Turn and Face the Strange: Economic Impacts of Climate Change (June 2018)

Tuesday, June 12, 2018 9:02 AM | Alison Clift (Administrator)

Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize-winning psychologist known for his work on behavioral economics and the psychology of decision-making, has said that if one were to design a problem that our minds are not prepared to deal with, it would be climate change. Psychologically, we are not equipped to manage threats so distant, abstract, and disputed and it is challenging for society to comprehend the severe forecasted impacts.

However, climate change is manifesting itself in ways that are local, concrete, and undisputed. Mainers are already experiencing climate change impacts on their homes and businesses. Maine’s average annual temperature has increased by 3ºF in the last 100 years and is expected to increase another 2-3ºF by 2050. This increase in average temperature is also expected to prolong Maine’s warm season (period of time where the average daily temperature is above freezing) by two additional weeks before 2050, with winter warming faster than summer (University of Maine. 2015. Maine’s Climate Future). 

The Gulf of Maine is also warming at an increased rate of 0.4ºF per year, which is faster than 99% of the world’s oceans (Record, N. 2014. Maine waters are warming fast. Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences Transect 6:8-9.). Maine’s average total annual precipitation has increased by 6 inches in the last 100 years (University of Maine. 2015. Maine’s Climate Future). Maine is also seeing a significant increase in extreme precipitation events. This increase in precipitation may exacerbate the acidification occurring in the Gulf of Maine, in addition to other factors. Maine is also expected to see, at minimum, a sea level increase of 0.07 inches per year (NOAA Tides & Currents. 2018. Relative Sea Level Trend-Portland, Maine). 

How will this impact Maine’s economy?

  • Crop seasons shifting or becoming longer (2012 Plant Hardiness Zone Map).
  • Increases in human health issues from heat stress, air pollution, and insect-borne diseases.
  • Native species' populations shifting north & becoming more susceptible to diseases, disrupting traditional Maine industries.
  • Non-native species increasing their habitable territory and requiring more intensive monitoring and management efforts.
  • Increase infrastructure costs due to road washouts, culvert/bridge replacements, increasing storm water system capacities.
  • Increases in non-point source pollution in lakes and streams from extreme weather events. 
  • Reductions in property value in certain areas. 
  • Increases in flood zones and flood insurance.
  • Increase port opportunities with melting Artic (if Maine ports can adapt to increased sea level rise).
  • Loss of natural storm buffers, putting properties at risk and requiring infrastructure investments. 
  • Potential decrease in opportunities for winter tourism activities (skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, etc.) due to less snow/ability to produce snow and duration of lake ice.*If Maine ports can adapt to increased sea level rise.
(University of Maine. 2015. Maine’s Climate Future)

Want to learn more about the economic impacts of climate change?

Join us on Thursday, June 21 at Maple Hill Farm Inn and Conference Center in Hallowell to hear from experts in climate science, economics, fisheries, forestry, agriculture, and development. 

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