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Helping Maryland Communities Prepare for Potentially Dangerous Effects of Climate Change

Looking ahead to the strange and unknown in weather.

By Lauren Kirkwood, Capital News Service

From potential heat waves to increased cases of respiratory illness and outbreaks of infectious disease, Maryland scientists are looking to predict how climate change will affect health in order to help communities across the state prepare.

Looking ahead at the possible impact of global warming will give states and cities the chance to enact plans to protect those especially vulnerable to public health threats, including infants, the elderly and people with allergies or other medical conditions, scientists said.

In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama noted 12 of the hottest years on record have fallen in the past 15 years, and said if Congress fails to act to prepare the nation for the impact of climate change, he and his Cabinet will.

Maryland is a recipient of some of that action—it received $250,000 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Climate-Ready States and Cities Initiative, which includes 16 states and two cities, to analyze potential effects of climate change. The funding will be used over four years to study threats in the state, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

"What we'll be doing is working with local communities, local health departments and local jurisdictions to apply forecasts and models that look at how climate change might affect us," said Clifford Mitchell, the director of DHMH's Environmental Health Bureau.

State and local agencies will study how aspects of the environment affect public health, such as the link between air quality and respiratory illnesses, as well as heat-related injuries, vector-borne diseases like malaria, and drinking water quality.

The Chesapeake Bay, a geographical feature that makes Maryland more vulnerable to changes in sea level than other parts of the country, is also of particular interest, Mitchell said.

"One of the concerns is, as the temperature changes, how does that affect the ecology of the Bay," he said. "We know that there are naturally occurring biological hazards that we need to be aware of."

However, Mitchell said Maryland's coast is not the only region that merits additional study.

"We're not just looking at the Chesapeake, we're also looking at different areas of the state," he said. "While the Chesapeake as a unique geographical feature might make Maryland, as a coastal state, more susceptible to climate changes, they can also affect inland parts of the state."

Likewise, the CDC's initiative will not be limited to one or two regions of the country, but will span a wide geographic area in order to look at the diverse impacts of climate change on the nation's health, said George Luber, associate director for climate change with the CDC's Climate and Health Program.

"We are working with partners in places as distant as Oregon and Florida and Maine and California," Luber said. "Each one of those states is going through the process of looking at the climate and the outlook and saying, given these changes in rainfall or temperature ... what the potential health problems in the future might be."

One of the goals of the project is to identify certain populations at a greater risk of illness, such as young children and the elderly, as well as those who suffer from conditions like asthma or seasonal allergies.

In addition, the research will give communities the opportunity to prepare for forecasted changes in the climate.

In the Pacific Northwest, for example, scientists predict heat waves could cause an increased number of days with temperatures above 100 degrees. The region normally has a relatively cool climate, and its residents often don't have air conditioning in their homes. By looking to the future, communities can prevent health problems by constructing cooling shelters or finding other solutions, Luber said.

"Those events are going to be more of a challenge with a population not used to heat waves," he said, citing the 2003 heat wave in Western Europe that killed 70,000 people. "We want to prevent things like that by getting ahead of these types of severe weather."

By giving state and local agencies the tools to examine the impact of climate change on health, states and cities can create plans to manage the risks to public health, Luber added.

"As we look at the potential risks, we can develop strategies to help adapt to and respond to that," Mitchell said. "This is really meant to build capacity in the state to respond to and manage health hazards associated with climate change."

Although the Maryland Commission on Climate Change released a Climate Action plan to predict global warming's effect on the state in 2008, Maryland stands to benefit from more study and preparation, Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., said in a statement announcing the funding.

“Climate change is happening at an alarming rate and we can no longer ignore the adverse effects it will have on the environment and the health of our citizens,” the statement said.

