Hurricane season may still be months away, but the threat of flooding is already on the rise in Maryland, as documented by the latest reports on climate change released this week. Rising sea levels have raised the risk of coastal flooding, particularly from severe storms.
Analyzing both the latest forecasts of rising high tides caused by warming oceans and the latest population data from the
Maryland is relatively high on that list, with Ocean City and nearby Ocean Pines rated as particularly vulnerable, followed by waterfront communities from Crisfield on the Eastern Shore to Shady Side in
The danger is that 100-year-floods — considered so rare that they might appear once every hundred years — will become much more commonplace. The odds of such a flood at
Such storms could produce damage similar to a tsunami, especially in low-lying coastal
This isn't the first time that scientists have documented U.S. vulnerability to rising sea levels, a trend that has been going on for more than a century. Insurance companies have already taken note, and many are no longer offering flood insurance.
While the timetable and specifics are subject to debate, there is no serious doubt about the consensus scientific view that ocean levels are rising because of man-made climate change, and coastal communities are threatened by it. Whether sea levels rise by three feet or four feet, coastal towns and cities are in danger when major storms strike, as they inevitably will.
Yet much of the nation's leadership appears to be largely in denial, with
Will it take a major disaster to strike before Americans demand more from Washington on global warming? If so, such action may come too late — at least for those living anywhere near the water. Once glaciers melt and ocean waters warm and expand, the genie can't be put back in the proverbial bottle.
Marylanders ought to be setting an example, not just in reducing harmful emissions but in preparing for the worst-case scenarios. That can start by banning new development in the 100-year flood plain. The last thing the government should be doing is subsidizing people's decisions to live in high-risk locations, which is exactly what the federal government's flood insurance program does.
This isn't a problem that can be solved overnight but will take decades to address. That's not cause for delay but reason to do more now, as the window for affecting climate change is gradually closing, whether deniers like Mr. Santorum will acknowledge it or not.