a full list of registered participants is available online at http://www.ClimateSolutionsME.org.

Schedule

8:30 am – 9:00 am Check in and networking
9:00 am – 9:15 am Opening ceremony – Main Hall
9:20 am – 9:45 am Summit keynote address by Stephen Mulkey, President of Unity College
9:45 am – 11:30 am Morning “World Cafe” Discussion of Climate Solutions Maine 2020 Vision
11:30 am – Noon Box lunch
12:00 noon – 1:15 pm Plenary in Main Hall – Voices of Maine Working People
1:15 pm – 4:00 pm* Afternoon “World Cafe” Discussion of Action Plan to Achieve Vision
4:00 pm – 5:00 pm A climate conversation with Maine’s Speaker of the House Mark Eves and Senate President Justin Alfond
5:00 pm Closing remarks in Main Hall

* As an alternative for those interested in a panel discussion on the role of higher education in climate solutions, a College and University Presidents’ Summit on Climate Change and Higher Education will be happening concurrently from 1 pm to 3 pm. Seating is limited.

Format

Following a keynote address by President Stephen Mulkey of Unity College, our Summit format will be small-group discussions in two sessions. You will be seated at a table for facilitated conversation with other Summit participants. During each session, you will switch tables so you can talk with several different small groups and get to know new people.

During the morning session the goal is to reach a shared vision for Maine in 2020, answering the question, What does it mean to be “solving” climate change? We’ll have a break for lunch so you can explore the Expo. In the afternoon, our goal is to develop an action plan to achieve our shared vision.

You’ll leave the Summit with new connections and a practical plan for working together to solve climate change here in Maine.

For complete details, visit www.ClimateSolutionsME.org

The organizers of the Climate Solutions Summit, and others, share a vision of a thriving Maine in 2020 in which citizens working together across the state are incorporating mitigation, adaptation and resilience into our communities.

This vision is intended to be a framework for progress. It is a perspective from 2014 to guide us safely towards 2020 and beyond. We expect to evolve this as a living document in the years ahead. Your participation will influence future iterations. If you feel strongly that this vision does not represent our situation today, that is the point. The next step is to decide what we do to move towards this desired future, to make our shared vision a reality by 2020.

Climate Solutions Maine 2020 Vision

How Maine Should Be in 2020

Maine communities are demonstrating their strength and resilience through sustainability in energy, transportation, education, food, business, natural resources, emerging technologies, health and public policy. We are making substantive progress on clearly defined measures of success such as the 2002 Maine statutory greenhouse-gas reductions.

We have positioned the state to be able to make the changes necessary to thrive in a rapidly changing climate. We are already benefiting from the implementation of actions that are being taken to address Maine’s climate challenges.

Energy efficiency is improving our quality of life. We have begun the transition to a sustainable clean energy society with a carbon free economy.

A shift toward localization in employment, health care, education, recreation, and cultural events shows promise for reducing transportation needs. Increasing utilization of zero-emission vehicles, alternative modes of transport and public transportation are demonstrating that we can achieve the connectivity we need while reducing emissions.

Our citizens of all ages have access to the education necessary to solve important problems in their changing world.

There is an abundance of food grown in our communities. We have revitalized area farms and reconnected our rural and urban economies. The success of a new generation of young farmers is making a substantial contribution to local food security.

There are vibrant local economies producing essential goods and services. There is evidence of increased entrepreneurial success. We are discriminating in our use of technology and we apply it with our sustainability values in mind.

We are beginning to enjoy the benefits of our efforts to assure the sustainability of our natural resources and the ecosystem services they provide.

We have established effective strategies to address our emerging public health challenges.

Climate destabilization as an issue has grown to be connected to all aspects of our economy and our natural resource-based life in Maine. The results of our actions on initiatives are a major focus of public discourse. Every elected official and voter in Maine has dependable information and support to develop policy that wisely addresses our climate future.

Climate Change Background Briefing

The goal of the Climate Solutions Summit is to inspire and encourage positive and effective action to start solving climate change now, here in Maine.

Fred Horch, a co-coordinator of Climate Solutions, wrote this background briefing to share a few pertinent observations and facts that may inform our discussion on March 12.

Some Ground Rules

The Climate Solutions Summit has been organized by and for people who believe that climate change requires urgent action here in Maine. There may be people in attendance who do not share this belief, who simply wish to be disruptive. Please do not let them distract you from the purpose of our Summit. We simply do not have time at the Summit to debate whether and why climate change is happening (there are many other opportunities for that).

Our goal is to address the important questions: What vision do we share for Maine in 2020? How can we achieve it by working together? We are looking forward to a day of vigorous discussion based on shared values and mutual respect. We are seeking common ground and a practical action plan to prevent pollution and improve Maine’s ability to withstand adversity.

Why We Need Climate Solutions

There are many views about the perceived risks of climate change. The premise of Climate Solutions is that the potential risks of climate change for Maine are now great enough to warrant immediate action.

