Whether you’re anti-science crusader Ken Cuccinelli, solution-rejecting Bob McDonnell, or any of Virginia’s “centrist” Democrats who know global warming means we’re screwed but remain too cowardly to advocate aggressive action, aside from a couple of dozen lonely progressive voices, Richmond is united in telling climate change to go away. Lo and behold, climate change has stubbornly refused to stop accelerating, and now communities like Norfolk are struggling to deal with climate impacts with no help from the state:
City and county leaders, already burdened with typical tasks of local governance – zoning, construction permits, liquor licenses, school board appointments – are also weighing multi-million-dollar flood control projects to keep the ocean at a livable distance.
While they struggle to pull together know-how and funding, those with the broader view and resources – state agencies – are absent from the discussions: In a study released earlier this year, the Natural Resources Defense Council ranked Virginia as one of 29 states that were “largely unprepared and lagging behind” on planning for climate change at the state level.
In many ways the problem is already upon Norfolk. The Atlantic Ocean off Virginia’s coast is rising a quarter of an inch annually, equivalent to two feet in 100 years – faster than anywhere else in the United States except for coastal Louisiana. The ocean at Sewells Point, site of the Norfolk Naval Station, rose 14.5 inches between 1930 and 2010. And that’s likely to accelerate. Last month the U.S. Geological Survey reported that sea levels are rising more quickly along the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to Massachusetts than globally, possibly as a result of slowing Atlantic Ocean circulation patterns.
The inaction of Virginia’s elected officials is actually hurting the state twice – not just paying the price of climate inaction through extreme weather and sea level rise, but hurting Virginia’s economy by losing out on clean energy jobs. But hey, who has time to confront looming disaster when there’s women’s bodies that need regulating, amirite?