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Majority of Marylanders Want Government Action on Climate Change Preparedness According to New Survey

ClimateChangeA survey released today by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources indicates 73 percent of Marylanders want their state and local governments to take actions to protect their communities against the impacts of climate change, and more than half (55 percent) believe protecting coastal areas from sea-level rise should be a high or very high priority for the Governor and the General Assembly.

The report is the first of four to be released this fall from a survey of over 2,000 Maryland citizens conducted this spring by George Mason University in conjunction with the Climate Communication Consortium of Maryland. The current report focuses on sea-level rise and its impacts on Maryland, perceived threats to local resources, and preferred policies to protect communities at the state, county and local levels.

“Marylanders clearly understand that extreme temperatures and more severe storms are likely results of climate change that will occur in their communities in the next decade or two,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “These survey results confirm that our citizens believe we are on the right track and support our investment in reducing Maryland’s vulnerability to climate change and our efforts to pass important legislation like this year’s Bay Acidification and Coast Smart Council bills.”

Signed in May of 2014, the Coast Smart Council Bill (House Bill 615) ensures Maryland follows standards to make safe and fiscally-wise investments when building or updating State agency structures located in vulnerable coastal areas. It directs that all new and reconstructed State buildings be planned and built to avoid or minimize future flood damage, and creates the Council to oversee these infrastructure projects.

Also signed in May, the Bay Acidification Bill (House Bill 118) creates a Task Force to evaluate and address the effects of changing chemistry in the Chesapeake Bay and other Maryland waterways. In January 2015, the group will present their recommendations to policymakers based on their findings for monitoring and addressing acidification, and its effects on Maryland’s commercial fishery and aquaculture industry.

“Many people in Maryland aren’t sure if sea-level rise is happening, or if it is human-caused, which suggests the need for more education about how climate change will affect our families and communities,” said Karen Akerlof, the lead investigator at George Mason University. “Regardless, most citizens support proposed actions to protect the State against sea-level rise and other climate change impacts.”

Funded by the Town Creek Foundation, the survey was mailed to 6,401 households across the State in partnership with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  The survey was fielded from March 17 to June 10, 2014 with a response rate of 35 percent. The survey was developed, and results were analyzed, by researchers with the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University. Follow-up reports will highlight Marylanders’ attitudes, behaviors and policy preferences on public health and climate change, energy, and climate change in general. The full survey report, is available here.

Under the leadership of the O’Malley-Brown administration, Maryland has been at the forefront of national efforts to both address greenhouse gas emissions and prepare the State and its communities for the impacts of climate change. To assist local governments in responding to sea-level rise, Governor O’Malley launched Maryland’s Coast Smart Communities program in April 2009, which provides on-the-ground sea level rise planning expertise, training and technical mapping tools. The program has awarded more than $600,000 to coastal communities to help prepare for the anticipated impacts of climate change.

Governor O’Malley’s leadership on this and other efforts, including the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan, the Climate Change and Coast Smart Construction Executive Order and landmark no-net loss of forest legislation, earned him the League of Conservation Voters Climate ChangeVision Awardlast year.

Currently, Governor O’Malley is serving as a member of President Obama’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, charged with advising the President on how federal agencies can best help states and communities understand, prepare for, and reduce the impacts of climate change. Under Governor O’Malley’s leadership, Maryland has engaged in nation-leading efforts.