ANNAPOLIS – After a year that saw many parts of the country hit by scorching heat, devastating wildfires, severe storms and record flooding, a new Environment Maryland report, In the Path of the Storm: Global Warming, Extreme Weather, and the Impacts of Weather-Related Disasters in the United States, documents how global warming could lead to certain extreme weather events becoming even more common or more severe in the future. The report found that, every Maryland county has been hit by at least one federally declared weather-related disaster since 2006. Last year’s Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee that produced widespread flooding in Maryland, including Anne Arundel county and Annapolis, were two of the extreme weather events highlighted in the report.
Environment Maryland Field Organizer Ewa Krason was joined by Delegate Tom Hucker who represents District 20 in Montgomery County in the Maryland General Assembly, and Maria Broadbent who directors the Department of Neighborhood and Environmental Programs for the City of Annapolis in releasing the new report.
“Global warming is a serious issue that is having real consequences. It's more important than ever that we prepare ourselves to live sustainably using green energy technologies including on and offshore wind, solar, and hydro power” said Delegate Hucker.
“Every Marylander has lived through extreme weather causing extremely big problems for Maryland’s economy and our public safety” said Ewa Krason, Environment Maryland Field Organizer. “We need to cut dangerous carbon pollution now to stop global warming from fueling even more extreme weather in the future.”
The new report, entitled In the Path of the Storm: Global Warming, Extreme Weather, and the Impacts of Weather-Related Disasters in the United States, examined county-level weather-related disaster declaration data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for 2006 through 2011 to determine how many Marylanders live in counties hit by recent weather disasters. The complete county-level data can be viewed through an interactive map available on Environment Maryland’s website here. The report also details the latest science on the projected influence of global warming on heavy rain and snow; heat, drought and wildfires; and hurricanes and coastal storms. Finally, the report explores how the damage from even non-extreme weather events could increase due to other impacts of global warming such as sea level rise.
Key findings from the Environment Maryland’s report include:
- Since 2006, federally declared weather-related disasters affected all 24 Maryland counties;
- In 2011 alone, federally declared weather related disasters affected 18 Maryland counties housing over 4 million people. Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee that dumped record rain on the area and broke the previous two month rainfall record with a monstrous 23.7 inches. The previous record was set in 1934 in August through September with19.04 inches of rainfall.
- Nationally, the number of disasters inflicting more than $1 billion in damage (at least 14) set an all-time record last year, with total damages from those disasters costing at least $55 billion.
“The hurricane that hit Maryland's coast late last year and other severe weather events that have happened around the world should serve as an important reminder of what we're up against. Maryland has more to lose, so it is incumbent upon us to be among the states leading the fight against climate change” Del. Hucker added.
Krason noted that global warming is expected to have varying impacts on different types of extreme weather events. While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently concluded that it is “virtually certain” that hot days will become hotter and “likely” that extreme precipitation events will continue to increase worldwide, there is little scientific consensus about the impact of global warming on events such as tornadoes. In addition, every weather event is now a product of a climate system where global warming “loads the dice” for extreme weather, though in different ways for different types of extreme weather.
“Extreme weather is happening, it is causing very serious problems, and global warming increases the likelihood that we’ll see even more extreme weather in the future,” said Krason. “Carbon pollution from our power plants, cars and trucks is fueling global warming, and so tackling global warming demands that we cut emissions of carbon pollution from those sources.”
“We applaud the Obama administration for the clean car standards they are finalizing, and urge EPA to move ahead with strong carbon pollution standards for coal-fired power plants,” said Krason. “The extreme weather we suffered through in 2011 is a frightening reminder of why we must do everything we can to cut the dangerous carbon pollution that is fueling global warming, and lessen the threat of even worse extreme weather in the future.”
The report was released as Maryland officials consider ways to improve the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the first-in-the-nation cap on carbon pollution from the power sector that sells permits for carbon emissions and has led to nearly $1 billion in investments in energy efficiency and clean energy solutions in the region.
“RGGI has been a key part of Maryland’s strategy to reduce pollution from fossil fuels and shift to clean energy” said Krason. “Additionally, the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2012, if passed in Maryland General Assembly, will allow Maryland to finally tap into home-grown, pollution-free energy right on our own Atlantic Coast, reducing carbon pollution that contributes to global warming. By strengthening RGGI, and brining offshore wind energy to Maryland, we can help secure a clean energy future for Maryland” Krason added.