Climate change is observed changes to atmospheric conditions for a particular geographic region over a period of 30 years or longer. Rising global temperatures have been observed not only in direct measurements from ground and satellite instruments, but also in changes in the distribution of plants and animals, the melting of glaciers and the arctic ice cap, rises in sea level, and lengthening growing seasons.

Source: US EPA
Scientific explanations connect global warming to increases in emissions of greenhouse gases. Humans are moving billions of tons of carbon from the ground to the air, resulting in less free oxygen and more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. According to the United States Department of Energy’s Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center,

Since 1751 approximately 365 billion metric tons of carbon have been released to the atmosphere from the consumption of fossil fuels and cement production. Half of these fossil-fuel CO2 emissions have occurred since the mid 1980s.

Source: Global Carbon Project
Over the past two thousands years, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the troposphere (lower atmosphere) have increased from less than 280 parts per million (280,000 parts per billion) to nearly 400, concentrations of methane have increased from around 700 parts per billion to over 1,800, and concentrations of nitrous oxides have increased from around 270 parts per billion to over 320. These increases all occurred abruptly after the industrial revolution in the 19th century when humans transitioned from plant-based energy to fossil fuel.

2,000 Years of Greenhouse Gas Concentrations

Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Fourth Assessment Report [note scale differences: 1 part per million (ppm) = 1,000 parts per billion (ppb)]

There is evidence that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide react with water to acidify (i.e. lower the pH of) rivers, lakes and oceans, with adverse effects on aquatic life.

Source: National Academies of Science

Impacts of Greenhouse Gas Pollution

We do not know how Earth will react if humans continue to move billions of tons of carbon from the ground to the air. However, physical evidence suggests that our planet will be radically altered.

Paleoclimate studies indicate that when the Earth’s atmosphere had greenhouse gas concentrations at today’s levels, ice caps and glaciers had melted. In the last 30 years, our planet has lost much more ice volume than was modeled for the pollution we have produced so far, showing that we do not yet understand how Earth will respond to much higher amounts of air pollution. Climate scientists, including Dr. James Hansen, propose lowering CO2 concentrations back down to 350 parts per million as prudent to conserve a habitable planet.

Abrupt changes in the chemistry of Earth’s atmosphere are associated with massive extinction events in the fossil record. Current rates of extinction may be accelerating, although data gaps make it difficult to predict which species can survive and which habitats will remain.

In short, polluting our atmosphere with greenhouse gases may melt most of the ice on our planet, causing sea levels to rise dramatically, and may decrease the pH of surface waters, destroying aquatic ecosystems. On the other hand, it is also possible that Earth’s climate system and ecosystems may not be significantly affected by abrupt pollution-caused changes in the organic chemistry of our planet’s atmosphere. The question is whether we are willing to run such a high-stakes gamble with our future when we have other options.

Climate Mitigation

Mitigation means reducing the severity of climate change. Most greenhouse gas emissions are produced by burning fossil fuel for energy. Thus, mitigation is primarily concerned with developing clean energy resources that prevent pollution.

Greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere and have a cumulative effect over time. Just like earlier investments provide larger returns than later investments when yields are compounded, the sooner we reduce greenhouse gas pollution, the larger our impact.

Climate Adaptation

Adaptation means preparing for climate changes that cannot be avoided. Maine should expect that global greenhouse gas emissions will continue, regardless of whether we can successfully prevent our own pollution. We face growing risks that require advance planning to manage.

Public Perception of Climate Change

Those who seek climate solutions in any endeavor that requires working together — politics, business or education — should understand how other people view climate change.

Most people in Maine recognize that climate change is happening, but do not think it is an urgent issue. According to a 2013 poll by Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment:

  • Only 11% of Maine voters think warming is extremely important personally (and is likely to influence voting)
  • 50% believe they are already highly knowledgeable about global warming
  • 85% believe global warming has been happening
  • 77% believe warming will continue in the future

Policy makers likewise think they understand climate change, but do not view it as an urgent issue. According to a 2013 article in Regulation magazine,

There is a general consensus among economists that future generations will be able to deal with the average impacts of climate change relatively uneventfully. The present value of damages is generally thought to be in a range of $5 to $35 per ton of carbon dioxide. The U.S. government recently estimated this present value to be $20 per ton, and the International Monetary Fund has suggested using a value of $25 per ton.

The question is, How can we work effectively with the large majority of voters, consumers and politicians who don’t think climate solutions are urgently needed now here in Maine?
Personal Action and Commitment

A reviewer of this briefing issued this call to action:

I wish there were some “teasers” in the document challenging people to come to the summit with specific ideas about what we can personally and collectively do about climate change.

40% of all the energy in Maine goes for heating buildings, including houses. Nobody else but ourselves can address that 40%! Another 50% goes for transportation. … [If] we are at all serious, we must address these two issues with concrete measures both on the individual and the community level. If we don’t nobody else will.

For me — and for most “activist types” — climate change is a personal issue, not an academic or political one. And nothing will happen to improve the problem we are facing unless it is accompanied by our personal commitment to do what we can about our own ongoing contribution to the problem.