Climate Change and the City of Baltimore
Climate change is a shift in weather patterns caused by greenhouse gas increases in the atmosphere. Climate change is already impacting us, and is evident in melting glaciers, rising sea levels across the world, including our own Chesapeake Bay, and the occurrence of more frequent, more intense weather events.
In the past, conversations about climate change were dominated by mitigation, or reducing our carbon footprint. Minimizing the inevitable impacts of climate change (adaptation), such as the public health effects of rising temperatures, and impacts to people and property from rising seas and flooding was a secondary concern. Even when discussing adaptation and preparing for rising temperatures, short term responses such as preparing for “excessive heat events”, have been far more prevalent than long term solutions, such as making years of increasingly hot summers more bearable.
The Baltimore City Department of Planning’s Office of Sustainability with the Department of General Service’s Energy Office will be developing a Climate Action Plan (CAP) over the next eleven months. The goal is for it to be adopted in November 2012.
A Climate Action Plan Advisory Committee has been created, pulling together City, State, business, and community representatives to provide input and feedback on the creation of a CAP for Baltimore.
The images above depict instances of past flooding in Baltimore, during or after severe weather events.
A Climate Action Plan for Baltimore
Baltimore’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) will include mitigation measures, and a focus on adaptation. The CAP will set short-term (2020), and long-term (2030) goals for reducing our green house gas emissions as well as responding to anticipated changes in our climate.
The CAP will evaluate the City government’s greenhouse gas emissions, as well as community or city-wide greenhouse gas emissions, and will propose emissions reductions in both. In 2010, the community-wide Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions for the City of Baltimore were 9,611,777 tons, while the emissions linked to City government were 588,170 tons. The Baltimore City CAP will provide updated energy reduction solutions for all five of the Baltimore Community Sectors (Residential, Industrial, Commercial, Waste, and Transportation). The detailed emissions data from the 2010 inventory will help to accurately track future energy reductions.
Examples of mitigation measures that will be considered in the development of the CAP are:
- Encouraging building owners to make energy efficiency improvements to reduce energy consumption;
- Supporting transportation related improvements that encourage the use of transit, improve the walk-ability of neighborhoods, and reduce the idling of automobiles;
- Encourage the use of alternative energy sources such as solar or wind;
- Support system maintenance and improvements to our utilities so that they use less energy.
The map above is an illustration of the impact of flooding that could occur in Baltimore's Inner Harbor and surrounding neighborhoods with a 10 foot storm surge.
Examples of adaptation strategies that will be considered are:
- Greening strategies that reduce ambient air temperatures and reduce the heat island effect;
- Incorporating climate change impacts such as flooding into the planning and design of critical infrastructure such as roads, water supply and storm drain systems;
- Plan for precipitation-related weather extremes such as severe flooding and winter storms;
- Identify strategies to avoid the health impacts of extreme heat;
- Recommend actions to ensure that energy supplies are sufficient to meet demand in peak periods to avoid rolling brown-outs.
The CAP is a huge step toward achieving Baltimore’s Sustainability Plan goal of reducing green house gas emissions and addressing the physical impacts of climate change related to flooding and extreme heat events through adaptation, and we are excited that this process is underway.
We welcome recommendations and comments from community members. Any questions related to the Climate Action Plan may be submitted to Alice Kennedy, Sustainability Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org