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Sea level rise bmore

Photo: Flooding in Baltimore’s inner harbor after Hurricane Isabel in 2003.
The negative impact of climate change also known as global warming is becoming a growing health and environmental issue for many urban communities especially those living along coastal areas.  Climate change refers to the rise in surface temperatures due to the increased use of greenhouse gases such as fossil fuels. There are 4 main types of fossil fuels: Carbon DIoxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O) and Halocarbons. CO2, one of the biggest culprits  causing climate change, is released through combustion of automobiles , heating, cooling and many types of manufacturing.  When these gases are released into the air they trap heat within the atmosphere causing negative effects on the ecosystems such as rising sea levels, severe weather events, heat waves and droughts.

How does this impact Baltimoreans? In urban communities Climate Change creates poor air quality and urban heat island hot spots.  Coastal urban communities have additional threats from sea level rise that lead to flooding and problems with aging wastewater systems . All of this negatively affects human health and the local environment.  Additionally the changing seasonal temperatures such as warmer and wetter fall and winter or longer drier summers impact wildlife life cycles and ecosystem balance. The Baltimore CIty Department of Planning: Disaster Preparedness and Planning Project (DP3) estimated in a 2013 report that average air temperatures are expected to rise 12 degrees in Baltimore by 2100. These heat waves cause poor quality conditions and are especially dangerous to children, the elderly and people with Asthma. Baltimore’s asthma rate is twice the national average (20%). Increased energy demands, high air condition use, and power outages are additional negative components of climate change in urban areas. The National Research Council 2011 sea level rise assessment projects as much as a 2 ft increase for the Chesapeake Bay area by 2050.  This sea level rise combined with increased precipitation and storm surge will lead not only to increase flooding as Baltimore has seen in the aftermath of both Hurricane Isabel (2003) and Sandy (2012), but also to contamination of wastewater in  waterways by stormwater overflows.  Lastly, many species rely on seasonal temperatures changes to survive or not to survive. We may see the die off of certain native plant species  such as Sugar Maples, where Maryland is the southern  part of their range. Others may adapt overtime to changing local conditions. WIldlife that depend on these plants species for habitat as well as migratory species will also face challenges. Additionally, we may see an increase in unwanted insects such as mosquitos and ticks due to prolonged warm summer temperatures and decreases in insect predators

fells point isabel flood

Photo: Aftermath of Isabel in Fells Point, Baltimore

To help mitigate the impacts of climate change urban communities can use these tools listed below:  Also check out this checklist for Maryland Climate Protection. Additionally, Baltimore’s Office of Sustainability in 2012 published a Climate Action Plan to develop greenhouse gas emission reduction goals as well as other mitigation and adaptation strategies. Read the full plan here

 
Plant trees:  As trees grow they take up carbon from the atmosphere, benefit stressed beneficial wildlife and mitigate storm water decreasing flood impacts. Strategically placed trees help cut energy costs in your home. They provide cooling shade in summer and block cold winter winds. Click on the link below the diagram for a short video about the right tree right place for energy efficiency. 
trees for energy effiency
Photo Credit: Texas A&M: http://texastreeplanting.tamu.edu/energy_efficiency.html
Use alternative energy: By reducing the use of fossil fuels, fewer greenhouse gasses are released into the atmosphere.
 
Think water: Join a local stream cleanup or water monitoring project to improve and maintain the quality of our watersheds.
Adjust the thermostat: Raising the temperature in your home by two degrees in the summer and lowering it by two degrees in winter can help cut down on energy consumption in your home.
Use alternate forms of transportation: Use public transportation in the city such as the light rail/metro, MTA buses and charm city circulator. Better yet, considering biking or walking to and from work, school and of course weekend fun and recreation in parks and along trails. The Jones Falls Trail, Gwynns Falls Trail, Herring Run Trail and other various bike routes throughout the city provide both scenic and convenient pathways through the city. 
 
Take other small steps: Switch off the light when you leave the room. Turn off the water faucet while you brush your teeth. Don’t run the dishwasher or washing machine unless you have a full load. Don’t leave your car running.