The Potential for Significant Impacts on Chesapeake Bay from Global Warming

Michael S. Kearney

Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuarine system in North America. Like other such estuaries around the world, it will face a number of significant impacts during the 21st century that are directly related to global warming. These impacts will affect people in ways that have not been witnessed since the first English settlers came to the region in 1607. In addition, the effects of global climate change will, in many cases, augment trends associated directly or indirectly with human activities, which have already produced a perilous situation in which fundamental ecosystem components or processes could be irretrievably damaged. As a result, these challenges cannot be put off to future generations and their elected representatives; the sea level future of the Chesapeake Bay in many cases is already upon us. Decisions people make today can lay a firm groundwork for understanding and planning for changes that, otherwise left unaddressed, are likely to leave few options for their solution by the end of this century.

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