March 22, 2020
“The Chesapeake Bay, at over 165,000 square kilometers it is the largest estuary in the Americas. The watershed consists of six states and Washington, D.C. It is unique for its size, small tidal range, and shallowness. All these factors combined make it particularly vulnerable to climate change” – President Peter Goodwin
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science President Peter Goodwin discusses climate change impacts to human well-being and life on earth, particularly in Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay region, in a talk celebrating World Water Day. The talk includes discussion about predictions of rate of global warming, the consequences of climate change on Chesapeake Bay region, and valuable lessons of what to expect in other regions. (His presentation begins at 24:13 and runs until 33:21.)
This presentation was part of special virtual event on hydro-environment engineering and adaptation to climate change sponsored by the International Association for Hydro-Environment Engineering (IAHR), a partner of the United Nations Water program, as part of World Water Day on March 21, 2020. Goodwin recently served as president of IAHR, a world-wide organization of engineers and water specialists working in fields related to the hydro-environment
World Water Day, held on March 22 every year, has been conceived by the United Nations as one more way to raise awareness about global water problems and motivate organizations and individuals to work towards solutions. This year the theme of World Water Day was water and climate change, encouraging policymakers to put water at the heart of action plans, water can help fight climate change by using sustainable, affordable and scalable water and sanitation solutions and that all have a role to play by taking actions in their daily lives to address climate change.
Throughout his presentation, President Goodwin highlighted the current societal threats people around the globe are feeling effects from, both acute and chronic. The COVID-19 crisis being acute, it is severe, relatively short-term, and affecting all nations. It requires immediate action that has been made possible by incredible collaboration between international entities.
“This is a very clear demonstration that we are capable of fixing big problems when we work together,” said Goodwin on the impressive collaborations between countries on creating vaccines for the novel coronavirus.
Contrasting the two societal threats, he explains, “Climate change is chronic, slow-moving ,and largely irreversible yet hold similar impacts to humans and life on earth.”
The problem of climate change can seem harder to solve but Goodwin believes it is achievable though collaboration, adaption, and resilience analysis and by using science to inform policy and action.
President Goodwin focused his address on the Chesapeake Bay and the changes its vast ecosystem has seen as a result of climate change.
Among the largest impacts being felt by the Chesapeake Bay is sea-level rise, an especially pressing issue for Maryland with its 3,100 miles of tidal shoreline. Dorchester County, one of the most heavily affected Chesapeake Bay regions, was featured in the short film, “High Tide in Dorchester,” in which issues such as sea-level rise, erosion, and climate change of the region were discussed with their and potential solutions. The film paints a troubling image with uplifting solutions that may be a reality for many regions in the future.
“The Chesapeake Bay, at over 165,000 square kilometers it is the largest estuary in the Americas. The watershed consists of six states and Washington, D.C. It is unique for its size, small tidal range, and shallowness. All these factors combined make it particularly vulnerable to climate change,” commented Goodwin.
While some challenges posed by climate change may seem insurmountable, there is not only negative news surrounding the Chesapeake Bay.
Fifteen years ago, over 35% of the Chesapeake Bay was considered a dead zone, lacking sufficient oxygen to support life, but through collaborative restoration efforts, dead zones have significantly decreased. Restoration efforts targeted the major nutrient pollution issues in the Chesapeake Bay and with the noticeable decrease of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment, important indicators of ecosystem health such as sea grasses have returned.
“Despite meeting these goals, climate change has made it difficult to meet these ecosystem targets,” said President Goodwin. Large-scale temperature change is predicted to cause a number of ecosystem changes.
Among these changes, the Chesapeake Bay may see a change in how species interact and when they reproduce. This change in biologically activity comes with both benefits and challenges. While we may see more fish kills, both from harmful algal blooms and rising temperatures, scientists are also seeing a shift in species presence, with bay grasses especially moving out towards the ocean towards cooler waters.
To view the entire session click here.