A man wades through a flooded street in Ocean Park on Saturday while searching for his trash bin. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

AUGUSTA — A divided Maine House voted Thursday to call on the federal government to slow climate change by joining a global treaty to curb fossil fuel use.

House members supported the resolution in a 74-55 vote after more than an hour of debate. Democrats unanimously supported the resolution while Republicans voted against it.

Rep. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, sponsored the resolution and urged fellow lawmakers to support global action.

“As our state sees increasingly extreme weather events and the devastation that goes with them, it is clear that climate change is here, and we cannot afford to delay action any longer,” Millett said in a prepared statement before the debate.

In the past five weeks, Maine experienced three extreme rain events that scientists say are happening more frequently because of climate change that’s fueled by fossil fuel use and rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Warmer air and ocean temperatures mean storms are bringing more precipitation while rising sea levels mean coastal storms are causing more damage and erosion.

A mid-December rainstorm overwhelmed rivers and flooded inland communities, including parts of Lewiston, Auburn, Augusta and Waterville. And two rain and windstorms this month caused record-breaking tidal surges that flooded coastal communities and damaged working waterfronts and beaches.


“The results of this excessive heating are apparent all around us – melting ice cores, raised sea levels, warmer oceans that increase the intensity of storms,” Rep. Daniel Sayre, D-Kennebunk, said during the House debate. “We have robust evidence from this past week alone of what happens when rising water levels and stronger storm surges reach our shores. The economic and personal devastation to Mainers is real.”

Sayre said he recently attended a meeting in Kennebunkport where business leaders said that regular tides are higher than they used to be and storm surges are stronger.

“Their businesses are at risk now,” Sayre said. “They are asking what we are doing now.”

Several Republican representatives said climate change has always been part of earth’s evolution and is not something to worry about, especially as Maine residents are faced with more pressing issues like heating their homes and getting to work.

“There are people suffering in our own state and their suffering is made worse by this green agenda that we demand they pay for,” said Rep. Laurel Libby, R-Auburn.

“This does not matter to a majority of Maine people,” she said. “Maybe it matters to a subset. But where people are struggling to pay for their groceries, to pay for their electricity, to heat their homes and keep their children warm, that’s what matters to them.”


“The global climate crisis is a hoax,” said Rep. Michael Lemelin, R-Chelsea, who pointed to several anecdotes such as less severe droughts and increased production of certain crops that he said illustrate climate change is not a real problem.

“Our planet is no different today than it was when I was 17 years old,” Lemelin said. “People can stand up and shout out all the changes, but they’re not real.”

Rep. Sophie Warren, D-Scarborough, noted that the resolution specifically mentions the impact of fossil fuel expansion on marginalized populations and calls for a “just energy transition.”

“My support for this resolution has in part to do with its mentioning of poor and working people, historically disenfranchised people and a commitment to a just transition, one that isn’t leaving people behind because they can’t afford to come along,” Warren said.

The resolution specifically expresses support for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty, urges the federal government to support such a treaty and expresses support for the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and for greenhouse gas emissions targets set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

It is expected to be taken up in the Senate in the coming days.

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