Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Turbines on mountains a better choice

Maine Today
Beth Negusky
February 19, 2007

Perhaps 20 years ago, we had the luxury to reject a wind power project in the mountains of western Maine. But, no more. We now know too much about the dangers of our fossil fuel dependence and the threat of global warming to turn down renewable energy projects.

It is true the Redington wind project would alter views from segments of the Appalachian Trail. But every energy project, including renewable ones, faces sincere objection from some individuals or groups.

The stark truth about climate change, however, is this: If each of us is unwilling to make accommodations and sacrifices, Planet Earth is in very big trouble. Ironically, it is not today's decision-makers (or those on the sidelines) who stand to lose the most, it is our children and grandchildren.

Soon after the Land Use Regulation Commission voted preliminarily to deny the Redington wind project a permit, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its fourth assessment report. The panel is comprised of the world's experts on the science and impacts of global warming.

Over the past six years, the panel has become more certain that humans are influencing the climate. Its members now describe the human influence as "very likely," or greater than 90 percent probable. They have concluded global warming is "unequivocal." Eleven of the last 12 years have been the warmest on record. The burning of fossil fuels is the primary culprit.

The panel's climate-change assessment says the human influence on climate is already detectable through the observational record. Extreme weather events have become more frequent. These include droughts, heavier precipitation, heat waves and more intense typhoons and hurricanes.

Widespread decreases in glaciers and the ice caps have been observed. Arctic sea ice is shrinking at about 3 percent per decade, possibly threatening the polar bear with extinction.
Sea levels are rising and will continue to do so, threatening coastal nations and their people. The amount of water vapor in the atmosphere has increased and wind patterns have changed, as has ocean salinity.

Most people in Maine have already made observations of changes in weather and climate. Last month will go down in the record books for having a 74-degree spread between the highest and lowest temperatures.

Maine people have seen an increase in torrential rains, earlier ice-out dates on our lakes, a lengthening of our growing season, less snowmobiling and skiing, and more disease-carrying insects, among other changes.

The bottom line is that climate change on the order predicted will have dramatic effects in the coming decades, and most of them will be negative.

These impacts threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions around the globe, including up to one-third of the Earth's plant and animal species.

In fact, over the long run, unchecked climate change will have a far greater negative impact on Redington Mountain, and its native plants and animals, than the proposed wind power project.

It is going to take a heroic effort to reverse the course of climate change, but much of that heroism will have to occur through day-to-day decisions about our driving habits and our electricity usage and in decisions about wind turbines and other renewable energy projects.

We must change our frame of reference when making these decisions and understand that each step away from fossil fuels is a step in the right direction.

Considering what is at stake for our planet and every living thing on it, the acceptability of altered views on parts of the Appalachian Trail should be clear.

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