Human Stories of the Maryland RENEW Act: Meet Betty Schulz

Farmland Is Being Ruined On The Eastern Shore Due To Sea Level Rise. What’s To Be Done?

Betty Schulz has lived in Crisfield, Maryland on the Eastern Shore for 35 years. She used to rent some of her land out to farmers but now nothing will grow in those fields. She’s seen saltwater intrusion from rising sea levels decimate the local ecosystem and make the land impossible to farm.

What’s to be done? 

The financial toll of the climate crisis is staggering. Sea levels along Maryland’s shores have surged by 10 inches since 1950 due to a combination of sea level rise and sinking land. The state is already spending over $3 billion in sea level rise solutions, including beach renourishment projects, flood prevention, and raising homes. Farms have already been harmed by saltwater intrusion, with a 9 percent drop in farm acreage between 2012 and 2017 in Somerset County. The Delmarva Peninsula has faced as much as $107 million in annual crop losses due to saltwater patches making the land unviable for crops. And it’s not just the farmers. Water aquifers are being abandoned along the East Coast. The tourism and recreation industries are at risk. 

Rising seas from global warming will make everything worse. Sea levels are projected to rise a full foot higher by 2050. Southern Dorchester County will be largely underwater. Maryland is ranked fifth when it comes to states facing massive expenditures to prepare for sea level rise, behind only Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina and Virginia. Estimates suggest Maryland will need over $27 billion to fortify its coastal defenses in the next two decades. Yet Maryland’s state budget is currently only $45.2 billion. 

The slow-moving disaster of global warming is costly. That’s why Maryland legislators are trying to pass the Responding to Emergency Needs from Extreme Weather (RENEW) Act. The RENEW Act would invest $900 million a year for ten years into climate adaptation and mitigation — including creating living shorelines to help protect against sea level rise and salt water intrusion.

Betty is hoping to pass her land down to her granddaughter one day, but is increasingly worried that this won’t happen. And Betty’s story is just one of many playing out across Maryland as extreme weather events take a growing toll. A recent Gonzales poll found that 48% of Marylanders have been personally harmed financially by climate change within the past three years. Surviving these increasingly common extreme weather events will require investing in the natural and physical infrastructure needed to withstand hotter hots, wetter wets, and higher tides. But it’s about more than weather. For many people, their way of life is at stake. 

That’s why we need your help to pass the RENEW Act as quickly as possible and make these resiliency investments before it’s too late. Click here to watch the video with Betty’s story, and learn how you can take action to pass the RENEW Act today.