Baltimore, Maryland – Ninety percent of Marylanders live in counties affected recently by weather-related disasters, according to an interactive online map released today by Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center that crunches data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“From massive floods to the record breaking snow storm that buried Baltimore this January, dangerous weather is already hitting close to home,” said Lindsey Mendelson, fellow with Environment Maryland. “And without action to stop climate change, scientists say these extremes—and their impact on Marylanders—will only get worse.”
Environment Maryland researchers, who created the online map, Hitting Close to Home, found that six federally declared weather-related disasters, including severe storms, floods, tropical storms, snow and ice storms, and drought hit counties housing ninety percent of the Maryland population from 2010 to 2015.
Scientists say that global warming will likely increase many of the risks posed by extreme weather. Extreme precipitation is already increasing across the Northeast and continued trends could increase the risk of intense downpours, heavy snowstorms and severe flooding in Maryland.
The analysis comes as Maryland’s leaders consider clean energy standards and discuss improvements to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the nation’s first multi-state program to limit global warming pollution from power plants.
“To protect our communities from the future risks of climate change, Maryland must build on its rich legacy of climate leadership and pave the way for a clean, renewable energy future,” said Maryland Senator Paul Pinsky. Senator Pinsky serves on the Maryland climate-change panel and is leading the effort to reauthorize the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act (SB 323) which passed the Maryland Senate last month and would reduce greenhouse gas emissions forty percent by 2030.
"Switching from fossil fuel energy to clean, renewable energy cleans up our air and saves lives. Strengthening the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act helps all Marylanders breathe easier and be healthier,” said Dr. Cindy Parker who is a faculty member at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and president of Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility.
The map indicates that Baltimore city was struck by four total disasters since 2011 alone, including two tropical storms, a snowstorm, and a severe storm.
“Baltimore is vulnerable to a range of natural hazards including heavy precipitation, hurricanes or tropical storms, sea level rise, storm surge, extreme heat, and windstorms. In 2013, the city decided to integrate climate adaptation into its all hazard mitigation plan and proactively plan for anticipated impacts from climate change,” said Kristin Baja, Baltimore Office of Sustainability Climate and Resilience Planner.
In addition to statistics for recent weather-related disasters, the map includes case studies and personal stories from Americans impacted by extreme weather events across the country, including Marylanders.
Since the pre-industrial era, the average global temperature has increased by nearly a degree Celsius. In December, nearly 200 nations reached a global accord to limit warming to no more than another degree – a benchmark scientists say is critical to avert even more severe and frequent weather disasters.
“To meet our commitment in Paris and avoid the most dangerous climate impacts ultimately we need to transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy, and we need states like Maryland to lead the way,” concluded Mendelson. “Maryland’s next step should include strengthening the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to reduce regional power plant pollution by more than half in the next 15 years.”
To explore the online map visit: EnvironmentMaryland.org/ExtremeWeather
Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center is a statewide, citizen funded advocacy organization working for a cleaner, greener, healthier future. www.EnvironmentMaryland.org