(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—Will Baker, President of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), issued this statement today following the release of "Be Praised," the encyclical of Pope Francis:
"Like so many others, I am grateful to Pope Francis for speaking out on behalf of our threatened planet and its inhabitants—the wildlife and humans which depend on clean air, clean water and a stable climate. We join him in calling for stronger public and private actions to place the wellbeing of earth above the profit motive.
"The Chesapeake Bay is directly at risk as a result climate change. Recent studies show water temperature in the Bay rose 2.52 degrees F between 1960 and 2010, with increases as high as 5 degrees in some areas. Warmer water threatens all Bay processes and life. Underwater Bay grasses, for instance, which provide critical habitat to iconic Bay wildlife like blue crabs are at risk. The Bay's fresh water rivers and streams are warming too, challenging the survival of aquatic life, such as brook trout that need cool water.
"Climate change also threatens to negate progress we have made in saving the Bay, because warm water exacerbates the dead zones of low oxygen. Increased carbon in the atmosphere can make salt water more acidic, thinning the shells of oysters and other shellfish. This will damage the resurgent oyster industry in the Bay.
"Rising sea levels are already destroying ecologically critical wetlands in places such as Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Wetlands are nature's pollution filters.
"We are fortunate that religious leaders of various denominations are speaking out, calling on all caring people to become better stewards of creation. The Bay watershed is our unique home, our environment, which we share with a family of living beings. Let us not defile that home any further. State and local governments have a responsibility to lead. Religious leaders are setting the example. We are so grateful to Pope Francis and all who speak with him."