County Environmental Director Optimistic About Climate Change Despite Rising Temperatures

County Environmental Director Optimistic About Climate Change Despite Rising Temperatures

County’s average annual temperature increased 2.6 degrees between 1895 and 2018

| Published:
Gaithersburg solar panels

Solar panels on the roof of Lakelands Park Middle School in Gaithersburg.

via Montgomery County Public Schools

Montgomery County’s director of environmental protection said he thinks the county is well-positioned to counter the effects of climate change, despite rising temperatures.

The county’s average temperature rose 2.6 degrees Fahrenheit between 1895 and 2018, which exceeded the average temperature rise of 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit in the United States during that period. The data were compiled by The Washington Post, and was originally from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), which tracks monthly temperature data for the 123-year period for 48 states.

A database that the Post compiled allowed readers to search for temperature information about any county in the United States.

Department of Environmental Protection Director Adam Ortiz said Tuesday that the county is “taking our responsibility very seriously” when it comes to climate change.

“As the realities of climate change set in for us, we’re not only gonna have a hotter region, but more chance for storms, which is a threat to infrastructure and a threat to the quality of life that we all enjoy,” he said.

Ortiz, speaking from his hybrid Chevy Volt car, said climate change in Montgomery County can be attributed to several factors, including traffic and unsustainable energy usage practices.

“The overwhelming amount is residential and building usage,” he said.

Ortiz noted that the county has taken steps toward sustainability, including purchasing more electric buses, implementing greener building practices and seeking alternative energy sources.

“Technology has been leaping forward. Not only do we have solar panels, they’re cheaper than fossil fuel sources. So the economics work,” he said.

County Executive Marc Elrich has pledged to achieve zero-carbon emissions by 2035 and has committed to closing the county’s incinerator in Dickerson. The latter, however, would require the county to achieve a recycling rate above 80%. County officials are determining a location for a new recycling facility that can process more material at a faster rate.

Ortiz said he is optimistic about Maryland’s role in solving the climate crisis due to a bill the legislature passed this year that mandates that the state meet a 50% renewable energy mark by 2030. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Brian Feldman, a Democrat who represents parts of Clarksburg, Poolesville and North Potomac.

“The consciousness around the issue and the sense of urgency that policymakers and businesses feel is real. We all want and expect action,” Ortiz said.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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