Joe Brown February 19, 2013 at 12:08 PM
There is no global warming folks. It simply is not true. Just google global temperature change and see for yourself. Here's one of many articles. http://www.humanevents.com/2012/01/30/whoops-no-global-warming-for-the-last-15-years/
Robert G February 19, 2013 at 12:31 PM
One only has to look at the source of the "no global warming" link to understand the position taken. "Powerful Conservative Voices", what else could one expect but the party line. Meantime intelligent people are working on the facts.
Chris W February 19, 2013 at 12:41 PM
"Based on readings from more than 30,000 measuring stations, the data was issued last week without fanfare by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit. It confirms that the rising trend in world temperatures ended in 1997." So when the data seemed to indicate warming, they would have a press conference. Now when the data does not show warming, they bury it, and yet somehow it's the conservatives that are biased. Sigh....
cynthia February 19, 2013 at 12:43 PM
Robert G, you are not paying attention. They changed global warming to climate change. Why? Because we are really in a cooling stage. This is all about money! And people like Al Gore getting richer buy selling the hoax to uninformed Americans. Stop being so narrow minded and search out the truth. You have been looking in the wrong places.
BadStatistics February 19, 2013 at 01:01 PM
Climate change isn't so much based on the temperature associated with a single particular year, but more so with how much change occurs over a period of time (more than a year). Typical past data (pre-industrial revolution) swings in temperature would vary by approximately .2 degrees celsius, either up, or down during measured periods. However, today's deviations are much more likely to reach .6 degrees or greater during a measured period. It is universally agreed, universally as in, the entire scientific community, that a 2 degree celsius change in temperature will have catastrophic consequences on the planet earth. No one disagrees with this at all. Also, here's a link you should read, cynthia. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/feb/14/funding-climate-change-denial-thinktanks-network
Christy Wilson February 19, 2013 at 02:50 PM
We could argue "climate change" all day and end up in the same place we started. I am more concerned about" In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama noted 12 of the hottest years on record have fallen in the past 15 years, and said if Congress fails to act to prepare the nation for the impact of climate change, he and his Cabinet will. " Personally I think it would be most effective to go back to having 3 branches of government. I am apalled that he would take that tone with another branch of government. Who does he think he is? If he wants respect, he would do better to treat others respectfully. Maybe I should keep my thoughts to myself though...he could send a drone to take out this disagreeing voice...
Michael Shapiro February 19, 2013 at 03:20 PM
Amazing how those who believe that science and overwhelming statistical evidence, along with advancements in data gathering, has to be wrong because they believe that those who are experienced in and educated in climatology can't be right. After all, they are objective and my beliefs must be correct because they are my beliefs. All of the evidence and virtually all of the accredited scientists, with experience studying climate agree that climate change is taking place. What those who refuse to understand that we can be in real trouble refuse to realize is that climate change isn't just about rising temperatures. It is about extremes in weather. Yes, parts (most) of the world is getting warmer, but there are places with extreme winters. There are more and more severe storms of all sorts. There is more desertification. My real hope is that, while we attempt to find good, long term solutions to the climate change, we don't lose sight of the fact that climate change can't be turned around on a dime. We will need to make preparations to deal with more extreme weather events, in the meanwhile.
W. L. February 19, 2013 at 03:56 PM
Can't believe some of these comments. There is nothing wrong with being prepared. Would be important for "any" disaster that comes our way, whether the result of climate change or not. Maybe some lives will be saved.
ER February 19, 2013 at 04:50 PM
The same is said for the Global warming fanatics who use scare tactics to fleece funds from citizens.Just another green light for state and federal governments to tax,tax and more tax. No job creation or sustainable industry just tax.
Tea L February 19, 2013 at 06:41 PM
Yes, the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it too. And evolution is just a theory. Same "logic"....it seems that there will always be this huge uneducated segment of society. Kudos to those patient enough to make an attempt to pierce through their willful ignorance. I just don't get why the Republicans and Tea Party fanatics think it is in their interest to ignore the data. Insane.
Kim Cooke February 19, 2013 at 08:28 PM
