At the recent Maine Climate Council meeting, we learned how vulnerable Mainers are to the health impacts of climate change. Over the past 100 years, Maine has warmed 3 degrees Fahrenheit, and human activities, not natural forces, account for this warming over the past 60 years. There’s been a six-inch rise in Maine’s annual rainfall, and extreme rainfall has increased the magnitude and frequency of floods. Maine has experienced a 0.6-foot rise in sea level, with an additional 3 to 5 feet likely by 2100.

With these and other changes come significant impacts on human health. As the heat index has increased, more Mainers are visiting hospital emergency departments. High heat is linked to heat stroke and to deaths and disabilities from underlying heart disease. Extreme precipitation, storms and floods cause injuries, infections and deaths. Lyme disease is strongly linked to climate change, as are many other serious vector-borne diseases, and Maine has the highest incidence of Lyme disease in the country, with a record-high number of cases in 2019.

Climate change increases air pollution, which worsens respiratory diseases like asthma and COPD. Maine and other New England states have the highest prevalence of adult asthma in the nation. Climate change increases the risk of food- and water-borne illnesses, and also impacts our mental health in varied and concerning ways. Some people are particularly vulnerable to these health problems, especially those with underlying illnesses, children and the elderly, and those who lack sufficient access to health care.

Protecting the health of all Mainers requires us to take climate action, and the public is welcome to engage with the Maine Climate Council as it develops a climate plan for the state that will strengthen our economy and build healthy, resilient communities. Visit the Maine Climate Council’s website for more information.

 

Gail Carlson

Waterville


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