How the Maine Coast Will be Reshaped by a Rising Gulf of Maine

By Penelope Overton.

Extreme weather made more frequent and ferocious by climate change has walloped Maine in the last year, and the coastal devastation wrought by recent storms is causing many Mainers to realize that climate change is happening right now.

From Kittery to Eastport, climate change came to life. Mainers could do little but watch as storms rushed in on seas elevated by climate change, buckling roads, scouring beaches and washing away our working waterfronts.

“People aren’t just waking up to climate change, but these storms have made theory into a pretty scary reality,” said Hannah Pingree, co-chair of the Maine Climate Council. “People thought we’d have more time to change, to prepare. This was our wake-up call. We’re running out of time.”

Between the two storms that hit the coast on Jan. 10 and 13, and the Dec. 18 storm that wreaked at least $20 million in damage to 10 Maine counties, there’s almost no way a Mainer could have missed the impact of this extreme weather, which can be traced back to climate change.

Over the last century, Maine sea levels have been rising at a rate of about a half-foot a century. The pace has sped up as the world burns more fossil fuels, producing heat-trapping emissions that warm both air and sea. About half of our sea rise over the last century has occurred since the early 1990s.

Maine sea levels are projected to rise between 1.1 and 3.2 feet by 2050 and 3 and 9.3 feet by 2100, depending on how successful and quick we are at curbing global emissions rates, according to the scientists who advise the Maine Climate Council.

How does climate change affect sea levels? In a warming world, glaciers and ice sheets are melting, adding water to the ocean.

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