Hundreds jump into the Potomac River to raise awareness about climate change

PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. - Jumping into a cold 42 degree Potomac River at the National Harbor takes a certain type of mindset. A mindset that thinks about the changing climate.

"It is not as bad as you think, you do that quick jump into the water, and you get over that cold water in a few seconds," said Quentin Scott of Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

More than 300 hardy activists and volunteers from across the D.C. region took the "keep winter cold" plunge at the 19th Annual Polar Bear Plunge — dedicated to raising awareness and funds to fight climate change.

"You know, I think about in Ellicott City in Maryland, where there was significant increased flooding in the past couple of years when businesses were lost because they were destroyed, and that’s because the scientific data says that there is a relationship between climate change, and CO2 emissions, and the increase in the rate of extreme weather events," said Mustafa Abdullah of Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

For over 20 years, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, which hosted the plunge, has been building a people-powered climate movement and driving transformation to a clean energy future.

"Climate change is undeniable, we see it all around us. There are studies that reveal that 2023 was the warmest year on record. We saw extreme flooding in California earlier this week, and even today, in February, it is going to be a high of 61° so it’s undeniable. On our part, we see our volunteers recognize that this is a moment that they have to rise to the occasion," said Quentin Scott of Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

The annual Polar Bear Plunge provides funding that is essential to campaigns geared towards climate action awareness. This year’s plunge goal was $210,000 —which the organization met at Saturday’s event.

Organizers say the plunge into the very cold Potomac River may sound crazy to some, but they believe it’s important to draw attention to the urgency of the climate crisis.

"People who showed up today are people who have made life decisions right that the climate crisis is going to be so important and such a priority to them that every year they participate in events like this, and many of them are the reason why we have 300 people versus when we started with just a couple dozen is because we’ve got more and more folks who are becoming organized and sustained in their engagement," said Mustafa Abdullah of Chesapeake Climate Action Network.