Bay Journal

Topics: Climate Change

Bay jurisdictions’ no-action climate policy puts restoration in peril

Despite research demonstrating that climate change is adding millions of pounds of nutrient pollution to the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and his Bay states colleagues appear to be taking a page from the Trump playbook: Ignore this inconvenient truth.

Doubts about whether climate change is caused by humans and threatens the planet are rapidly going the way of urban legend. Just ask any resident of Puerto Rico, the Gulf Coast or California how life was during the three consecutive hurricanes or the wildfires that have plagued them this summer and fall. Reliable scientific research shows climate change is also compounding pollution in the Chesapeake. Rainfall exacerbated by these dire developments could mean millions of additional pounds of nitrogen and significantly more phosphorus reaching the Bay every year that will put restoration out of reach by 2025.

2018 marks the crucial midpoint assessment that should ensure restoration remains on track, saving the Bay from dead zones and protecting 18 million watershed residents from increased flooding and toxic algae blooms. Yet regional regulators and political leaders recently decided to let themselves ignore climate-induced pollution during this crucial reassessment, kicking this heavy can down the road until 2025 or later.

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About Climate Change

The Chesapeake Bay was formed 10,000 years ago as a warming climate melted vast ice sheets, raising ocean levels that flooded the lower Susquehanna River valley. Scientists say today’s climate is changing far more rapidly, with potentially severe consequences for the region.

Chesapeake Bay water levels have risen by nearly a foot in the past century, and the rate of sea level rise appears to be accelerating. Warming temperatures are expected to affect rainfall patterns in the region and contribute to more intense storms.

Habitats for many species will be greatly altered. For instance, eelgrass, the dominant underwater grass in high salinity areas of the Chesapeake, is likely to decline because of its low tolerance to high temperatures.

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