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Maryland’s Coastal Regions Feeling the Effects of Global Warming

Chaise lounge and umbrella on sand beach.
It can be difficult for people to understand the far-reaching effects of global warming when they aren’t seeing the changes around them. This was the case for many Americans before climate change began its descent on the East and West coasts of the United States.Residents of Crisfield, Maryland are now seeing the impact of global warming, an issue that until recently they only read about in the papers, right at their doorsteps. The Department of Natural Resources has reported that ocean levels are increasing by as much as three millimeters a year along the eastern shores of Maryland, causing towns like Crisfield to literally sink into the sea.

For many residents of Crisfield, the delicate balance of the coastal environment is what sustains their livelihood. Watermen depend on the crabs and oysters that inhabit the shallow waters along the coast, but as sea levels rise, crab and oyster populations have seen a steady decrease. Not only are younger generations abandoning tradition and breaking away from the long lineages of watermen that run in their families, but older watermen, too, are being forced to find work elsewhere.

Just beyond the shores of Crisfield lies another town that is being swallowed by the sea right before our eyes. Just barely visible from the docks of Crisfield sits Tangier Island, Virginia. The highest points on the island sit only four feet above sea level, and even this short distance is shrinking every year. The tiny island, once consisting of nearly 2,000 acres, now only boasts a mere 768 acres, losing approximately nine acres a year due to erosion and increasing sea levels.

In order to preserve the island, residents have proposed the addition of another sea wall. One was built in 1990 on the western shore of the island, and Tangier Island residents hope that a new wall on the eastern shore will provide additional protection from the rising tides.

Sea barricades may be a short term solution that give residents a little peace of mind, but according to experts, changes on a much larger scale are necessary if our planet is to stand a chance against the devastating effects of global warming.

Vehicles alone are responsible for 30% of emissions that cause smog in the atmosphere. While fuel-efficient hybrid and electric vehicles have been offered as a means for reducing emissions, only 5.4% of vehicles on the road in the U.S. in 2012 were alternative fuel vehicles, reports the Midland Daily News. Car owners could even help reduce emissions by performing regular maintenance on their vehicles, a simple tactic that can boost fuel efficiency, yet over 75% of cars on the road are in need of some form of maintenance or repairs.

Until the U.S. takes a larger role in reducing its contribution to global warming, residents of places like Crisfield and Tangier Island will continue to watch the ocean slowly swallow their homeland.

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