BALTIMORE, Md. (WMAR) — Climate change is a global issue, but in Baltimore City it’s also a neighborhood problem.
Scientists already blame global warming for a variety of issues from melting icebergs, to rising sea levels and a declining polar bear population.
WMAR 2 News, in a collaboration with the University of Maryland’s Howard Center for Investigative Journalism and Capital News Service, explores a different kind of threat that’s a lot closer to home.
Climate change has had a direct impact on Baltimore neighborhoods.
The group found it can also have a direct effect on some people’s health and safety, and much of it depends upon your zip code.
It’s something a few neighbors said they hadn’t thought about until now.
Baltimore’s McElderry park neighborhood has a unique distinction.
Neighbor Solomon Simmons said “this is the hottest spot in Maryland, east Baltimore, and it has a lot to do with the lack of trees.”
Trees provide shade; neighborhoods heat up without them.
Scientists mapped out these hot spots in cities around the country and called them ‘urban heat islands.’
In a neighborhood named McElderry Park, one would think you’d see vast open spaces of greenery and trees. Instead, you’ll find blocks upon blocks of rowhouses, housing typical of many Baltimore neighborhoods.
“To live in a neighborhood like this, or in housing like this, you’re not really worried about the outside, as far as environment. You know you’re worried about your safety sometimes. You worry about actually paying your mortgage or your rent. There are things that take precedence over the environment,” Simmons said.
The University of Maryland’s Howard Center for Investigative Journalism students and Capital News Service found rowhouses are another cause for concern.
Over the summer, reporters from UMD and Capital News Service placed heat sensors inside several homes and found it was often hotter inside than outside.
“I think it’s an issue of concern but I don’t think most people realize how important it is, that’s what the problem is, we all need to be more informed, of what kind of illnesses it can cause,” Simmons said.
Doctors say people who live in neighborhoods determined to be a ‘heat island’ have higher rates of chronic illnesses which can be made worse by the heat, especially lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema, or chronic bronchitis.
It causes Ida Scrivens to worry about the health of some of her elderly neighbors.
“We’ve had some in the area that was on an oxygen tank, so if they turn that air conditioner off, or whatever type of way that they can get air, i have to say it’s dangerous for their life,” Scrivens said.
Since Simmons’ family first moved to the neighborhood in the 1970s, climate isn’t the only thing which has changed.
It was much different that it is now, because you could actually open your windows, with your screens. You didn’t have to worry about somebody breaking in, or smoke from marijuana or whatever coming through your windows and stuff like that. It just wasn’t like that years ago,” Simmons said.
“People are afraid on the first floor. They can not put an air conditioner in the window, nor a fan, because this is a high peak of violence in the area. We don’t even sit on the steps, less more to have an air conditioner and a fan in the window,” Scrivens said.
Safety isn’t the only factor playing a role in how some neighbors cope with climate change.
Some people might not even be able to afford an air conditioner and if they do have one, they might not want to turn it on.
There are several economic factors which play a role in how some neighbors deal with their health and well-being when it comes to climate change.
Climate change researchers have identified Baltimore’s McElderry Park neighborhood as the hottest in the city.
The disparity of global warming has hit McElderry Park more than other neighborhoods.