Cumberland Times-News

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July 23, 2013

Survey: More than half of Marylanders say climate change causing harm

Threats to health cited by residents

CUMBERLAND — A survey of Marylanders released this week showed that most are concerned about climate change, especially its health effects, and want state and local governments to take action to minimize those problems.

The survey was released by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in conjunction with the Climate Communication Consortium of Maryland and George Mason University, according to a press release by the DHMH. The survey took account of results from more than 2,000 households in Maryland and was conducted from March 28 to June 4.

“More than half of Marylanders (52 percent) believe people in the United States are being harmed by climate change. A majority of Marylanders believe respiratory problems, injuries from storms or other extreme weather events and heat stroke will become more common because of climate change,” according to the press release. The results didn’t surprise Jackie Sams of Cumberland.

“We all read about or see extreme weather events, but when these events start affecting us personally we begin to take special notice of them. We’ve had family members who’ve been impacted by droughts, floods and hurricanes just in the past year. Elderly relatives especially have been impacted by periods of severe heat,” Sams said.

The survey report said that many people believe threats to their health is one of the major impacts of climate change. “Marylanders are already taking personal action to prepare for extreme weather events,” according to the survey.

“The survey results help us understand how Marylanders perceive the impact that climate change will have on their health and the health of their communities,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, secretary of DHMH.

Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed said that over the past year, “extreme weather posed a health risk to people in their community,” according to the press release.

Desiree Bullard said she wasn’t surprised by the survey results, and is concerned about the impact the use of fossil fuel continues to have on the environment.

“Extreme storms have the potential to cause physical harm to our bodies, not to mention the emotional and psychological turmoil experienced from the devastation of one’s home as the result of an extreme storm. ... the impact that may be more difficult to see is the polluting of the air we breathe and the water we drink resulting from the extraction and use of fossil fuels. These have the greatest impact on the health of our communities,” Bullard said. Bullard hopes people will become more aware of the impact of fossil fuels.

“As society begins to acknowledge on a greater scale that climate change is impacting our lives we need to look toward cleaner, safer forms of energy. This we owe to future generations,” Bullard said.

Sams agreed and said as she’s studied the subject, she is more skeptical that hydraulic fracturing for natural gas will reduce carbon emissions.

Stacey Blubaugh Warner is concerned about the practical effects of changes in the climate on daily life. “... obviously, it is a situation that is evolving as each year passes us by and changing rapidly. I think we should learn to make more preparations, help those who might have limited resources and adjust accordingly. As with the gas price hikes and produce being higher at the grocery store, change is upon us whether we as a people like it or not; adapt to survive,” Warner said.

There remains hope for optimism, Sams said.

“If we can successfully respect and work with the environment, we have a much better chance of having the environment work for us as human beings,” Sams said.

The survey can be found at www.climatemaryland.org/.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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