Md. northern hardwood trees will likely disappear and pines will become more abundant.
Md. northern hardwood trees will likely disappear and pines will become more abundant.

It makes sense that as our planet’s glaciers quickly melt due to global warming, Maryland’s coastal communities will be hit hard. But how will climate change impact Baltimore?

The answer to that mack-daddy question is summed up in Maryland’s climate change report: Global Warming and the Free State. Maryland’s own climate expert and a key author of the report, Dr. Donald Boesch, highlighted a few interesting Baltimore-specific changes we can expect. Dr. Boesch is the President of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. In short, climate change will affect you and everyone you care about as Maryland’s weather, temperatures, rain events, coastlines, birds, waterways, and trees will all change.

Dr. Boesch points out, “The latest climate news is that we now have first-time analysis from the international science community that the world can stabilize global warming for a livable planet.” Maryland has been a leader in this effort with the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2009. Now we just need to put the pedal to the metal. 

Global Warming and the Free State was developed during Governor O’Malley’s tenure. Though the report is fairly long, this one-page summary is worth reading because climate change is and will continue to impact you and your family.

Here are just a few changes Baltimore can expect.

Think Florida

According to Dr. Boesch, “Baltimore summers will be long and intolerable. With no greenhouse gas reductions, summer temperatures are projected to increase by as much 9°F, with heat waves extending throughout most summers.” Baltimore can expect roughly 35 days each summer over 100ºF. Today, we average about 2 days over 100ºF. By the end of the century, almost every summer day will be at least 90ºF. 

Dr. Boesch points out that due to the greenhouse gas emissions emitted since the industrial revolution, global warming is inevitable. The real question is to what extent. The report notes that even if we do globally reduce emissions, Baltimore can still expect 15 days over 100ºF.

Maryland’s coastlines and urban shores will take a beating

”There is a greater likelihood that storms striking Maryland would be more powerful than those experienced during the 20th century and would be accompanied by higher storm surges— made worse because of higher mean sea level—and greater rainfall amounts,” according to the Global Warming and the Free State report. For Baltimore, neighborhoods on the water, including the Port of Baltimore, will experience Hurricane Isabel-like flooding every few years.

“I can’t breathe”

With more hot summer days will come an increase in unhealthy smog. The hot summer sun bakes the chemical nitrogen oxide (coal-fired power plant and auto pollution) into ground level ozone, or smog. Smog causes all types of health issues for the almost 1.5 million people in our metro who suffer from respiratory issues.  Not only will it be too warm to play and exercise outside, but many people won’t be able to do either because of poor air quality. (Why isn’t this on the TV news?)

Where are the Orioles and Oaks?

Gardeners are already seeing changes in Maryland’s plant life, but the report notes that, “Northern hardwoods will likely disappear and pines become more abundant. The Maple-beech-birch forest of Western Maryland is likely to fade away and pine trees will become more dominant in Maryland’s forests.

According to the state climate change report, increased temperatures may, “force out 34 or more bird species, including the Baltimore oriole, although southern species may replace them.”

How long do we have?

You may not be expecting good news, but that’s exactly the point Dr. Boesch wants to make. “In the 2013 United Nation’s 5th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, peer-reviewed analysis now suggests that we can take action and stabilize our climate. Humans will be able to live in cities and survive with up to a 2º Celsius rise in global temperatures if we do what we have to do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. 

The IPCC Mitigation report predicts global greenhouse gas emissions must reduce by 40 to 70 percent by 2050.

Gulp. If we collectively need to cut in half our greenhouse gas emissions by by 2050, big changes need to happen soon. “It’s not realistic to think we can wait until 2046 to figure this out,“ added Dr. Boesch. The IPCC Mitigation report suggests a suite of changes need to occur with the greatest investments being in energy efficiency, reduced fossil fuel use, improved carbon capture, and increased renewables.

Maryland’s GreenHouse Gas Reduction Act

Based on the Global Warming and the Free State, the O’Malley administration enacted the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2009 requiring Maryland to reduce greenhouse gas emission by 25 percent by 2020 (from 2006 levels). The bill runs out in 2016, and renewing this bill will be a major push by the environmental community in the 2016 General Assembly.  EmPOWER Maryland, offshore wind, community solar, a fracking moratorium, and running existing pollution controls on coal-fired power plants are just a few of the statewide efforts that have helped Maryland reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent through September 2014. (A recession helps, too.)

Any climate questions?

If you have any burning questions or climate change topics you would like addressed in the future, please leave a comment below. We’re going to keep an open dialogue with Dr. Boesch and the climate scientist community.

An upcoming article is a “skimmer version” of the U.N. IPCC 5th climate change report. As the world’s leaders meet in Paris this November to hammer out a greenhouse gas emission reduction agreement (with the Pope’s blessing), it’s smart to know what the world’s scientists are reporting.

Added on October 5th: If you’re looking to learn more about our climate and learn about solutions, the Maryland Climate Consortium is hosting the Energy, Health, & Climate Expo: Renewing Maryland Together at locations across the state.

Not only will each expo have dozens of green businesses and non-profits on hand ready to help you dial-up-your-green-factor, but also your elected officials will be present to share state level efforts to help our climate. 

Baltimore (Sunday, October 11th 1:00p.m. to 4:00 p.m.)

Southern Maryland (Saturday, October 17 at 1:00p.m. to 4:00p.m.)

Prince George’s County (Saturday, October 24 at 1:00p.m. to 5:00p.m.)

Harford County (Thursday, November 12 5:00p.m. to 8:00p.m.)

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Laurel Peltier

Laurel Peltier writes the environment GreenLaurel column every Thursday in the Baltimore Fishbowl.

6 replies on “Md. Climate Scientist: “Baltimore Summers Will be Long and Intolerable””

  1. I would love to have practical and realistic information on how to be more energy efficient while living in a 100 year old brick house in the heat island that is Baltimore City. Some of the solar panel leasing companies won’t put panels on a flat roof; and it’s unclear how much structural change would be required to install solar panels on the roof-tops here. I will be ready to act when I am confident that we can power our home independent of “the grid” and have reliable service for our installation of choice. Given the current Political Climate, our choices are currently iffy, costly, and insecure.

    1. Sarah- I can’t thank you enough for your question. As a matter-of-fact, I will write a quick article that lays out several options, some available, some in the near future, some free, and some require an investment with a good ROI. I also own a 70-year-old brick home that used to be a frosty energy hog, and that’s no longer the case. And, my home isn’t friendly, but their are other options for reducing our energy and emissions. So, I’ll email you the link, and thanks for being open to some new ideas. Laurel

  2. Baltimore summers: “long and intolerable”? And this is something new? So far, nothing has compared with the summer of ’88 — that one was brutal! What is the explanation for the fact that the summers have been cooler and cooler since then?

  3. Such an important topic. Thanks for covering! There is some good news related to Maryland’s efforts to reduce GHGs- according to the state, we are on track to create about 30,000 new jobs and generate net new economic activity of $3-4 billion, by taking actions like solarization and weatherization of homes, planting more trees, and preparing for more electric vehicles.

    Also, there are clean Energy Expos taking place all through the month of October. Could you stare those dates and locations, Laurel?

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