BALTIMORE (WJZ) – Maryland has inadequate climate change data, which prevents it from properly offsetting the negative impact storm surges, stormwater runoff and heavy rains have on its coastal residents, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science has found.

Center for Environmental Science staff pointed out these shortcomings on Friday in what environmentalists described as a first-of-its-kind report card, which provides a snapshot of the risks that Maryland’s coastal counties face and establishes a blueprint for measuring progress down the road.

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The 12-page report card examined the state’s preparation for threats posed by climate change, giving Maryland a B- grade for its efforts to protect coastal counties from climate change that could cause ecosystem, flooding and socioeconomic damage.

DOCUMENT: View a copy of the climate report card

The report showed that Maryland is making progress toward preparing for climate changes but lacks the ability to track climate change projections and plan ahead, according to the report’s findings.

“The biggest challenge in developing the report card was finding adequate data,” Science Integrator Katie May Laumann said. “Data gaps also present challenges to managers planning for adaptation. Filling these gaps is important to inform planning and management decisions to improve Maryland’s adaptation status.”

Maryland has 3,000 miles of shoreline and 72% of its population—roughly 4.24 million people—living and working along its coast. Many of those residents work at or benefit from the state’s fisheries and tourism industries, according to the report card.

It is this segment of the population that is most vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate, according to environmentalists.

There have already been several indicators of the type of damage climate change could do in Maryland. In July 2016 and May 2018, there was catastrophic flooding in Ellicott City.

Three branches of the Patapsco River meet at Ellicott City, which sits at the bottom of a narrow basin. Feeding those three branches is runoff from rain. Hard surfaces cannot absorb any of the excess water, which rapidly increases its volume.

In September 2021, an EF-2 tornado ripped through Anne Arundel County. It damaged trees and vehicles, tore down power lines, and left a 11.25-mile path of devastation.

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Center staff urged the state to prepare for climate change, which causes more frequent and severe storms, hotter summers and warmer winters, along with contributing to sea-level rise and having an impact on precipitation patterns.

Del. Dana Stein said that the report card provided valuable information for protecting coastal communities from climate changes. Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles praised the report, too.

“This ground-breaking report card being released today is one of the most important things that Marylanders can do for the whole nation and for the world is show what indicators are needed to advance resiliency,” Grumbles said Friday.

Grumble said we need to track our progress and the work we’ve done to adapt to climate change “so that we can not only be half as dirty by 2030 and twice as sturdy by 2030.”

Climate advocates have been vocal about their desire to see climate change policies passed this year. They gathered in Annapolis on Jan. 12 to draw attention to their cause with banners and signs.

Their protest marked the opening day of the 2022 Maryland General Assembly’s legislative session, and demonstrators had 100 empty white chairs across Lawyers Mall greeting legislators.

Maryland joined the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Climate Challenge last year and committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from state government operations by at least 50% over the span of a decade.

Maryland was already part of the department’s Better Building Challenge and, as a participant, reduced energy consumption in state government buildings by 20% between 2008 and 2015.

Climate change adaption is critically important for Maryland, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said during Friday’s new conference. He said the state is aware of the hurdles it faces.

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“There’s a lot we’re doing in Maryland to show leadership in our environment,” Cardin said.

CBS Baltimore Staff