By Nicole Dao and Laura L.Thornton
BALTIMORE – Violent weather is on the rise in Maryland, and global warming could lead to more extreme weather events in the future, according to a report released Wednesday by Environment Maryland.
“Global warming loads the dice for extreme weather,” said Jon Wong of Environment Maryland — a statewide, citizen-based, activist organization — at a news conference Wednesday morning on the docks of Baltimore’s historic Fells Point district. The district is still recovering from the floods wrought by Hurricane Isabel in 2003, he said.
Extreme weather events like Hurricane Isabel have already brought millions of dollars’ worth of damage to coastal areas along the Chesapeake Bay, Wong said.
In less-populated, coastal areas such as Dorchester County — which is less than 10 feet below sea level, the flooding damage can be particularly acute, says Edward McDonough of Maryland’s emergency management agency.
The report, “Global Warming and Extreme Weather: The Science, the Forecast, and the Impacts on America,” argues that global warming can lead to more intense hurricanes, heat waves and snowstorms — all three of which have caused havoc in Maryland in recent years.
The problem is that global warming leads to more evaporation of water into the Earth’s atmosphere. When a weather event like a hurricane or snowstorm does occur, the storm has more water with which to work, Wong said.
Experts urge caution in firmly linking global warming and increased or more intense weather events.
“Trying to find a scientific link…is scientifically difficult to do,” said David Easterling, chief of the scientific services division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center.
“The bottom line is that there is likely a link…but it’s hard to determine,” he added. “We haven’t done the kind of work we need to do to be able to say ‘yes,’ (there is a link).”
Still, local residents are encouraged to do what they can to reduce their carbon footprints, said Daniel Kirk-Davidoff, an adjunct professor of atmospheric science at the University of Maryland, College Park, at Wednesday’s event.
Global temperatures are increasing by .2 degrees Celsius every decade, Kirk-Davidoff said.
“We escaped Hurricane Earl, but we may be looking at another event down the road,” he added.
Convincing local residents of the importance of the issue can be challenging, said Baltimore City Councilman James Kraft, because it can be difficult to “distinguish between local weather and worldwide climate.”
“(Global warming) is not visible. People can’t touch that,” Kraft added.
Some of the ways in which Marylanders can reduce their impact on the environment are by taking public transportation and driving more fuel-efficient cars.
Environment Maryland is urging the federal government to require the average car to get 60 miles on one gallon of gas by 2025.
But Kraft said that it is unlikely that the federal government will take notice of Environment Maryland’s report.
Congress has recently considered several bills to block the setting of global carbon emission standards. Those would enable polluters to continue harming the environment, Environment Maryland charged.
“Unfortunately, we often utilize corrective reaction over preventative reaction,” said Kraft, who said he believes that working with local citizens will have a more positive impact on the environment than appealing to the federal government.