public hearing on cutting MD’s carbon footprint

May 31, 2012


Waters rise around the last house on Holland Island in the Chesapeake Bay.
The house eventually sank in October 2010, victim of rising seas and subsiding land.
//Photo from Critter Sitters Blog.

Maryland has a draft plan to reduce the state’s carbon footprint, and you can learn more about it and make comments at a public hearing tomorrow in Annapolis or June 5 in Baltimore. The plan outlines a number of strategies designed to reduce the state’s emissions 25 percent by 2020 from 2006 levels. The final plan is due in December.

The draft reviews the science behind climate change and tells why we should care, noting that Maryland’s long coastline makes it particularly vulnerable to rising seas and storms. It also explains that proceeding now is important, because waiting will make reductions more expensive. The draft plan says that Maryland “is responsible for nearly as many GHG emissions as Sweden and Norway combined.” The state’s emissions increased by about 18 percent from 1990 to 2005, which was a faster rate than the rate for the rest of the country (about 16 percent)  The report also says the greenhouse gas emissions per Maryland resident also increased at a time when per capita emissions in the United States as a whole decreased.

State officials are explaining the plan and taking questions and comments at these public hearings:

May 31, 6 – 8 p.m., Maryland Department of Natural Resources, 580 Taylor Ave., Annapolis, C1 Conference Room (info: 1-877-620-8367);  and
June 5, 6 – 8 p.m., Maryland Dept. of the Environment, 1800 Washington Blvd., Baltimore, First floor-Aqua & Terra Conference Rooms. (info: 410-537-3240)

Officials have said they are also willing to set up more hearings, so CCIHC is trying to set one up in Columbia.

One question might be whether this plan is ambitious enough? The plan mentions a worldwide goal of reducing GHG emissions to “stay within the 445 to 490 parts per million CO2-equivalent range.”  How comfortable will the planet at those levels?

The plan has charts indicating that methane is about 21 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2 (pgs 25 and 61).  Current emissions are mostly from CO2, but if the state allows fracking, will methane emissions pose a problem? The plan also emphasizes the importance of protecting forests as carbon sinks (pg 337) and preventing habitat loss and fragmentation. Fracking, though,would involve chopping up Garrett County into 5-acre parcels even though it contains the valuable “Targeted Ecological Areas” mentioned in the plan. Again, any moves toward fracking would seem counterproductive.

The plan underscores the importance of moving ahead with wind energy as well. Maryland is a net importer of electricity, the largest chunk of GHG emissions are from electricity ( 39%),  and most in-state electricity is from coal, according to the plan. (p 62 and 68)

This might also be a good time to emphasize that waste incineration should be removed from the list of Tier 1 renewable energy sources. The plan says that  “Waste combustion (also known as incineration) is currently the greatest contributor to these emissions and is projected to remain that way for the foreseeable future.” (p 77)

A few more facts:

Maryland’s 2006 baseline GHG emissions =  95.14 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent.

25% reduction from that level  = 23.785 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent.

So goal is is to reach 71.355 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent (95.14 minus 23.785).

If we do nothing, the state is forecast to reach  128.30 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent, which would be a 34.9% increase over the 2006.

That leaves the state with a target of cutting 56.94 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent. (That is the total with no plan, 128.30, minus where we want to be, 71.36)


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