The Greenhouse Effect
Naturally occurring atmospheric gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and others trap the Sun's heat keeping the Earth sufficiently warm to sustain life. Without such greenhouse gases (GHGs), the Earth would be inhospitable.However, human activity over the last 250 years - primarily the overuse of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas - have increased GHGs in the atmosphere and unnaturally trapped too much heat. As a result, we have begun to experience a warming of our climate which is adversely affecting our weather, oceans, ecosystems and society.
The following short videos from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) provide visual and graphic depictions of climate change:
Scientific Consensus and Observed Changes
There is widespread scientific consensus that human activities have increased the concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere, and that this increase has affected the Earth's climate system.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a scientific body representing 195 countries under the auspices of the United Nations:
Impacts of Climate Change
The impacts from climate change are already apparent, increasingly exposing society to risk. Climate change impacts virtually all aspects of life, ranging from agricultural crop yields, precipitation levels, ecosystems, human health and the economy.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, global average temperatures have increased by more than 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the last century, and that for every 2°F of warming, we can expect to see:
Scientists also project that the Earth's average temperatures will rise between 2 and 12 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. (National Research Council)
The Impact of Climate Change on Maryland
Maryland is already witnessing climate change impacts:
The most significant impacts of climate change on Maryland are likely to be those related to sea level rise, increasing temperatures and unstable precipitation patterns. With Maryland having the fourth longest tidal coastline, sea level rise can have dramatic impacts on the state’s environment and economy.
Read the state of Maryland Climate Change Reports:
The Montgomery County Climate Action Plan
Montgomery County, Maryland has been a national leader in addressing climate change. From the early adoption of climate protection objectives to the implementation of ground-breaking programs designed to expand the use of clean energy, increase the energy efficiency of buildings, or develop new transportation initiatives, the County has sought effective and innovative solutions to reducing the County’s climate footprint.
The 2009 County Climate Protection Plan (PDF, 3.45MB) represents a major step in the County’s efforts. The Plan contains 58 specific recommendations across a broad spectrum of activities to ensure that Montgomery County remains at the forefront of local governments addressing climate change.
The Climate Protection Plan was created by the Sustainability Working Group (SWG) which consisted of 26 representatives from County government, regional organizations, and the public.
To help with the development of the Plan, the SWG established committees which focused its deliberations and recommendations on seven distinct areas:
Although the SWG has since disbanded, the Climate Protection Plan has proven to be a very useful framework for action. Almost all of the recommendations have been or are being implemented by County government departments and agencies and community organizations.
Commercial and Multi-Family Energy Efficiency Study
The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) hired an independent consultant to identify and explore specific policies and programs to help the County attain the goal identified in the Climate Protection Plan to reduce energy consumption in the commercial and multi-family building sector by 25% by 2020.
The study includes:
Many of the policies outlined in the study, if implemented could result in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, reduce energy costs to County businesses, and assist in improving the long term value and economic viability of our commercial building stock and multi-family communities. However, the study is frank regarding the economic, logistical, and policy challenges that may need resolved before any specific policy can be implemented.
Moving forward, the County is evaluating the proposed options with community, business and other stakeholders to develop a Commercial and Multi-Family Strategy to make progress towards the County’s aggressive goal.
If you have questions on the Study or Montgomery County’s Commercial and Multi-Family Programs please contact askDEP@montgomerycountymd.gov.
What You Can Do!
As a direct result of the Climate Protection Plan, the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection developed the interactive website My Green Montgomery, a one-stop-shop to green living.
Throughout the year, DEP staff and guest writers from local nonprofits, businesses and the County community post articles and stories about how to “go green” and reduce your impact on the environment. A selection of articles include, “How I Greened My Church”, “Homeowners Join Forces to Save Energy” and “The Silver Spring GreenFest”.
If you’re interested in writing a guest blog for My Green Montgomery, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The website also has a calendar of environmental education events open to the public, an interactive blog, links to resources, community groups and an extensive directory of “green” incentives.
Stay Connected!: Get the latest green news by subscring to the monthly My Green Montgomery e-Newsletter.