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August 23, 2016
A new MCCC report says climate change will lead to more severe storms in Maryland, along with rising sea levels and increased temperatures.With the Climate Change Conference just ending in the Paris Agreement on Tuesday (Dec 15), climate change has been at the forefront of everyone’s news feeds once again. It’s easy to be removed from these global conferences when many of us are so focused on our watershed, thinking hyperlocally with rain barrels and Scoop the Poop campaigns.
But, climate change has always been a local threat. It’s the scary monster lurking in the shadows, secretly powering up as the hero fights the first round villains- nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment from stormwater runoff.
A day after the Paris Agreement, climate change was put into a local context with a new report issued to the state of Maryland by the Maryland Commission on Climate Change.
The report calls on the State to develop and implement a plan to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030”. The report says that this plan would also enhance efforts to support economic development and job creation in Maryland.
Read the report: mde.state.md.us
Read the press release: news.maryland.gov
The Maryland Commission on Climate Change works to advise the Governor and General Assembly on ways to prepare for and adapt to the consequences of climate change (sea level rise, severe weather and temperature rises) as well as how to mitigate its causes.
“The Maryland Climate Change Commission is broad and diverse but all agree the State should be proactive and balanced in responding to the challenges and opportunities ahead,” Commission Chair and Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles.
Roads, bridges and other infrastructure are at risk from sea level rise and severe weather. Photo Courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Program
Links to a Healthy EconomyThe proactive strategy presented in the report, along with the rest of Maryland’s current climate action strategies, will lead to “tens of thousands of new jobs” and net positive impact on the economy.
The ways climate change affects various sectors in Maryland are laid out in the report:
Infrastructure, such as roads, buildings, urban drainage, and water lines are at risk from unprecedented severe weather and sea level rise.
Tourism revenues in Maryland (specifically vulnerable low-lying urban and coastal areas- think Ocean City, Annapolis, and the Baltimore Harbor) are likely to suffer as well. Flooding and storm surges may make it harder to travel and elevate the costs on coastal communities and the state to maintain bridges, roads and boardwalks.
Agriculture & Forestry are both expected to take hits from rising temperatures. Maryland’s main crops of corn and soy have a heat threshold which may be surpassed by 2050 (if no action is taken), resulting in annual losses of $150 million. Flooding from sea level rise on coastal farms can lead to increased saltwater in the soils and excessive soil erosion, resulting in decreased crop productivity. Additionally, the impacts of climate change are expected to disrupt our forests’ natural ecosystems, causing stress and a loss of ecosystem diversity. This results in forests which can’t provide the ecosystem services we rely on, such as carbon sequestration, temperature regulation, moderating flooding, filtering water, and more. As forests lost biodiversity and sucumb to fragmentation and invasive species, they are less efficient at providing the ecosystem services we’ve come to rely on.
Similarly, Chesapeake Bay & Aquatic Ecosystems, will be stressed by temperature increases along with the existing stresses of development, overfishing and excess nutrients. Additional temperature increases could lead to lower oxygen levels, adding to the levels of anoxia faced by commercially (and ecologically) important oysters, blue crab, and various fish.
Excessive heat and poor air quality will both negatively effect Public Health and result in the need for more spending on air conditioners and hospital costs. “Maryland’s current climate action strategies are expected to benefit the State’s economy by billions of dollars and create tens of thousands of new jobs.”
Commission Steering Committee Co-Chair John Quinn, director of state affairs for the Baltimore Gas & Electric CompanyThe benefits to the economy are from being proactive in structural improvements and mitigation. The report looks at weather modeling and identifies the cost savings from proactive actions (improving bridges to stand up against stronger winds) vs reactive ones (replacing a bridge after it has been blown down by a strong wind). The newly created jobs will come from construction, engineers and others to implement and plan for these strategies. Roland Park Middle School students planting a redbud in a Baltimore City park. Remember, our environment is massively and beautifully intermingled. The consequences from climate change relate to our lives and the problems we are facing now with algal blooms, invasive species and degraded streams.
So- what are some easy ways you can reduce your ecological footprint? There are lots of ways, some less obvious than others. Water conservation is a big one. For instance, by planting native plants that are adapted to our local environment, you can save energy (in the form of drinking water) by reducing the need to water during hot summers. And maybe the best thing you can do to help combat climate change… plant a tree (or two).
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