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Sen. Carper tours state to highlight climate change

Katie Peikes
Delaware Public Media
Sen. Carper talks with Kari St. Laurent about the science behind marshes at St. Jones Reserve

Sen. Tom Carper (D) toured several sites in Delaware Friday to highlight how rising seas and global warming could affect the First State. One of the sites he toured was a marsh in Dover.




Marshes aren’t just homes to birds, plants and horseshoe crabs. Kari St. Laurent, a research coordinator with the Delaware National Estuarine Research Preserve, said they can also help reduce the effects of climate change.


“They help potentially suck up some of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and trap it within its sediments,” St. Laurent said.


A marsh’s ability to act as a sink or a sponge is something Sen. Carper said he did not know before visiting the St. Jones Reserve at the research center on Friday.


“One of the things we need to do is understand what makes for a healthy marsh, what are the things that can degrade and destroy a marsh, and what are the ways we can make it healthy and to be here forever to serve not just the wildlife that live here but those of us who live around this marsh,” Carper said.


Marshes are considered a paradox for climate change. On one hand, they can help protect the surrounding environment, plants and animals from it, but they also degrade with rising sea levels and warmer weather.  That could make wildlife and even nearby homes prone to hurricanes, storms or flooding.


It’s something Carper said he worries about, especially as Delaware is a coastal state and sees the consequences of climate change - from rising seas to warmer weather - every day.


“Too much carbon in the air leads to warming, warming leads to sea level rise,” Carper said, “and we’re the lowest lying state, so we have a real dog in this fight and that is our future.”


That’s why Delaware should be a model in climate change preparation for the rest of the country, Carper said. Agencies like DNERR at the St. Jones Reserve conduct research on changes in weather and water quality, helping the state to understand the reasons behind climate change and make projections about it in the future.


On his tour Friday, Carper also visited a wetlands project in Wilmington, a road prone to flooding in Odessa, and Dewey Beach.