While the Trump administration’s report last month detailing the effects of rising global temperatures said Maryland had begun feeling the consequences of climate change, lawmakers and state agencies already are taking steps aimed at combating it.
From 1901 to 2016, the global average temperature has increased by about 1.8 degrees, according to the report, and “without significant reductions” in emissions of greenhouse gases, the annual average global temperatures could increase by 9 degrees by the end of this century.
Those 1.8 degrees have resulted in documented issues in Maryland, including, but not limited to, warmer weather, rising sea levels and poorer air quality.
“There are several findings that raise concern,” Ed McDonough, spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, said in an interview. “One is the potential effects on our seafood and agriculture industries. Another is increased flood potential around much of the state and also the loss of coastal lands in some areas around the Chesapeake Bay. Finally, there is the potential for increased health-related issues.”
President Donald Trump dismissed the report’s dire warnings. “I’ve seen it, I’ve read some of it, and it’s fine,” he told reporters. As for the severe economic impacts of climate change, he said, “I don’t believe it.”
All evidence, the 1,600-page report states, points directly to human activities as the cause of climate change. Without drastic action, meteorological conditions and noticeable impacts will continue to worsen, the report warns.
“In Maryland, we are facing climate change effects that place our ecosystems and our economy at risk and threaten to transform the coastlines many of our citizens call home,” Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles said in a statement.
“The continued protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay also relies on a healthy climate,” he said. “It is crucial that we continue to work to address climate change through collaboration between our fellow states and the international community.”
Maryland lawmakers and agencies appear to be focusing on mitigating the looming threats that citizens could face.
Both Republican and Democratic legislators in the Maryland General Assembly plan to propose the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act next session. If passed, the act would set a new statewide standard committing Maryland to using 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. Currently, the standard is set to 25 percent by 2022, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
In addition to moving away from fossil fuels, the bill also envisions economic benefits for Maryland, according to Sen. Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery), one of the measure’s lead sponsors.
By the end of 2030, Feldman said, the state would gain 20,000 additional solar jobs and $400 million in direct economic benefits every year going forward, beginning in 2030.
“To have 13 federal agencies, all with a consistent message, which is ‘if we do nothing and stand pat, we’ve got huge, huge problems down the road, both economically, as well as with the climate and the implications of that,’ it is a call to arms,” Feldman said.
“So, there is renewed interest in bringing in legislation in Annapolis and I don’t think we are going to be the only state,” the lawmaker said. “I think we are going to have action all over the United States on this subject.”
To help “coordinate mitigation, response and recovery activities” in Maryland, MEMA held a retreat last month that included nearly every state agency, according to McDonough, as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Governors Association and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s Executive Council.
“We will continue our efforts to mitigate the effects of these changes,” McDonough said. “Agencies involved with natural resources, the environment, land use, insurance regulation, public health, and disaster response and recovery all play a role in making Maryland more resilient.”
MEMA also started the “Know Your Zone” campaign this year in areas of Maryland subject to tidal flooding or storm surge, working to simplify the evacuation process in case of flooding.
According to the federal report, flooding events are expected to become more frequent as a result of climate change.
“The danger is imminent if we don’t do anything,” Feldman said. “We need to take action right now in 2019; we can’t wait until 2020, 2022, etc.”
“The report that the federal government outlined includes things that we hadn’t even thought about, like [more] insects and [less] agriculture — all the negative implications of just standing pat,” he said. “I’m most concerned if we as a state do nothing.”