Climate Highlights from Around Maine: People and Nature Adapting to a Changing Climate: Charting Maine’s Course

By Esperanza Stancioff, Climate Change Educator, UMaine Cooperative Extension and Maine Sea Grant, and Malcolm Burson, Associate Policy Director, Maine Department of Environmental Protection

People and Nature report coverMaine has been a leader in addressing climate change and in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including being the first state to pass a law with specific greenhouse gas reduction targets. While these mitigation efforts must continue, Maine also needs a strong adaptation plan promoting resilience and addressing opportunities (Jacobson et al., Maine Policy Review).

In 2009 the Maine State Legislature passed a “Resolve: To Evaluate Climate Change Adaptation Options for the State.” Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection then initiated a nine-month process involving a diverse stakeholder group charged with “building upon the 2009 climate impact assessment by the University of Maine….” That report, Maine’s Climate Future: An Initial Assessment, is a summary of current Maine-specific knowledge about climate change effects, and was developed with the participation of 75 scientists and other experts.

The Climate Change Adaptation stakeholder group consisted of representatives of business, industry, trade associations, state agencies, university, and nongovernmental organizations. Its coordinating committee began its work May 1, 2009, creating four working groups to consider likely impacts due to a changing climate, identify areas of vulnerability, and make recommendations. These were included in a report delivered to the legislature’s Natural Resources Committee on February 25, 2010.

The creation of the final report and a separate summary report documents the results of what many stakeholders regard as “Phase One” of a climate adaptation planning and implementation effort that will continue for the foreseeable future. They agree that while this was an important first phase, the next critical step is for Maine to develop an Adaptation Plan that sets forth a long-term decision-making framework and provides a more fully-developed set of recommendations based on economic analysis of benefits, costs, and opportunities; on additional data sets; and on further consultation with stakeholders. This report emphasizes the need to continue the momentum established through this process, and asks the Legislature for direction to complete the work toward an Adaptation Plan for Maine.


Adaptation: Actions by individuals or groups to avoid, withstand, or take advantage of current and projected climate changes and impacts. Adaptation decreases a community’s vulnerability or increases community resilience to impacts. Adaptation is the only response available for local impacts that will occur over the next several decades before mitigation measures can have an effect.

Mitigation: Actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Synergy: The interaction of adaptation and mitigation so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their effects if implemented separately.

Source: Climate Change, Leo Wiegman, January 5, 2010, Encyclopedia of the Earth.