Climate Change Is Real
Climate change refers to changes in weather patterns on a global, continental, regional, or local scale. On a global scale, temperatures and sea levels are rising, rainfall patterns are shifting, and wildlife habitats are changing.
Climate change is increasing the number and severity of hurricanes, winter storms, droughts, and other extreme weather events. The effects of climate change in Maryland are already apparent in rising seas, summer heat waves, and more frequent and violent thunderstorms. All of these changes affect Maryland’s citizens, their livelihoods, and the state’s economy.
Downtown Annapolis was flooded during Hurricane Isabel in 2003. The combination of rising sea levels and extreme events like hurricanes will mean even more flooding in the future.
Maryland is vulnerable
Maryland is among the states most vulnerable to climate change. Rising sea levels, along with increased storm intensity, have devastating and far-reaching environmental and economic impacts on Chesapeake Bay and the quality of life Marylanders enjoy. Maryland’s sizable farming community could suffer costly losses during extreme droughts and heat waves. Marylanders everywhere will face increased risk of flooding and significant property damage as a result of more precipitation and other extreme weather events. Children, the elderly, and other sensitive populations are vulnerable to the effects of heat waves and increased air pollution. For these reasons, addressing climate change must be among the state’s highest priorities.
Coastal sea levels are rising in Maryland
Historic tide gauge records demonstrate that sea levels are rising along Maryland’s coast. Due to a combination of global sea level rise and land subsidence, sea levels have risen about one foot within Maryland’s waters during the last 100 years. As our climate changes, sea levels are expected to continue to rise— potentially twice as fast as during the 1900s. Maryland is at risk of experiencing another one-foot rise in sea level by 2050 and as much as a three-foot rise by 2100, contributing to higher storm wave heights, greater flooding in low-lying coastal areas, exacerbated shoreline erosion, and damage to property and infrastructure. The sea level rise map depicts the counties in Maryland that are the most vulnerable to sea level rise.
The long-term tide gauge in Baltimore Harbor shows a steady rise in sea level since the early 1900s.
Extreme events are more frequent
Maryland is experiencing more frequent extreme rain and storm events and more flooding as a result of sea level rise and coastal storms. Increasing temperatures, which allow air to trap more moisture, will make these storm events more common. Extreme events affect human health both directly and indirectly. Warmer temperatures and poor air quality increase respiratory illness and other health problems in our vulnerable populations. Extreme events can directly damage infrastructure such as water treatment and supply, transportation, and electricity systems.
New data and better information confirm that past predictions of the severity and cost of global climate change impacts were conservative: greenhouse gas emissions have increased more rapidly than predicted; Arctic sea ice has retreated faster than models projected; and sea level has risen at a faster rate than expected. A growing economy and population means that even more assets are at risk. Interdependencies among social, economic, and environmental changes can ripple through the economy to magnify climate impacts.