Global climate change could undermine efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay by flooding coastal areas and washing more pollution into the water, a new scientific report warns. The report, issued yesterday by the federal bay program office in Annapolis, notes that scientists have detected significant increases in sea level and bay water temperature over the past century. Further changes are likely, the report says, especially if current emissions of greenhouse gases continue unabated.
Coastal flooding is likely if sea level rises 2 to 5 feet, as climate-change models project, the report says. More algae growth could result from warmer temperatures and increasing carbon dioxide levels in the air.
Also likely, though less certain, the report notes, are heavier rains and stream flow in winter and spring, which could wash more sediment and nutrients into the water, worsening the bay's "dead zones" of low- or no-oxygen water.
Maryland and other bay states and the federal government are far short of their goals for improving the bay's degraded water quality, despite spending billions of dollars over the past 25 years. Climate change could make it harder to reach those goals, the report's authors said.
The report was produced by 13 scientists from bay-region universities, federal research laboratories and a private consulting firm.