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Climate change in Delaware



Tackling the many issues of climate change is a monumental task for scientists, policymakers, and the public alike. There is no doubt that Earth’s climate has naturally fluctuated throughout time—mostly due to changes in solar activity, changes in the Earth’s orbit around the sun, and other natural changes within the climate system, such as changes to ocean circulation patterns and volcanic activity.


But today many people still ask the question, “Have humans actually caused recent global warming?” Although remaining skeptics argue that there is insufficient evidence to draw a definitive causal link between human activity and climate change, the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) puts this debate to rest. Three main points are clear:

  • Warming of Earth’s climate is unequivocal;
  • Human activity (e.g. the burning of fossil fuels) has dramatically increased atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions since the Industrial Revolution;
  • Human activity has very likely (greater than a 90 percent chance) contributed to recent global warming—and this trend will continue over the coming decades, if not centuries. 

As the 2006 Stern Review notes, “The scientific evidence is now overwhelming: climate change presents very serious global risks, and it demands an urgent global response.” 

Climate change will continue to increase global sea surface temperatures, resulting in sea level rise, coral bleaching, and more intense tropical storms and hurricanes. Image from: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Scientific Visualization Studio


What does climate change mean for Delaware? Climate change impacts will vary regionally, but Delaware’s agriculture, forests and wildlife, wetlands, fisheries, water resources, and coastal areas all could be affected in different ways—and even human health could be impacted.

Changes in Delaware’s average temperature, precipitation amount, and sea level have the potential to alter agricultural production and to affect local and regional hydrology, directly impacting the State’s forests, wetlands, and estuarine environments. Moreover, with its 381 miles of shoreline—including the diverse flora and fauna of the Delaware Bay Estuary—Delaware is particularly susceptible to increased coastal erosion and wetlands inundation from sea level rise along its many beaches and inland waterways.

For more detailed information on climate change, its effects and consequences (both globally and specifically for the State of Delaware), and up-to-date information on Delaware’s policies and initiatives to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, please explore this site and the many resources it offers.

Above: Areas of Delaware inundated by expected sea level rise by the end of this century are shown in red. The other colors show inundation resulting from the melting of: Greenland (orange), the West Antarctic (yellow), and the entire Antarctic (green), though the probability and timeframe for these melting events are less understood. Source: University of Delaware, College of Marine and Earth Studies

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