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Local lawmakers, experts say new federal report reinforces climate concerns for Delaware


The multi-agency federal climate report released on Black Friday outlines impacts of climate change nationwide.


The report included details on what the northeast region, and Delaware in particular, may experience.

It predicts rising temperatures and sea level rise will impact coastal areas, agriculture and infrastructure.

Jeremy Firestone with the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment says this would be bad news for Delaware’s coastal tourism economy and its agricultural sector.

“We have a really important coastal tourism sector,” said Firestone. “We’re a very low-lying state. So any bit of sea level rise is quite concerning.”

He also sees infrastructure vulnerabilities.

“So we’re obviously dependent on our road systems. Just this storm over the weekend we had flooding in four different series of road systems up here,” said Firestone. “You can have washed-out infrastructure systems as well.”

Credit Courtesy of the National Climate Assessment
Percent changes in the amount of precipitation falling in very heavy events (the heaviest 1%) from 1958 to 2012 for each region. There is a clear national trend toward a greater amount of precipitation being concentrated in very heavy events, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest.

The National Climate Assessment also predicts by mid century, Delaware will experience many more days per year above 90 degrees. Firestone says this will mostly impact economically and socially vulnerable populations.

He also notes most of the report is not new information— but a synthesis of existing research.

Sen. Tom Carper is the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

“I think the thing that’s especially interesting is who created the report. Who is making these recommendations. It’s not some wild-eyed, leftist-leaning, tree-hugging group of Democrats,” said Carper. “This is the folks who work in the executive branch of our federal government.”

Carper says he thinks solutions for the US lie mostly in reducing transportation emissions.  

“I focus on the extreme weather. The wildfires out west. Sea Level rise on the east coast. Thousand-year floods every other year,” said Carper. “The cost of that extreme weather is being borne by the taxpayers..”

At an Environment and Public Works committee hearing Wednesday, Carper also cited the report’s predictions of increased precipitation.

He said the Senate’s next infrastructure bill must focus on “a more resilient and sustainable transportation sector” to address that threat.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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