Bay Journal

Topics: Climate Change

Shoreline industry poses hazards as sea level, floods increase

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With the Earth warming and sea level rising, many riverside clusters of industry are ground zero for rising waters — posing a new risk for the environment and those living nearby.

In a report issued this spring, the Center for Progressive Reform finds that almost 1,100 industrial facilities in Virginia’s James River watershed that use state or federally regulated chemicals are exposed to both potential flooding and projected sea level rise. Worse, they are located in socially vulnerable communities where residents have the fewest resources to escape a disaster’s effects.

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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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