Letter to the Editor: Rising Sea Levels Will Completely Change the Chesapeake Bay

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that 40% of the world’s population lives in high density coastal areas, and eight out of ten of the most populated cities are located near coastlines. Rising sea levels due to warming temperatures have caused places in Maryland like Holland Island to disappear under water. Once a five mile long fishing community populated by 300 people, its last house sunk in 2016, according to the Maryland Reporter.

And it’s not just happening here in Maryland, but in places such as the Netherlands, New York City, and Naples to name a few. These cities are in danger of sinking into the ocean in the next 50-100 years, possibly causing governments around the world to spend millions or even billions of dollars to repair damages. We can prevent coastal cities from sinking under water in the next 100 years as well as protect the wildlife and habitat of our own Chesapeake Bay, simply by changing some of our everyday habits.

Rising sea levels are increasing each and every year in the Chesapeake Bay. Some harmful outcomes of these increased levels include flooding, shoreline erosion, and hazards from storms. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). By the next century, according to predictions by the Chesapeake Bay Program, sea levels in the bay will have risen a whopping 1.3-5.2 ft. In addition, wildlife in the bay has already changed dramatically because of the changed sea level. The marshes and wetlands are now flooded with salt water, causing them to disappear rapidly (Chesapeake Bay Program). Loss of marshes and wetlands means loss of habitat, trapping pollution, and diminishing food and shelter for fish, birds, and shellfish. Rising sea levels, there would be a huge increase in saltwater flooding through groundwater. Furthermore, saltwater can travel to rivers, streams where people drink water out of; and saltwater can ruin agriculture fields destroying crops and plants.

In addition to unwelcome changes for wildlife, there are also major environmental changes caused by warming temperatures. First of all, melting glaciers, ice sheets and thermal expansion are caused by rising temperatures as well as the rising levels of the sea (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), and this will dramatically change the environment for the people living near the Chesapeake Bay and its wildlife. According to the Chesapeake Bay Program, by 2080, the bay’s water temperature will have increased a dramatic 4.5-10 degrees Fahrenheit. Eelgrass, accustomed to living in cooler environments, will become distressed underneath high tide zones, causing threatening effects on mainly crabs and fish.

Moreover, striped bass and brook trout located in Pennsylvania will become even more stressed by living under high tide zones in waters with increasing temperatures. This, coupled with a decreased amount of dissolved oxygen will fully kill dead zones, areas that are already under duress, causing fish to live in even smaller oxygenated areas in water and suffocate (Chesapeake Bay Program). Similarly, in low lying areas, storm surges and high sea levels create a “perfect storm,” flooding thousands of acres of land.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates that an increase by 3 degrees in air temperature increases the heat-related death toll by 50%. The mean before was 80 people; it is now increasing to 130 people annually. Ultimately, both people and the environment could have catastrophic issues in 50-150 years if something is not done sooner to diminish these effects.

What is causing these increased risks to the coastline and how can we stop it from deteriorating more in the future? By coming up with more solutions to have the general public do to solve these problems could maybe speed up the process of preventing worse damage. One of the first things people could do is buy a car with the best fuel economy. You do not have to spend as much money on a car that does not use many gallons of gas. Another thing done is changing to solar panels to install on your roof or buy energy efficient light bulbs. In addition, people should reduce, reuse, and recycle. Meaning, stop trashing plastic bags. This is because plastic bags end up being in waste lands that take multiple years to decompose. People should look for energy efficient appliances to buy in their house. Items being fridges, washing machines just to name a few. People should eat less meat specifically being beef. This is because it reduces the amount of water consumption. Spreading the word by telling others—-by letting others know by telling solutions or just being aware. (Being aware can make people learn something new they did not know beforehand about climate change or it just makes them rethink what they do that would cause damage to planet earth.)

Not everything is going to be catastrophic when it comes to the environment and planet earth collapsing. There are organizations working hard coming up with solutions to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere causing all of the problems mentioned before. “According to Yale University in partnership with CBF shows that by, Bay area states could safely sequester—or store away—4.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.” (). That’s equivalent to using up three quarters of one million Hummers driving 12,000 mi yearly that is releasing carbon dioxide emissions. Another way of awareness is having schools across the U.S teach classes about these environmental issues and the effects/consequences about what will happen.

These problems have gotten worse ever since the start of the 20th century. Due to these problems getting worse overtime, we as a community and as a society can come up with solutions to prevent anything from getting worse. According to the Washington Post, “rising seawater levels and chronic flooding threaten to disrupt daily life, damage homes and business, and swallow land in the relatively near future, according to a study.” Some of the industries such as the fishing, shipping and packaging industries surrounding the Chesapeake Bay will be greatly affected. Now, rising sea levels and sinking land, the same forces that doomed the island, threaten Crisfield, its seafood industry and its 2,710 residents. And a newly discovered tidal pattern puts them in greater peril than previously known.

Overall, warming temperatures are also equally as important as rising sea levels due to all of the damaging factors it has to damage the Chesapeake Bay even more; being equally as damaging as rising sea levels.

Erika Lee
Wye River Upper School
Centreville

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