I was glad to see The Baltimore Sun take such a strong stance on environmental pollution and climate change in their recent editorial about the terrifying coal dust explosion in Curtis Bay (”Coal plant explosion should be a wake-up call,” Jan. 3). Community members in Curtis Bay have been fighting pollution in their neighborhood for years, highlighting the effects of that very coal dust and other pollutants on residents’ health, the local environment and the climate at large. As the Sun’s editorial stated, last week’s explosion should be a wake-up call for anyone who hasn’t yet been listening to the residents on the front lines of environmental pollution and climate change in Baltimore.
The climate crisis is here. In 2021, Baltimore experienced over 50 days with temperatures above 90 degrees. And by 2080, Baltimore’s climate is projected to resemble that of Cleveland, Mississippi, a town that is 9.1°F warmer than Baltimore. These effects are not equally distributed. Formerly redlined neighborhoods have the least amount of trees and green space and are therefore the hottest neighborhoods in Baltimore. For example, Broadway East has six times fewer trees than Roland Park, which can lead to significant temperature differences between the two neighborhoods.
It’s also getting wetter. Precipitation in Maryland has increased by 2.63 inches per decade since 2000. We’ve seen the impacts of these heavier rains through devastating floods like the 2018 Frederick Avenue corridor flood that damaged more than 200 homes in the Beechfield neighborhood and the unacceptable number of sewage backups into residents’ homes that put Baltimoreans’ health, homes and financial security at risk.
The Baltimore City Council is currently considering a package of bills to help mitigate some of the worst effects of climate change and move Baltimore toward a more sustainable future. The package includes bills to require “cool roofs” on buildings owned or financed by the city, to transition the city’s fleet of vehicles to be zero-emission by 2040, and to make all city government operations net-zero by 2050. These bills are a good first step to get Baltimore on a path toward a more sustainable future and underscore the responsibility of our elected officials to take action on this urgent crisis.
Taylor Smith-Hams, Baltimore
The writer manages advocacy and outreach efforts for the nonprofit organization Blue Water Baltimore.
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