The Baltimore Sun

An opportunity lost

Gov. Martin O'Malley's decision to legally define as beer those sweet-flavored, popular-with-teens alcoholic beverages known as "alcopops" will keep them as cheap and widely available as possible. This is not going to win him a Profile in Courage Award.

Never mind that he's allowing legislation to become law without his signature. He may think that signals his intention to revisit the issue next year. What it actually indicates is that he didn't have the stomach to do the right thing and veto the measure.

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler opened the door for a more sensible treatment of alcopops when he issued an opinion (at the request of Mr. O'Malley's own health secretary) stating that legally, they should have been treated as hard liquor all along.

The governor says he'd like to see alcopops regulated differently in the future, but he's given lawmakers little incentive to reverse course. Redefine them as wine or some new and similarly higher-taxed category and it just looks like another tax increase.

Mr. O'Malley says he's also interested in attacking underage drinking. A veto would have done much for the cause.

Our endangered shores

With all due respect to polar bears, it turns out you don't have to travel all the way to Alaska to find a creature endangered by global warming. The National Wildlife Federation reports that a local species known as the Maryland beach vacationer could be in peril.

The timely study notes that more than half the region's beaches on the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean could be lost to rising sea levels within the lifetime of a child born today. That represents a loss of land roughly equivalent to Anne Arundel County.

This weekend's travelers ought to recognize what's at stake in the debate over climate change. Federation officials predict the world will have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2 percent per year to avoid the most damaging effects.

Maryland will still have plenty of waterfront, just not in the condition most vacationers would like. A rising tide is predicted to swamp especially valuable wildlife habitat and put a big hole in the state's economy.

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