The average temperature of the earth’s atmosphere in the first nine months of 1998 reached the highest levels every recorded. The “frozen tundra” is defrosting. Glaciers are disappearing.
In Alaska, roadside utility poles, destabilizing by the melting, lean at crazy angles, as do trees, creating what have been called “drunken forests.” Antarctica is warmer now than at any time in the last 4000 years.
Floods afflicted 56 countries and at least 45 suffered severe drought. Worldwide economic losses from violent weather totaled an estimated $72 billion during the first seven months of 1997. The outbreak of infectious diseases like cholera, dysentery and malaria is attributed to climatic disruption.
Insurance companies confirm what any newspaper reader already knows: tornadoes, flooding rains, devastating winds, and other weather-caused disasters have generated record-breaking losses; the American middle-west experienced spring in December while Europe dug out of a record-breaking winter storm; Canadian authorities have predicted that the terrible ice storm of January 1998, which afflicted most of New England and Canadas northest, will prove to be just the first of many. What in the world is going on?
That question is going to be addressed in depth by The Global Climate Change in Maine Conference, to be held at the Ramada Conference Center in Lewiston on April 7-8. The conference will focus on the climate change in Maine: What is it? What is the state of the science? How might it affect Maine citizens, businesses and resources? What are some strategies to avoid or adapt to the potential risks and respond to the challenges?
Forty-eight organizations and institutions are sponsoring the conference, including federal and state government agencies, business and trade organizations and some 24 nongovernmental organizations covering a broad range of economic and industrial sectors as well as environmental interests. Conference facilities will accommodate about 400 persons, of whom about half will be from the general public.
Plans for the conference foresee two full days of discussions, in plenary sessions and workshops, covering such subjects as likely impacts of climate change on Maine forests, coastal and marine ecosystems, agriculture and food supply, tourism and public health; avoidance strategies for a wide range of energy production and use sectors, the role of public opinion and how to continue conservation. Technical specialists from academia, government and industry will serve as resource persons for each plenary and workshop session.
A unique feature of the conference will be a poster exhibit, in which participating organizations will display graphic elaborations of their presentations.
The Conference on Global Climate Change in Maine is one of the first national efforts to examine the issues in the context of a particular state’s interest and economy. Conference organizers expect that other states will follow Maine’s groundbreaking lead.
R. Bruce Stedman is a retired U.N. assistant secretary-general.