If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you’ve seen the near-constant stream of stories related to heavy rains, floods, droughts, forest fires, heat waves and other extreme weather-related events. It is hard to ignore that these events are increasing in number and severity across the globe.

Workers harvest wild blueberries at Ridgeberry Farm in Appleton in 2012. The industry lost 30% of its value between 2021 and 2022 because of climate change trends that include more droughts, changing weather patterns and the disappearance of pollinators like honey bees. Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press, File

In the 1980s, the United States averaged three billion-dollar weather events per year. Now, in the 2020s, the U.S. is averaging 20 such weather events per year, causing an estimated $149 billion in damages annually.

Among those most at risk are our small businesses, which often operate on thin margins and are more susceptible than their larger counterparts to local disruptions. In Maine, small businesses make up 99% of all businesses and employ 56.8% of the workforce. For these businesses, climate change isn’t an abstract problem. It is a present-day threat.

Climate change has had, and will continue to have, significant effects on some of our state’s heritage industries: fishing, forestry, and agriculture. Maine’s wild harvest fisheries are at risk because the Gulf of Maine is one of themost rapidly warming areas of the global ocean. Other natural resource industries, such as forestry and agriculture, are at risk, too. Variable weather patterns and unseasonable temperatures create uncertain growing and harvesting conditions while creating a more favorable environment for new pests and diseases. It is because of these changing conditions that Maine’s internationally renowned wild blueberry industry lost 30% of its value last year.

As fisheries, agriculture and forestry form the basis on which many other businesses rely, the negative effects these heritage industries face could have profound consequences on supply chains and Maine’s economy.

For other sectors, regional and global supply chain disruptions, influenced by the effects of climate change, introduce risks that can lead to production delays or increased energy and raw material prices. National surveys have also revealed that business owners are beginning to worry about higher insurance costs due to increased risk from sea level rise, drought, wildfire, floods and the other extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change.


It is common in the business world to approach an issue by assessing your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – an exercise referred to as a SWOT analysis. The path to climate resilience shouldn’t be any different. Maine Won’t Wait, the state’s ambitious climate action plan, acknowledges the threat climate change poses to our heritage industries while laying out a framework for action that enables businesses to stay focused on future opportunity.

Now is the time for businesses to take climate action, starting with business leaders learning more about climate change and its precise effects on their organizations. Building awareness of the threats and recognizing risk exposure opens the door to ingenuity, innovation and a bounty of opportunities to realize in response to these risks.

Those looking to take this type of action should seek out groups like ClimateWork Maine for access to practical steps to climate solutions, such as local and federal tax credits and rebates. “Blue economy” businesses that want to better understand their risk exposure and develop action plans to become more resilient can also seek technical assistance and support from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and a network of other organizations around the state.

Our present moment challenges us all to adapt in order to continue to thrive in a warmer world. That’s not just about climate. It’s also about creating sustainable economic prosperity for all Mainers.

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