BAR HARBOR — The Mount Desert Island High School AP environmental science class informed town officials about a local environmental crisis with a presentation on the Gulf of Maine’s climate emergency at last week’s Bar Harbor Town Council meeting.
Following a 5-1 Town Council vote in 2019, the town of Bar Harbor officially declared a “climate emergency.” At the time, council members said they intended to create an action plan to address the emergency but needed more time to decide which specific actions the town will undertake.
AP science instructor Ruth Poland introduced the discussion where each student contributed information on topics ranging from local sea level rise, storm intensity, ocean acidification, warming oceans, species movements and agricultural effects due to global warming.
High school junior Grace Munger said that an estimated 3.3–8.2 feet of global sea level rise from ice melting and thermal expansion was expected to occur by 2100. She said that the sea level rise predictions are locally higher than the global scenario, where Bar Harbor will see 4-10 feet of rise.
“With only a 3.3–foot sea level rise, it will cost Bar Harbor $360,000 to repair roads alone and six addresses will be inaccessible to emergency services,” said Munger. The student said the global projections have increased each year since they were made in 2015. “With 6 feet of sea level rise, it will cost Bar Harbor $3,000,000 to repair roads and 750 addresses will be inaccessible to emergency services,” she continued.
Student Kate Pope explained how trapped heat in the atmosphere due to an increased level of greenhouse gas emissions generated by human activity has caused global temperatures to rise. According to a 2017 Maine Emissions from Fossil Fuel Combustion survey, 54 percent of the fossil fuels were used for transportation. “Global temperatures have increased 1.5 degrees since the year 1900 [and] scientists predict they could rise by 5 degrees Celsius by the year 2100,” she said.
High schooler Sam Mitchell said the escalating temperatures have also warmed the Gulf of Maine seven times faster than the rest of the ocean in the last 15 years. The high temperatures were demonstrated by the class to negatively affect Bar Harbor’s marine life.
Isabella Michael, who was one of five summer climate change interns with A Climate To Thrive, stressed the importance of the world working to stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming to avoid runaway climate change; a breaking point in the climate threshold that, when exceeded, can lead to large changes in the state of the system.
“We have already warmed globally by about 1 degree Celsius … even though we are a small town and a small island, we can make a huge difference,” she said.
Michael proposed that the town adopt the high school’s carbon neutrality goal for Bar Harbor by 2030. She said that if humans can limit their release to 420 gigatons of carbon dioxide, they will meet the 1.5–degree Celsius target. The goal would match the urgent need shown by scientific predictions of what must be done to avoid triggering runaway climate change.
On behalf of the high school science class, Mitchell suggested that Bar Harbor convert all energy uses to electricity by passing a solar ordinance, approve solar energy production in Salisbury Cove, modernize the electric grid and replace old town vehicles with electric vehicles.