This Earth Day, Delaware is already acting on climate change

On the forty-seventh anniversary of Earth Day, I’m rallying with thousands of Delawareans who are more committed than ever to leave a better world for our children and grandchildren. Today, we’re also showing our support for the incredible scientists who selflessly perform the medical and environmental research that is crucial to ensuring our families have clean water to drink and clear air to breathe. Our scientists work incredibly hard, not for fame or fortune or to advance a political agenda, but for the pursuit of knowledge and with the hope that their work may save a life, lead to an important breakthrough, or help protect our shared planet.

For decades now, thousands of climate scientists have produced overwhelming evidence that concludes our climate is changing and humans are directly contributing to these changes. In Delaware, we’re already seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the true threat climate change poses to our low-lying state. Yesterday, I visited locations in each of our counties where climate change is challenging communities, and where we’re taking action to protect our state for future generations of Delawareans.

In Wilmington, I was joined by Mayor Mike Purzycki and Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Secretary Shawn Garvin for a briefing by state officials on the currently measurable impacts that climate change is having on Delaware. After our briefing, we toured the Southbridge Wilmington Wetlands Project. Southbridge sits right along the Christina River and is already suffering from increased flooding due to climate-change caused sea-level rise. The Southbridge Wilmington Wetlands Project will create a high functioning wetland to handle excess storm water runoff and reduce chronic flooding in the Southbridge neighborhood.

I then met up with DelDOT officials in Odessa to view sections of Route 9 that are being considered for permanent closure due to frequent flooding. Twice a day now, the incoming tide “overtops” – or covers up – entire sections of the road. Climate change isn’t just an environmental issue. All along Delaware’s coast, from Claymont to Fenwick, it’s a transportation issue and it’s a safety issue for many families.

Just outside of Dover Air Force Base, I next visited St. Jones Reserve, a component of the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve (DNERR), which is conducting research on long-term weather changes and water quality, and measuring impacts of climate change on plant and animal life in Delaware’s wetlands and marshes. Ongoing research conducted at the reserve continues to show that warmer waters and sea level rise are threatening the long-term viability of Delaware’s marshes. Tidal marshes like St. Jones Reserve act as natural buffers between Delaware’s coastal communities and incoming tidewaters and storm surges. Without healthy tidal marshes like St. Jones Reserve and the marsh at Prime Hook Wildlife Reserve, which bore the brunt of the storm surge from Superstorm Sandy, Delaware’s coastal communities are more vulnerable to massive flooding as we see larger, more unpredictable storms due to climate change.

I finished out the day in Dewey Beach, first visiting the Dewey Lions Club that has taken on the project of preserving the marsh next to their property because it’s an important part of the community and should be protected for the generations to come. I next joined Chris Bason, Executive Director of the Center for the Inland Bays who showed me the living shoreline being built around Dewey to keep up with rising seas. While the Center for the Inland Bays has worked with local officials, the state and the Army Corps of Engineers to help mitigate the immediate threats from rising ocean water on the coast, Dewey residents also face rising waters from the Delaware Bay.

Clearly, there is far more work to do to insulate Delaware from the threat of climate change, but I’m heartened to see that Delaware is taking this threat seriously and leading the way. Unfortunately, President Trump’s budget blueprint released last month proposed short-sighted budget cuts to a number of programs that Delaware relies on to combat climate change, build and maintain resilient coast lines, and fund cutting-edge scientific research to help combat this unprecedented challenge. As Congress debates the President’s proposed budget in the months ahead, I’ll continue to push for smart investments that act on climate change and uphold our commitment to pass along a healthy planet to our children and the generations to come.