Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Chesapeake Bay in Greater Peril Than Ever

While the estuary on a stick known as Maryland girds for legal battles over continuing the federal program to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the global force of climate change will increasingly hamper the region-wide effort even if the program ends up being fully funded in the official federal budget.

We are already able to discern the impacts of climate change on the Chesapeake. For example, though most of the world is losing access to water, the northern Chesapeake Bay area where I live has gained 6.6 inches of annual precipitation over the last century. In some respects, this is beneficial, but the major negative effect of more heavy rain is runoff into the bay and its tributaries, causing pollution by nutrients and sediment. This is exacerbated by urbanization throughout much of the watershed. Building codes and local governments are racing to keep up with the problem of stormwater runoff caused by development.

Rising temperatures affects a number of other aspects of the bay ecosystem. One is the profusion of Vibrio bacteria which spreads cholera and a similar disease either by ingestion or through skin lesions.

Before President Blowhard dispenses with climate change throughout the executive branch, government-funded scientists are valiantly assembling reports explaining its observable and anticipated effects. With the amount of rainfall increase we have observed with just a 1.5 C temperature increase, it seems that we should expect significantly more in the coming decades if global temperatures continue to go up exponentially.
From Albert Bates at The Great Change
The graph here shows a generic temperature curve along with several global macronomic indicators modeled in the Limits to Growth study. You might note that the human population is expected to drop in about thirty years (as food becomes too scarce) and think that this will flatten the temperature curve, but there is a delay between cause and effect in global warming as vertically circulating ocean currents cycle over a millennium meaning that increases in ocean temperatures and release of dissolved CO₂ will not achieve their full effect on the atmosphere until decades after the greenhouse effect is arrested by lowering atmospheric carbon.

Bottom line: we can't restore the bay by taking our current inadequate measures. Rising atmospheric temperatures make it necessary to exercise even more severe measures to avoid pushing the bay beyond recoverable limits.  We should not only continue to limit runoff from new and existing development, but we also need to rethink urbanization in terms of permaculture and apply afforestation wherever we can.

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