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Changes in the Chesapeake

I come from a long-time sailing family, and have been on the water most of my life. I live on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay and I consider it my job as a fellow citizen to let you know: Climate change is real. I've seen it with my own eyes.

From the time I first came to the Chesapeake Bay at the age of four until today, I have seen storms cause more and more damage as water levels rise.

I grew up in a family where sailing is the trade. I bought my first boat at the age of nine, 23 years before I purchased my first car. Navigating around all stretches of the U.S. coastline, from Florida to Southern California, I have seen first-hand how vulnerable coastal communities are to the increasing dangers of climate change.

More frequent and extreme storms have battered the East Coast with increasing ferocity over the past several decades. In 2003, Hurricane Isabel caused flooding that brought waters to heights never seen by older folks who had lived in the Bay their whole life. The only way I could get around my neighborhood was by boat. In the face of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, I had to get others and myself out of the area for the duration of the storm.

The sailing community I live in has noticed the changes in weather patterns, and they are more and more a topic of conversation. How could they not be? Certain parts of the sea have become more hazardous.

Simply driving around the area can reveal the impacts of rising sea levels. There is land that is not there anymore, shorelines steadily washing away, and roads that are permanently closed because they are too often submerged due to frequent flooding. In fact, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), sea levels are rising in the Chesapeake Bay at twice the global rate.

I was out rowing in a small skiff recently when I found myself looking down at the foundation of an old house, about a foot under water. I wonder if my town will be here in a hundred years, or even scarier, after the next hurricane season.

It is easy for people to disregard certain effects of climate change when they live far away from them, but this problem will impact us all. Climate scientists predicts that unless we take action to fight climate change, sea levels will rise several feet in the next few decades. Action is necessary to slow the impact of climate change on my community and yours.

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