We can be thankful that the climate change deniers/skeptics and those who question whether human activity is contributing to global warming are relatively scarce or — at the least — quiet in Maryland.
Oh there are some, such as House Minority Leader Del. Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Dist. 29C) of Lusby, who told staff writer C. Benjamin Ford last week regarding the human factor: “It’s a theory right now and we’re waiting to see. I don’t believe the science is settled.”
Luckily, a number of others aren’t waiting for the science to be “settled.” As Ford’s story in last week’s Gazette of Politics and Business noted, state officials have been planning around climate change for a good five years, and efforts are stepping up. If this summer’s oppressive heat waves aren’t enough of a clarion call, scary developments such as the buckling of road surface on busy U.S. 50 and a warped rail that caused a Metro train derailment should be.
More extreme weather events such as the June 29 derecho that caused massive power outages, tree destruction and other damage are likely to increase in frequency, said Zoe Johnson of the state’s Office for a Sustainable Future. Fires, such as recent wildfires in Colorado, and droughts, such as the one gripping the Midwest, could become more common in the state. Currently, the Eastern Shore and a good portion of central Maryland are under a drought watch.
Officials are reviewing recent events to see what measures can be taken to prepare for the future, Johnson said.
Scientists say that climate change is a consequence of the production of greenhouse gases, with carbon dioxide a prominent form. At an individual level, when we drive a car or turn on the lights at home, we produce greenhouse gases.
NASA scientists note that while the Earth’s climate has changed throughout history, the past 1,300 years have seen an unprecedented warming, with “most of it very likely human-induced.”
For Maryland, will global warming mean Ocean City’s boardwalk eventually will be under water? A more immediate threat might be the impact on the Chesapeake Bay. A 2009 study by the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, the University of Maryland and others, using forecasts of atmospheric carbon dioxide production for the coming century, concluded that the Bay water will see rising levels of dissolved carbon dioxide and higher temperatures. As a result, oxygen concentrations will decline and sea levels will rise, the scientists said.
The impact on marine and shore life in and around the Bay will be dramatic, according to the study. Fish that favor warmer water will increase; fish and mollusks that prefer cold water, such as soft clams and striped bass, will decrease in numbers or disappear; some fish parasites that like warm water could thrive; some Bay wetlands that fish use as nurseries will submerge, potentially affecting the larger ecosystem of the Northeast U.S. continental shelf. Also, an increase in carbon dioxide in the Bay water may raise the waterway’s acidity and gradually reduce the ability of oysters, clams, mussels and other animals to build calcium carbonate shells.
Amid the dire predictions and warnings, it’s reassuring to know that some are trying to be proactive and prepared. By comparison, the alternative of continuing the debate seems awfully shortsighted.