As we endure winter and hope for an early spring, we also know that spring now brings dangerous and heavy rains that are only expected to become more frequent.
For decades, scientists have noted that extreme weather could be one of the most disastrous impacts of climate change. Now, after years of federal policymakers ignoring the problem, the negative impacts are being felt across Virginia.
A Community Climate Collaborative report from this summer highlighted flooding that is already happening across central Virginia. From 1995 to 2015, Charlottesville and Albemarle County experienced nearly 100 floods, causing over $1 million in damage and tragically resulting in the death of one person.
Using long-term climate data, the report also showed that the average number of extreme precipitation days in Charlottesville increased by almost 80% between the 1890s and 2010s. Without coordinated and real action, this trend will increase. with rising temperatures. According to the report’s authors, flooding and extreme rainfall will be “one of the major climate risks for Charlottesville by 2050.”
But this problem is not limited to Charlottesville. In Alexandria, entire communities regularly face basement flooding despite not living in a flood zone. In southwestern Virginia, the agricultural sector is facing inconsistent growing seasons and extreme weather conditions that are killing crops. And in Hampton Roads, where I live, families are being robbed of their homes by rising insurance costs, due to repetitive flooding.
Flooded, impassable roads leading to one of the nation’s busiest seaports could prevent trucks carrying goods from reaching grocery stores in Central Virginia and have a hugely negative impact on the economy. A 2006 report from the Mason School of Business found that more than $31 million in cargo passed through the Port of Virginia; this activity generated $4.5 billion in revenue and more than 35,000 jobs. Since then, the Port’s economic power has only grown, as has its risk of flooding.
However, it is not just a matter of economic security; flood control is vital to national security. The largest naval base in the world is in Norfolk, and mission readiness is tested by flooding, rising sea levels and frequent “rain bombs”. At Hampton Roads, local leaders and the Navy’s top experts have worked hand-in-hand to ensure this critical node of national security is protected and that supported industries, including shipbuilding, can continue to operate despite floods and high tides.
Yet the challenges created by climate change are too great to be overcome by simple local and regional action, regardless of the partner. We need better coordinated policies that address immediate needs and stem the growing flood crisis. We must meet the challenge on all fronts: state and federal policies that address flooding and global agreements to reduce carbon emissions.
As Lieutenant Governor, I will bring my experience working on flood and climate mitigation to Richmond. Flooded roads and costly property damage are proof that we need to act now, as families are already feeling the effects of the climate crisis.
At the 35,000 foot level, I will work to accelerate our goal of a 100% clean energy Virginia by 2050. Achieving this goal will involve not only tax incentives and more power generation opportunities own, but also scientific breakthroughs, such as those developed at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Center for Economic and Policy Studies at the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. We must invest in the development and implementation of these technologies that are innovating the future of green energy in Virginia.
However, we don’t have to wait for these new technologies. Others, like offshore wind, are being built, now promising clean energy and 5,000 new jobs in the supply chain. Virginia’s mountain ranges also provide opportunities for wind energy.
While, as with all issues, state and federal policies are necessary to bring about total and lasting change, each of us individually has the power to have an impact by demanding that lawmakers prioritize environmental justice. and reducing our own personal carbon footprint, by implementing energy efficiency. measurements, migration to electric vehicles, composting and/or installation of solar panels on roofs.
Climate change is driving up temperatures and rainfall across the Commonwealth. We can take action to deal with the crisis before the floods turn into something much worse.