Economic Indicators in Focus: Earth Day 2023 – Greenhouse Gas Emissions & Water Quality

Photo credit: Yankee Magazine

“It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.” 
― Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

Rachel Carson, the marine biologist who many credit with launching the modern environmental movement, wrote passionately about her beloved Maine: “The deep dark woodland and rugged shore … periwinkles grazing on the intertidal rocks, waiting for the return of the tide … all the heady, aromatic, bittersweet fragrances compounded of pine and spruce and bayberry, warmed by the sun.” 

As we take stock this Earth Day of the daunting status of the globe amidst the climate crisis, Mainers can take hope in some of the ways we are stepping up to the challenge. Two of the 31 indicators featured in MDF’s Measures of Growth 2022 Report speak to efforts that not only positively impact the environment, but the Maine economy as well. 

Water Quality 

In 2022, 95% of Maine rivers and streams and 91% of lakes achieved Category 1 or 2 – or “good” – in 2022. This can be a beacon of hope to other regions given that in national rankings just 31% of U.S. rivers and streams, and 19% of the lakes met the mark. Maine stands as a powerful model for addressing water quality issues and restoring the health of our rivers, lakes, and streams, which continue to provide drinking water, support ecosystems, bolster tourism, and therefore are a pillar of the Maine economy as a whole.  

Greenhouse Gas Emissions 

From 2018 to 2019, greenhouse gas emissions in Maine fell 2%, from 16.8 to 16.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. In 2019, emissions were 23% below 1990 levels, meaning Maine is continuing to progress toward its 2030 goal of reducing emissions 45% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050. 

In 2003, Maine became the first U.S. state to enact a statutory target for lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and met that initial goal when emissions fell to 10% below 1990 levels in 2012. In 2019, further legislation set the current goals for 2030 and 2050.  

Continued Diligence 

These are just two of indicators the Maine Economic Growth Council, the nonpartisan, independent group that oversees the Measures of Growth Report, tracks Maine’s environmental health, how it intersects with Maine’s economy, and why the Council recommends continued diligence on these fronts. 

We hope you will dig into the data behind these Indicators and how they intersect with other critical elements of Maine’s economy. Visit the Measures of Growth section of our website where you can see all 31 indicators we featured in 2022, as well as past issues of the report dating back to 2010.