Bioretention facilities installed in the median in South Bethany in 2012

Bioretention facilities were installed in the median of Route 1 in South Bethany in 2012 to help address runoff into the canals. A new project will complete the larger effort by reducing pollution in runoff into the Anchorage Canal. These are the kinds of projects the state could look at to address climate issues, including flooding and pollution.

For a decade, the State of Delaware has worked to protect people from climate change. Now it’s time to push back and protect the climate, too.

The public can take an online survey to help develop Delaware’s Climate Action Plan. Starting in early March with public workshops in each county, the DNREC Division of Climate, Coastal, & Energy let people learn about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and share opinions on how the state can most effectively take action on climate change.

With ongoing public input online (at www.declimateplan.org) and workshops throughout summer and fall, the resulting Climate Action Plan will be a road map to help Delaware mitigate, adapt and respond to climate change. The goal is “a future in which individuals, businesses, communities, and institutions to can deal with extreme weather, harness clean energy, breathe fresh air and live healthier lives.”

“More and more Delawareans are experiencing the impacts that climate change and sea level rise are having on our state,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “The next step for Delawareans is to take part in conversations to help Delaware decide where and how we must act.”

In Georgetown on March 3, guests shared their fears and observations in Sussex County: flooding, habitat loss, lack of building regulations, building near the beach and marshes, drainage and more.

They viewed many maps and models, including Delaware’s anticipated sea-level rise. Then they worked in groups to discuss observations and ideas for the future.

“People can come in and learn about climate change but also share their concerns about climate change,” said Susan Love, administrator of the Division’s Climate & Sustainability Programs.

The plan will tie together all of Delaware’s resiliency plans, and then propose the next steps to be proactive.

“The State has been working on climate change significantly since 2009-2010. We have the Sea Level Rise Adaptation Plan that was completed in 2012 … and there was also an executive order in 2013 for [government agency] preparedness from Jack Markell, so we have been doing a lot of work on climate change,” said Susan Love, administrator of the Climate & Sustainability Programs. “What we have not done, to date, is have one plan that addresses both the causes and consequences of climate change together.”

Climate change — especially warmer temperatures and a rising sea level — can disrupt crops and growing conditions, ground water, tourism and coastal communities, infrastructure costs and public health (especially for people with limited access to air conditioning and healthcare).

“Delaware is already experiencing the impacts of climate change, including hotter, longer summers, rising sea levels and more frequent intense storms,” according to DNREC. “This has environmental, economic and public health consequences for the state.”

Greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide) are vapors in the atmosphere that trap heat around the earth. Humans have released a significant amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere since the mid-1800s, especially with the use of fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and oil.

Delaware’s greenhouse gases primarily come from three primary sources: energy production, transportation and industry.

Implementing the plan could protect and strengthen agricultural and tourism economies; the natural places people enjoy for recreation; infrastructure; health of residents and visitors; and access to clean energy and transportation for all Delawareans.

The plan will consider a variety of solutions relating to renewable energy; energy efficiency and industrial refrigerants; public transit and electric vehicles; agriculture and conservation; support for local communities (technical and planning assistance or grant funding); and partnerships with other states.

In 2017, Gov. John Carney committed Delaware to the Paris Agreement’s goal of a 26 percent of emissions by the year 2025, from 2005 levels.

In the energy sector, Delaware and nine other states were already part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which intends continue a successful emissions reduction program by cutting the region’s carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity sector by an additional 30 percent between 2021 and 2030.

For more information, contact Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Division of Climate, Coastal, & Energy at (302) 735-3480 or declimateplan@delaware.gov.

Most Delawareans believe in climate change

Since 2014, more Delawareans have personally experienced or observed local impacts of climate change or sea-level rise.

The division completed another survey in 2019 on Delawareans’ perceptions of climate change. Working with the University of Delaware, Standage Market Research interviewed a representative sample of 1,126 registered Delaware voters.

More than 70 percent of respondents were completely or mostly convinced that climate change is occurring, and that sea-level rise is occurring. Most said the State should take immediate actions to reduce the impact.

“A combined 56 percent of Delawareans think climate change will personally harm them a great deal (21 percent) or a moderate amount (35 percent). That grows to a combined 77 percent when respondents were asked if they think climate change will harm future generations a great deal (61 percent) or a moderate amount (16 percent),” DNREC reported.

“Future generations will judge us based upon the actions we take today,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “Failure to take action now increasingly locks us into a future with increased flooding, more intense heat waves and threats to our quality of life.”

A full report of the survey results should be released in March, with a summary now online at de.gov/climatesurvey.

Staff Reporter

Laura Walter is an award-winning reporter on schools, environment, people and history. A graduate of Indian River High School and Washington College, she has rappelled off a building and assisted a magician, and encourages readers to act on local issues.