On 19th January 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments related to a lawsuit filed by the city of Baltimore against renowned oil and gas companies. The lawsuit targets 21 energy companies in the U.S. and abroad, including:
- BP PLC
- Exxon Mobil Corporation
- Royal Dutch Shell PLC
- Chevron Corporation
The Baltimore city government demanded monetary compensation from these energy giants for the catastrophic effects of climate change their products have had on the city and its residents.
The Perils of Climate Change
While the verdict of the lawsuit is still pending, it has drawn the public’s attention to critical environmental issues, including global warming and the greenhouse effect. The reality of climate change has been threatening the planet for many years now.
With melting polar ice-caps and soaring sea levels, it’s only a matter of time before we start facing the actual repercussions of climate change. Check the worldwide forecast for temperature and precipitation on any weather site and you’ll notice a significant change in seasonal weather patterns.
What Makes Maryland Vulnerable?
Unfortunately, Maryland hasn’t been spared from the harmful repercussions of climate change and global warming. To begin with, a major part of the state’s population lives in coastal areas, including Baltimore City, Dorchester, Saint Mary’s, Kent, etc.
Rising sea levels could wreak havoc on the lives of such residents. Apart from flooding, these areas have also become more susceptible to extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and blizzards.
Also, Maryland’s economy heavily relies on the following industries:
- Maritime operations
- Outdoor recreation
Needless to say, the survival of these industries in Maryland will depend on what turns the climate takes. A study by the Labor Network for Sustainability found sea-level rise at the Port of Baltimore will reduce employment opportunities in and around the city.
Likewise, increased flooding and coastal erosion could limit the number of ships that can dock at the Chesapeake Bay at any given time. This, in turn, would decrease overall shipping activity in the state, thereby, adversely affecting the economy and causing a loss of jobs.
This is problematic considering that sustained port operations are crucial for the growth of Maryland’s economy. Also, they’re responsible for generating a huge fraction of jobs in the state.
Likewise, intense heat waves and droughts will take a toll on Maryland’s farming community. Also, the fishing industry has to suffer losses due to coastal flooding and storms. These factors will even affect the natural biodiversity and wildlife of the region.
The biggest risk, however, is that longer and more intense summers will dissuade tourists from frequently visiting the state. Also, coastal flooding will affect various beaches and tourist attractions in the city.
Key tourist destinations, such as downtown Annapolis, Ocean City, and Fell’s Point, are all susceptible to flooding and natural calamities due to changing weather patterns.
For instance, Hurricane Isabel caused severe floods in downtown Annapolis in 2003. Such events will take the economy and employment rates further south.
Climate Change in Maryland: The Real Picture
It’s convenient to think that the aforementioned consequences of climate change won’t affect Marylanders anytime soon. However, the latest storm and weather data show a different reality.
To begin with, on average, Marylanders are exposed to dangerous levels of heat for 10 days every year. With global temperatures on the rise, this figure is projected to cross 40 days per year by 2050. It translates to more than 50 days per year when the state will experience heat waves.
This is especially worrying because roughly 110,000 Maryland residents are vulnerable to extreme heat. Also, the average temperature in Maryland has increased by nearly 1.8°F every century since 1895. This has resulted in warmer winters and more humid summers.
Moreover, sea levels in Maryland are now rising by an inch every five years. This, in turn, has resulted in severe coastal erosion, sedimentation, and flooding. It’s estimated that the state will have to spend nearly $3 billion to control the accelerated rise of sea levels.
Also, tidal flooding in Maryland has increased by 178% since 2000, with more than 23,000 properties currently at risk. Likewise, torrential rainfall has been on the rise, with the most prominent example being the flooding of Ellicott City in 2018.
This, in turn, has increased the likelihood of weather-related calamities. Between 2017 and 2019, the state witnessed five severe storms and a tropical cyclone. This was followed by Hurricane Isaias in 2020, which caused flash floods in many parts of Maryland.
What’s the Solution?
Unless suitable preventive measures are taken by the state government and residents, Maryland could soon be struggling to recover from the damages of these catastrophic events.
While implementing environment-friendly policies are of the utmost importance, it’s also crucial that Marylanders make an effort to switch to cleaner and greener forms of energy. From solar panels to wind turbines – there are various ways in which you could use renewable energy in your daily life.
Are you taking any steps to reduce your carbon footprint and the impact of climate change in your area? Share your experience in the comments section below.