Climate change isn’t just searing heat and ecological catastrophe in far-off places. Increasingly, the catastrophe is right in our backyard — like the one now being washed away by the remnants of this past weekend’s deluge of rain.

The storm over several days brought as much as six inches of rain and extensive flooding to communities throughout central and western Maine, washing out roads and turning low-lying areas into impromptu ponds.

Floodwaters from the Kennebec River fill up the patio of The Quarry Tap Room on Tuesday in downtown Hallowell. Water also got into the basement. The restaurant and bar will be closed until the water recedes. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

It’s the kind of storm that we’ll see more frequently as global temperatures continue to climb, and the problems it has caused show why it is so critical that humanity lower carbon emissions as much as possible and as quickly as possible.

The power of the record-breaking rainfall could be seen across the state Tuesday. Flood warnings remained in effect for seven rivers, including the Androscoggin, where torrents of water crashed over the normally quiet Great Falls, and the Kennebec which came up over its shores, putting places like downtown Gardiner and Waterfront Park in Augusta well underwater.

Flooding was reported throughout Somerset County. More than 30 roads were washed out in Franklin County, including in Farmington, where an entire athletic complex was submerged.

Schools in the Richmond and Livermore Falls districts were closed because students couldn’t get to school safely, or because officials were worried they wouldn’t be able to get them home, while others dealt with delays.


First responders fanned out to deal with areas made dangerous by rising waters, and several motorists were saved after their vehicles got caught in the flooding.

The storm and its aftermath were wildly destructive and disruptive. We may have to get used to it.

As the climate heats up, caused by the carbon emissions of fossil fuels, storms are becoming heavier and more frequent. That is particularly true in our part of the world; the Gulf of Maine is one of the fastest warming areas of the ocean.

Throughout the northeastern United States, spring is arriving earlier and bringing more precipitation, heavy rainstorms are more frequent, and summers are hotter and drier,” said a 2017 report from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The state’s climate plan estimates that Maine will experience an additional 1.5 feet of sea-level rise by 2050 and 4 more feet by 2100, turning what are now rare flooding events into common occurrences. The low-lying Bayside area of Portland, for instance, which floods a handful of times per year, could see the same thing happen on average a couple of times a week.

There is still a chance to prevent this future from coming, and Maine can be part of the solution.


To stop the worst impacts from carbon pollution, the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says wealthy countries must cut the use of fossil fuels by two-thirds by 2035, and altogether by 2040, about a decade earlier than current targets.

President Biden has set as his goal a 50% reduction in fossil fuel emissions below 2005 levels by 2030 and a target of 80% renewable energy generation by 2030, and 100% by 2035. Maine is the only state with its two U.S. senators on the Senate’s bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus (a group of 14). The interventions and efforts of Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King must play a key role in national policy.

At the state level, Gov. Janet Mills, who has made Maine’s response to climate issues a major focus, announced earlier this year an initiative that would speed up the state’s transition to clean energy. Her administration also is aiming to otherwise reduce emissions, largely by replacing home heating systems that burn fossil fuels with heat pumps — which is going well — and by encouraging more Mainers to buy electric vehicles — a transition that, because of issues to do with cost and availability, is moving much too slowly.

Like it or not, the climate crisis is coming. For those on the Maine coast and along our tidal rivers, it is already here.

If we in Maine don’t do our part in limiting its effect on our communities, how can we ask anyone else to do theirs?

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