Indeed, climate is often overlooked in other environmental impact assessments. Yet sea level rise caused by climate change is already happening on the Eastern Shore, and it is not a stretch to consider that rising sea levels will continue to threaten the communities of Maryland. In 1973, Maryland acknowledged that all efforts by the state that significantly affect the environment need to be fully assessed. It established this through the Maryland Environmental Policy Act (MEPA), which stated that “each person has a fundamental and inalienable right to a healthful environment.” The act goes on to mandate that: “All state agencies must conduct their affairs with an awareness that they are stewards of the air, land, water, living and historic resources, and that they have an obligation to protect the environment for the use and enjoyment of this and all future generations.”
Ignoring climate change in environmental impact assessments violates the duties of the state and the rights MEPA afforded all of us. Our state government has a responsibility to all Marylanders, both current and future generations, to protect the natural resources that we depend on for our health, the health of our environment, and the well-being of our economy. The failure to adequately consider climate in its assessments illustrates why we now need to place the language of MEPA, assuring that we all have the right to a healthful environment, in the Declaration of Rights of our state constitution, ensuring a durable and enforceable right for all.
Nina Beth Cardin, Baltimore
The writer is director of the Maryland Campaign for Environmental Human Rights.