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Debunkers Desist: Climate is Right For Global Warming Solutions

After our Mother’s Day monsoons, the Bay’s Western Shore offered glimpses of our future on a warming planet.

Just about every low-lying community was flooded. Many roads were closed, and some that remained open had the look of rushing streams.

Docks were wrecked by the ferocious tide, our community pier among them. Gardens and lawns were damaged. Beaches got punished and stripped, some with their sand washed away irretrievably.

The damage we saw from last weekend’s modest storms could become commonplace in the years ahead as a result of global warming.

According to conservative predictions, Chesapeake Bay will rise around two feet this century, making our low-lying coastal communities ever more vulnerable to storms even of moderate force.

Compounding the threat, we have scientific predictions of more ferocious storms and hurricanes.

We offer you these reminders now for several reasons. The Chesapeake Bay Commission last week took up climate change as a prime topic at its quarterly meeting, getting a report on the threats from Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

Second, the global warming political debate began in earnest this week when Sen. John McCain, the GOP nominee, offered a fairly bold prescription for consequential battles that lay ahead.

This is not an endorsement of McCain. (If we endorsed candidates, we’d look closely at his 24 percent League of Conservation Voters score and wonder why, among other things, he wasn’t a proponent of fuel-efficiency standards and Endangered Species Act protections.)

But we are pleased to see McCain out front with a plan that invests heavily in renewable energy and that aims to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to two-thirds less than they were three years ago.

Environmental groups like Conservation Voters offered faint praise along with predictable criticism that McCain’s proposals don’t go far enough.

But McCain should be applauded for his willingness to begin the debate and to depart from the head-in-sand approach of the Bush administration, which has made this challenge still more daunting.

We along Chesapeake Bay need to pay special attention to this part of the presidential election debate because we have so much at stake: Think inundated wetlands, vanishing islands and, starting now, hard choices.

Climate change needs to be on the radar screen at every level of government. County planners need to rethink plans to build in flood-prone areas and consider the future when designing stormwater, sewage and septic systems.

Sadly, the General Assembly, in its final hours, walked away from a proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly in Maryland. Sponsors should be arranging support for the next session.

One of the biggest threats at the moment are the nay-sayers, many of them corporate-backed, who seize on every morsel of conflicting information (it was cold in Maine last winter) to question the unassailable findings of 2,500 of the world’s best scientists.

Working under the banner of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the scientists concluded last year that the earth’s warming was indeed caused by human’s pollution and that the social, economic and environmental costs of not meeting the warming challenges could be catastrophic.

For the Chesapeake Bay region, Boesch, one of the nation’s finest water scientists, has said that the effects could be severe. We should listen.

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