On August 1 the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held the chamber’s first hearing on climate change in more than three years. Among those called to testify was John Griffin, secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Griffin spoke about his state’s “long running efforts to research, plan and prepare for the impact of sea level rise, extreme storms and climate change.”

The state’s efforts date back to the early 1990s when the Department of Natural Resources teamed up with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science to research the impact of rising sea levels on costal communities and marsh systems within the Chesapeake Bay.

In the years since, however, one has hardly needed a scientist to see the impact climate change has had on the scenic Maryland coastline. The state is currently losing approximately 580 acres a year to shore erosion. Already 13 Chesapeake Bay islands have been consumed by water. Approximately 5,000 acres of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, home to the largest natural population of Delmarva fox squirrels and, outside of Florida, the largest breeding population of American bald eagles on the East Coast, have been subsumed. And, in 2011 Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee hit the Maryland coast.

Griffin is not the only one sounding the alarm. Maryland State Treasurer Nancy Kopp is deeply troubled about climate change and its consequences on her state. So much so that she too is seeking ways to do something about it. “There is a shared sensitivity to the impact we are seeing in Maryland,” Kopp told Institutional Investor in an interview. “There is an awareness of the broad global impact of climate change.” That awareness extends to the $37.6 billion Maryland State Retirement and Pension System for which Kopp serves as chair to the 14-person board of trustees. Kopp says that members of the board as well as the pension investment staff share her awareness of the potential long-term impact of climate change on the value of the fund’s investments.

Among public pension funds in the U.S., the large California plans, the $239 billion California Public Employees' Retirement System and $152 billion California State Teachers' Retirement System have long been the most public and progressive when it comes to considering the impact of so-called ESG issues, that is the environment, social matters and corporate governance, on their investment portfolio. Increasingly they are not alone. And Maryland is at the vanguard of a host of other pension systems, as well as some foundations, endowments and sovereign wealth funds, grappling with these issues.