The only fleecing going on originates with greedy corporations scared to death of cutting into profits to modernize manufacturing so as to minimize environmental destruction.
Mike Carter February 19, 2013 at 09:19 PM
Call me a bad person...but, I sincerely hope that every one of you who refuses to accept the well researched and peer reviewed scientific facts about climate change have your houses flooded out, your roofs ripped off by freak tornados or caved in by unprecedented blizzard snow, you collapse from heat stroke or pass out from dehydration on 100+ degree days. You are the same imbeciles who don't believe in a healthy diet and exercise until you have a heart attack, or refused to believe that smoking (and 2nd hand smoke) caused cancer until you began losing loved ones to the disease. This is NOT up for debate, the science is clear...climate change is happening, despite what the right propagandizes to the contrary. Big Tobacco swore up and down for decades that smoking did NOT cause cancer. They convinced right wingers that the science was flawed and they fought tooth and nail to keep the facts from coming out...how did that turn out? Same thing is happening now with climate change. Go here, these some of the smartest people on the planet, you might want to listen to them: http://climate.nasa.gov/ And, if you want to refute NASA, don't bring a nail clipper to a gun fight...bring peer reviewed facts from established and respected scientists...
Brian February 20, 2013 at 09:11 AM
“Global warming” and “climate change,” while closely related and sometimes used interchangeably, technically refer to two different things. “Global warming” applies to the long-term trend of rising average global temperature. “Climate change” is a broader term that reflects the fact that carbon pollution does more than warm our planet. It is also changing rain and snow patterns and increasing the risk of intense storms and droughts. pwnd!
Chris W February 20, 2013 at 11:33 AM
Real nice. I hope the same for you. The only way to get grant money, is to bow at the altar of climate change. It makes it real convienent since that way all the AGW studies will be funded by business and you can say "big oil" etc. etc. and dismiss them for their corporate funding. Scientists were waning of a coming ice age back in the 70s. I guess there was no money to be made selling carbon credits for that "crisis".
Robert G February 20, 2013 at 06:56 PM
Hi Cynthia, it wasn't me using the term "global warming". What I paid attention to is the obviously slanted link with the same old denial. I understand conservatives don't like change but this is one change that's happening as we speak and no amount of denial will make it go away. It is no hoax, I'm far from narrow minded, in fact I offered no opinion other than the link source is by nature biased. Truth be told I'd rather my tax money were spent on the environment than creating and maintaining the ability to kill more and more people as "cleanly" as possible in order to maintain a democracy that is in reality a corpocracy. If the present moment is any indication as to how our experiment with democracy has worked out I'd say it's pretty close to failure.
patricia April 17, 2013 at 12:18 PM
Presiden Clinton appointed Franklin Raines to run Fannie and Freddie, while he was there he made off with NINETY MILLION dollars of taxpayers money, that tied in with the housing debacle. But more importantly while all this was going on Franklin Raines purchased PATENTS on carbon credits. So that governments like the U.S. could start taxing it's citizens for their carbon footprints. Liberal, progressives like the Clintons', Gore, Obama, O'Malley, all in on this new tax. Kind of like the RAIN TAX that O'Malley just passed.
patricia April 17, 2013 at 08:42 PM
Yes, Tea L, anyone who doesn't agree with the liberal progressive agenda is ignorant, stupid or whatever other degrading names you may have to call them. Can you ignore the data, that Al Gore, the Clintons, and other progressives are making millions of dollars on climate change, global warming or the next name they change it to, when they can't sell it anymore. This plan has been in the works for a long time, and these people could care less about our environment, all these progressives care about is the money their going to make. NO CHANGE!
a2z April 17, 2013 at 09:23 PM
The science is clear, but wishing bad things upon others is downright mean.
jag April 18, 2013 at 02:40 AM
Hilarious. Even the naive, head in the sand deniers know there's global warming. They just claim it's a natural phenomena (which is obviously laughable considering how rapid the change has been the past generation) or that it's not as harmful as other claim. I haven't heard someone say that it flat doesn't exist in years. At this point that's just beyond idiotic.
jag April 18, 2013 at 02:45 AM
Patricia - that's exactly the point. It's not a matter of a progressive agenda. Climate change is a quantifiable fact. People who realize facts aren't progressive, they simply aren't ignorant. Facts don't actually have a liberal bias. Despite what you might think, conservatives are allowed to be educated as well. Just because you aren't doesn't mean others can't be.

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