Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles called Maryland’s Coastal Adaptation Report Card “groundbreaking” and “one of the most important steps we can take to track coastal resilience and accelerating climate progress in Maryland.”
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It’s no secret that climate change has already had a devastating impact on coastal communities in Maryland. In a state with more than 3,000 miles of shoreline – and where 72% of the population lives or works along the coast – the level of risk for even more damage is always rising.
So how is Maryland coping with rising temperatures, stronger storms, and increased flooding already experienced due to climate change?
The University of Maryland Environmental Science Center (UMCES) collaborated with the Adaptation and Resilience Task Force of the Maryland Commission on Climate Change and the Department of Natural Resources on a fact sheet first-of-its-kind report that provides an overview of the current state of adaptation in coastal Maryland counties and establishes a framework for measuring future progress.
Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles, who co-chairs the state’s climate commission, called Maryland’s Coastal Adaptation Report Card “groundbreaking” and “one of the most steps we can take to track coastal resilience and accelerate climate progress in Maryland.”
“By thinking globally and measuring locally, we are driven to become greener and smarter, which means dramatically reducing greenhouse gases and disaster costs in our communities,” he said.
The report card, which was released on Friday, gives the state an overall grade of B-minus. However, the review highlighted several shortcomings that could lead to greater damage.
“Some indicators that have been measured already meet or are close to meeting current adaptation goals, while others require significant investments to meet adaptation goals,” wrote the scientists and researchers who wrote. compiled the report.
The tally comes as the General Assembly once again prepares to consider aggressive legislation to address climate change in the state. The Senate and House could not agree on the best approach to the legislation in the final hours of last year’s legislative session.
The new adaptation report card noted progress in Maryland’s coastal jurisdictions through 15 indicators divided into four categories – ecosystem, flood, planning and socio-economic.
The Ecosystem and Planning categories scored A and B-plus respectively. State and local governments have been particularly effective in maintaining the area of wetlands, according to the report, and in using dredged material for restoration. Populations in floodplain areas have also been reduced, decreasing the potential threat of coastal emergencies.
But the report warns that more needs to be done to improve data collection and what climate scientists call “flood risk visualizations” – maps that show different scenarios as climate projections change.
Progress towards meeting the flooding and socio-economic adaptation goals was not as high in the new survey, with both categories earning a C grade. Many indicators in these categories, such as insurance against flooding, miss adaptation targets and need to be improved, the researchers suggested.
“The most pressing challenges are the location of critical facilities that must remain operational in an emergency in flood-prone areas and the need to adapt some previously flooded properties to withstand future climate events,” the report said.
Katie May Laumann, who led the development of the survey within the UMCES Integration and Application Network, said finding adequate data was the biggest challenge in putting together the newsletter.
“Data gaps also present challenges for managers planning for adaptation,” she said. “Filling these gaps is important to inform planning and management decisions to improve Maryland’s adaptive status.”
The Hogan administration was clearly pleased with the overall progress outlined in the report.
“Maryland continues to be a leader in adaptation,” said Natural Resources Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio.
And UMCES released quotes of support from two prominent Democrats who regularly work on the climate issue — U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin and Deputy Speaker Dana M. Stein (D-Baltimore County), House Vice Speaker Environment and Transportation Committee in Annapolis – praising the adaptation report card as a valuable tool for providing information and setting policy priorities.
A leading environmental group took a more nuanced view of the report card’s findings.
“This report represents an important first step in helping citizens and government leaders understand the significant risks we face from climate change in Maryland,” said Doug Myers, senior Maryland scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “Establishing indicators, collecting data about them, and honestly evaluating them is necessary as Maryland strives to adapt its thousands of miles of coastline to rising sea levels and stronger storms.”
But Myers was concerned about the dangers that climate change poses to public services and emergency services, especially in high-risk areas, and said the report’s recommendations for making improvements are not always backed up by adequate funding or coherent plans to implement them.
“Even in the best-case scenario, in which greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced, sea levels in the Maryland region are expected to rise 3 feet by 2100, resulting in loss of coastal properties. across the state,” Myers said. “Given this, we must act now by preserving forests, expanding wetlands, planting trees and investing in green infrastructure such as rain gardens, permeable pavements and green roofs to protect residents in long term.