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Maryland support grows for climate change action

The MIT Alumni for Climate Solutions in Maryland published a letter to the editor in The Baltimore Sun last fall (“Maryland MIT alumni: The state can help prevent climate disaster,” Oct. 25) which warned about the risks of inaction on climate change. Since the publication of this letter and many other warnings, the pace of release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere has unfortunately accelerated and extreme weather events have continued to plague the world at an alarming rate. Last year saw the fourth most number of billion-dollar disasters with 2011, 2016 and 2017 being the top three. Among the extreme disasters of 2018, in addition to Ellicott City's second 500-year flood, were California's wildfire season and two major East Coast and Gulf of Mexico hurricanes, Florence and Michael, which together caused over $50 billion of damage.

Maryland has been relatively lucky in the past years, in spite of the Ellicott City floods, with Hurricane Sandy veering northeast and Florence veering south, preventing a direct hit to our state. How long will our luck last? Recent studies predict that we will see increasing numbers of destructive climate events with as many as six concurrent events occurring on the East Coast by the end of the century. In addition to human suffering, the financial cost will become an increasing fraction of our GDP. Even for wealthy states, like Maryland, and nearby Washington, D.C., the pain will become substantial. As a consequence of these risks, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology alumni encouraged the state of Maryland to take decisive actions.

We have been heartened that many of our state's elected leaders have stepped up to the plate and provided strong statements of support for taking urgent climate action including making our state carbon-neutral within a generation. Among them are Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both of whom are members of the Senate Climate Task Force. Senator Cardin wrote that "failure to act at this moment in history will result in catastrophic impacts to the environment, global food security, and public health.” Senator Van Hollen added that his signature climate change proposal, the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act, provides "a simple, fair, and practical way to address the dangers of climate change.”

Maryland representatives in the U.S. House also provided statements that underscore their commitment to addressing the climate change problem. Rep. Elijah Cummings was the first to stand with the MIT group and to help "prevent climate change disasters.” Rep. Anthony Brown wrote that we have a "moral obligation to act immediately and aggressively" and that "we must rise to the challenge" calling for "bold, transformative" leadership. Rep. John Sarbanes, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, observed that "It's our responsibility to take immediate steps to address the climate crisis by investing in clean energy solutions.” Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger wrote about fighting for "a new wind farm off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland, which will create 'green' jobs" and Rep. Jamie Raskin, a supporter of the Green New Deal in Congress, wrote that now is the time "for sweeping and sustained policy action to break our lethal carbon addiction and propel renewable energy forward.”

More than a dozen of our state's legislative representatives have also written statements of support to the MIT alumni urging Maryland to adopt policies to become carbon-neutral within a generation. Several of them are sponsoring bills in the current legislative session to address the urgency of climate change. Among these is Sen. Brian Feldman's Clean Energy Jobs Act which proposes to increase Maryland's commitment to renewable energy (“The clock is ticking for Maryland to address climate change,” March 5). Together with the other state senators and delegates, they are in a position to make Maryland a leader in climate change mitigation and help to limit potential damages for everyone.

We are blessed to have the foresight, intelligence, know-how, and commitment on the part of so many Maryland state representatives in Annapolis and Washington. Perhaps the vision that these leaders articulate can be best summed up by Gavin Buckley, mayor of Annapolis, our vulnerable capital city, who through his actions inspires us all to be committed to doing our part "to make Maryland carbon neutral within a generation.”

Shiladitya DasSarma, Ellicott City

The writer is a member of MIT Alumni for Climate Solutions.

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