While Republicans - especially those in the Virginia General Assembly - refuse to admit the reality of climate change and associated sea level rise, science and research continues to provide more data to not only document that the phenomenon is real but to suggest sea level rise may occur even faster than previously thought. The Virginia GOP has no solution to the problem since it has not even admitted the problem exists and only refers to "areas of repetitive flooding." As the Virginian Pilot reports, new research findings are unsettling for those living in the real world. Here are story highlights:
Scientists know a few things about sea levels: They're rising across the globe, though not uniformly. And they're rising faster than they had been.
In Hampton Roads, seas are rising even faster because the Gulf Stream has slowed down and because land here is sinking, a result of the region's geology and groundwater withdrawals.
Subsidence and rising waters were thought to be about equal contributors to the troubles in Hampton Roads, which has the highest rate of sea-level rise on America's Atlantic Coast.
But as sea-level rise accelerates and subsidence remains constant, that equation is tipping out of balance. Which means that the long-term risk to Hampton Roads from rising water is growing.
An intensive research effort now under way, aided by NASA observations and analysis, points to an unavoidable rise of several feet in the future."
The bottom line, NASA researchers have concluded, is that the world's average sea level will rise by three feet by the end of the century, and perhaps more. And because Hampton Roads has the additional problem of subsidence, waters here would rise significantly more.
In that study, prepared at the behest of the General Assembly, VIMS concluded that the worst-case scenario was 7.5 feet of sea level rise in Hampton Roads "based on estimated consequences from global warming combined with the maximum possible contribution from ice-sheet loss and glacial melting."
That amount of sea-level rise would put neighborhoods across the region in deep water, even without the flooding from a heavy storm. It would change how we live, and where.
NASA now says it knows that three feet of sea level rise is baked into the system, but that we should expect it to be higher than that, and to happen more quickly than scientists had predicted. That warning is clear enough. Hampton Roads leaders should now know enough to step up the planning to deal with it.
It is long past time for the Virginia GOP to come out of its fantasy world and start planning for ways to address this growing threat.