ESSEX — The Essex community is part of the push to better protect the planet thanks to a woman who is helping people better understand the cause and effects of climate change.
Elizabeth Dahl has been presenting her “climate talks” at schools and libraries around the state and gave her the most recent climate talk at the Essex Library last Monday.
Dahl, who has a Ph.D. in Earth System Sciences and has been teaching for 10 years at Loyola University, said she wanted to start reaching out to people outside of the university in order to teach them about climate issues.
“I started off going to schools to talk about climate change because my children are in elementary school and I’ve been doing science demonstrations and speaking with their classes since they were in preschool. Talking to kids is a lot of fun, but they already know a lot about climate change,” Dahl said.
“I was thinking about venues that might be more accessible to people who want more information but aren’t in school and realized that libraries might be the perfect place for that.”
At community libraries, Dahl’s presentations focus on basic science concepts such as the relationship between greenhouse gases and climate change, how it is known climate change is caused by people, what impacts climate change is already having with a focus on Maryland and the East Coast, what the expectations are for the future and what actions people can take on the issue.
“My goal is to help people become more comfortable having conversations about climate change by giving them a basic background in the evidence around climate change and how we are experiencing it,” Dahl said.
“When I spoke to kids, I told them the best and the easiest thing they can do personally is to talk to their parents about climate change.”
Dahl said she doesn’t know if she has been able to get every person she talks to to start having conversations about climate change, but said she is optimistic that at least they leave knowing a bit more and feel empowered to take another step towards mitigating the effects of climate change.
“I’ve had people tell me that my talks inspired them to investigate switching to renewable energy at home and come up to me afterward to ask me specific questions around arguments that they’ve been heard from skeptics of climate change,” Dahl said.
“I’ve found many people have questions, but just don’t have someone to ask. While I can’t always answer every question, I have a sheet of references for the information I present and library and online resources that I pass out at my talks so that people can do further research.”
Dahl said that she tries to stay positive when it comes to actions being taken to combat climate change but said more needs to be done on a state level to protect the environment.
“When it comes to climate change, Maryland is behind on the goals that the state set for itself (reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020). Many counties are also behind on their goals or don’t have plans in place for action,” Dahl said.
“Baltimore County doesn’t have a climate adaptation plan yet, but it’s one of the goals the County Executive set when he took office and he also funded and hired a Chief Sustainability Officer for the county. This is a better late than never situation but considering the potential for impacts on the county and the state goals, Baltimore County should have established a plan earlier.”
Dahl said as sea levels rise, the Chesapeake Bay and the Back River are going to change and cause problems not only for the aquatic life but for people who live by the water.
“When I speak with people with a coastal property it’s not unusual to hear about flooding. There’s a report that I use in some of my talks on sea level rise in projections for Maryland. One of the key takeaways from the report is that there will likely be big increases in the number of floods on sunny days along the coasts of the bay (100 or more days by 2050),” Dahl said.
“Until we start taking significant action to lower our greenhouse gas emissions, we don’t know how much sea-level rise we should prepare for —especially when we think of our infrastructure.”
The first thing Dahl said people can do to take part in better protecting our environment is to think about how they can save energy.
“This will save you money and lower your carbon footprint,” Dahl said. “Using public transportation, walking and biking are also effective ways to cut your personal emissions since we can’t all afford an electric vehicle. People can also elect to use solar power at home by joining a community solar co-op or installing solar panels. “
Dahl also recommends people to either join local climate groups or start a group in the community, work or even at school.
Voting for elected officials who vow to protect the planet is another big step people can take.
“We need our elected leaders to put us on a path that will result in significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions and plans for how our communities will adapt to climate change.”
Dahl is currently scheduled to do a family climate talk at the Parkville library on February 8 at 2 p.m. If people are interested in having a program at their library they can ask their librarian or for non library locations, people can reach out to Dahl by emailing her at email@example.com.