Out and About (Sort of): The Message Isn’t Getting Through by Howard Freedlander


For some reason, I cannot ignore the constant specter of global warming. I even eschew the term, “coastal resilience,” the politically correct description of our strange and inconvenient weather trends.

But I seem to be whistling in the wind. The subject rarely comes up in political discourse.

This summer on the Eastern Shore exemplified the new normal, with witheringly hot temperatures in June, July and August. Winter 2017-18 seemed endlessly miserable despite the relative absence of snow.

Brian Ambrette, a key staffer at the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC), wrote nearly two weeks ago, when referring to testimony in 1988 by Jim Hansen, NASA’s top climate scientist, “These three decades have been the hottest on record, each one hotter than the previous. The current decade is on pace to be the warmest yet, containing 7 of the 10 hottest years on record.”

Ambrette added, “The American West seems one spark away from inferno six months out of the year. At the same time, 2017 was one of the wettest years for many other locations in North America and Northern Europe.”

Yet, I have a sense that most people don’t seem to care. I find that bewildering.

While others may say that the climate changes—surges of heat and precipitation—are simply a phase. I call this attitude gross denial. I prefer to blame global warming and climate on us.
We have emitted more carbon in the atmosphere through our indulgent lifestyles, such that we now must cope with living on an increasingly hot and uncomfortable earth.

Not to speak of rising utility bills.

July 2018 is a glaring example of an unpredictable weather episode on the Eastern Shore. We experienced two weeks of drought, followed by the weeks of rain, rain and more rain. How do we human beings explain? it I’m not willing to shrug my shoulders and pretend that conditions are inexplicable.

Early last week I read an article in The Washington Post about a woman who lives in a lovely community in Charleston, SC. Her home, about a block and a half from the Ashley River, has withstood three instances of flooding. Fed up with the flooding, she decided a year ago to sell her home for nearly $1 million. After reducing the price 11 times, she has decided to tear it down and sell the property.

A new buyer likely will build an elevated house, one that might be valued at $1.3-$1.4 million dollars, according to a local real estate agent.

Dueling studies differ on whether homes in beautiful and highly livable Charleston have suffered significant drops in values.

The conclusion by a professor of real estate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School points to continued coastal building. What is happening is that while “beachfront property is not declining in value, rather, the studies suggest that more exposed properties—including properties that have not yet experienced direct flooding—simply are not appreciating as rapidly as their inland neighbors.”

In pointing to effect of constant flooding and potential exposure to storm-related damage, I’m suggesting that real estate values in our area face the same market pressures instigated by the impact of global warming and climate change. We too must appreciate the splendor and peril of living in an area prone to storm surges and consequent damage.

What do we do to reverse frightening trends?

The New York Times’ columnist, Thomas L. Friedman, suggests that climate change warriors must understand that “the public has grown uneasy,” wondering “what’s real?” He thinks that a 50-page report produced by the top experts in climate science, written “in language that a sixth grader could understand, with unimpeachable peer-reviewed footnotes,” would sharpen the message and drive home the need to act.

At the outset, I bemoaned what I consider the current reality: the message about the searing urgency in addressing the disastrous consequences of global warming is simply not resonating with the public. The public will is lacking. Political discourse seems devoid of concern.

This is not my first column about global warming. Nor will it likely be my last. Our fragile world, amid explainable climate changes, has opted for neglect.

As Malcolm Forbes Baldwin, the acting chairman of President Reagan’s Council for Environmental Quality, said in 1981, ‘There can be no more important or conservative concern than the protection of the globe itself.’

Baldwin sounded the alarm 37 years ago. The response has been eerily mute.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.


Letters to Editor

  1. Bob Ingersoll says

    Mr. Freedlander,
    You are not alone in trying to deliver a message that is either not appreciated, or disbelieved, or viewed as not yet actionable, or worst of all, believed but ignored by many who amass major profits while purposely misleading or obfuscating. Sorrowfully, it is not just the current administration, although they are purposefully leading the nation astray, but it is also a large portion of energy companies working to blur reality, cause indecision, create doubt, and continuously state that any efforts to change our fossil fuel energy consumption are so small in scale as to be negligible. It is problematic that the percentage of the general population who believe that global warming is real is decreasing thanks to a constant barrage of tweets coming from the administration in hopes of keeping their base happy and deceived.
    Even though we are in one of the most affected areas on the east coast of the U.S. in regards to tide level increase, we can’t seem to convince even those whose home islands are submerging (and simultaneously eroding) that the cause is due to changes of climate patterns directly related to our heating up our planet. The evidence is so drastically overwhelming, it is hard for me to see how anyone can reinterpret reality by ignoring basic facts.
    At the current rate of tidal increase, not considering any possible acceleration, ten acres of our farm will be an island by the time my grandchildren approach my age. If we build a bridge to it, maybe we can make it a 5 star resort.



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