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What is climate change?

While the Earth’s climate has changed many times throughout history, the most significant changes have taken place since human civilization began. The burning of fossil fuels is often pointed to as the major cause of climate change. Fossil fuels release greenhouse gas emissions, and trap heat in the atmosphere, causing dangerous effects such as rising temperatures, warming oceans and rising sea levels, receding ice cover and glaciers, and extreme weather events. Without major change, these trends will continue to worsen across the globe.

How does climate change affect the greater metropolitan Baltimore-Washington region?

The major effects of climate change in our region are rising temperatures and heat waves. In the past 50 years, average temperatures haven risen about two degrees Fahrenheit and heat waves have lasted longer and occurred more often.

Rising temperatures mean worse air pollution. Pollutants, such as those released from car exhaust and power plant fumes, create ground-level ozone by reacting with heat and light and becomes more extreme with higher temperatures. As the level of pollution rises, our air can be dangerous to everyone, and is particularly dangerous to sensitive groups including seniors, children, athletes, and people with lung conditions.

What can you do?

There are a lot of ways local residents can improve the region’s air quality. These small changes can make a big difference:

  • At Home:
    • Install a programmable thermostat
    • Choose energy-efficient appliances and lighting
    • Replace your charcoal grill with propane or electric
    • Clean heating and air conditioning filters every month
  • On The Move:
    • Take alternative modes of transportation
    • Walk or bike to your destination
    • Avoid idling in your car
    • Refill your gas tank in the evening
    • Combine errands into one trip

While there is still much work to do, the region’s air quality has actually improved in the past decade, thanks to the dedication and hard work of many. If everyone continues to make positive changes in their everyday lives, we can ensure a healthy and clean Baltimore-Washington, D.C., region in the years to come.

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