The impacts of climate change are in the news nearly every day.

The cobblestones between the Custom House Wharf and Portland Pier were nearly covered at high tide after a storm in November 2018. A recent study reports that the combination of 1.6 feet of sea-level rise and storm surges by 2050 could lead to the loss of about 22,000 jobs and cumulative building damage of $17.5 billion in Maine alone. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Decades ago, scientists warned that continued overreliance on fossil fuels would accelerate the process of global warming – now, climate change – making hurricanes and other extreme weather events more common, and putting our economy and way of life in danger.

Maine is no exception. From lobstering to tourism, from agriculture to aquaculture, the state’s economy relies on a stable climate.

Warmer ocean waters put at risk nearly $600 million in revenue for Maine’s lobster and aquaculture industries. Rising sea levels threaten the coastlines and wildlife habitats that underpin Maine’s very identity.

A recent study reports that the combination of 1.6 feet of sea-level rise and storm surges by 2050 could lead to the loss of about 22,000 jobs and cumulative building damage of $17.5 billion in Maine alone.

Who has to cover so many of these costs?

By law, the feds don’t step in until a disaster is beyond a state’s ability to respond. So state and local governments are reeling from costly repairs and mitigation measures they have been forced to incur because of climate change.

Some affected jurisdictions, including the state of Maine, are filing or joining multi-state lawsuits against the largest oil and gas companies to recoup some of these climate-induced costs.

Amazingly, the oil and gas industry has been aware of the climate risks of its carbon emissions for more than a half-century, since the mid-1960s.

As a former member of Congress, I am outraged that big oil and gas companies want to foist the costs of mitigating climate disasters onto taxpayers after these same companies promoted their products with no concern for the “catastrophic” damages they cause.

Did you know that just 100 investor- and state-owned multinational fossil fuel companies are responsible for around 70 percent of the world’s historical greenhouse-gas emissions?

These companies downplayed the dangers of their products to shareholders, regulators and taxpayers as the industry broadened its marketing to every corner of the globe, all the while benefiting from taxpayer subsidies – funded by you and me!

According to a recent report from the taxpayer watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, companies in the oil and gas industry were infused with more than $1 billion in financing through last year’s COVID-19 relief bond and loan-buying programs.

That’s not all – the same report notes that the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act provided a tax-break windfall to industry companies, and 20 of the top U.S. oil and gas producers reported $15.5 billion in tax savings because of that bill!

Yet, instead of negotiating an equitable solution to address the damage from its products, the industry is attempting to shift the blame – and the costs – away from itself, telling consumers to believe that their own individual “carbon footprint” and personal lifestyle choices are responsible for climate change, diverting focus from the industry’s massive contribution of carbon pollution into the atmosphere.

We cannot afford to allow them to pass the buck. As the devastating effects of climate change from fossil fuels become apparent, taxpayers in Maine and across the country should not be forced to foot the bill.

It is time for real action on climate change – action that holds polluting industries accountable, addresses the policies and programs that make the problem worse and ends the wasteful giveaways to industries, like oil and gas, that are trying to shift the costs onto taxpayers. We can do this together – we can get the country on the right track.


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