To adapt to the problems caused by global climate change, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley recently issued an executive order requiring state agencies to consider the risk of coastal flooding and sea level rise when proposing projects for new state-owned structures. The directive will come into effect after July 1, 2013, when state agencies release requirements for such facilities.
Marylanders have already lost 13 islands in the Chesapeake Bay and continue to lose 580 acres of shore per year. The state’s coastline is the fourth longest in the continental United States and is considered a “hotspot” for sea-level rise because levels are rising at an annual rate three to four times faster than in other parts of the world. According to the USGS, the shoreline has experienced an increase of 2-3.7 millimeters per year compared to a global average of less than 1 millimeter. Testimony from the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources also shows that, in the last century, the level of the Chesapeake Bay has risen more than a foot due to the combined forces of regional land subsidence – receding land movement – and global sea level rise.
At greatest risk are an estimated 40,000 homes and 257,000 acres of land located in areas just above the high tide line. The state is also at greater risk from a 100 year flood, which scientists now predict to have a 22 percent chance of occurrence by 2030.
The executive order follows the state’s 2008 Climate Action Plan, which includes a section on "Reducing Maryland´s Vulnerability to Climate Change" and focuses on the erosion impacts from coastal storm surges. As part of the plan, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources created a CoastSmart Communities Program that provides local training, grants, and technical assistance to areas that are likely to be affected by sea level rise. The program provides users with access to an online mapping tool and has awarded more than $500,000 to coastal areas in order to adapt to climate change impacts.
Besides those in Maryland, many other U.S. state officials are taking measures to address their vulnerability to climate change. State plans range from evaluating the impacts of potential sea level rise, as does Executive Order 09-05 in Washington, to addressing concerns relating to prolonged drought and severe forest fires in Arizona’s Executive Order 2005-02.
However, many scientists believe that more state action will be needed as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s predicts up to a two-foot global sea level rise by 2100.
For More Information
C2ES: State Climate Action Plan Map
C2ES: State Climate Adaptation Plan Map