Thursday, September 26, 2013

Cuccinelli Denies Climate Change While Norfolk Fights A Slow Motion Disaster

City of Norfolk Map - Areas of Severe  Repetitive Tidal Flooding
Virginia has extensive areas of Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay shoreline that are increasingly threatened by rising sea levels fueled in significant part by climate change and melting of polar ice.  Meanwhile, Ken Cuccinelli and his Republican cohorts deny that climate change is even taking place.  Indeed, the GOP controlled House of Delegates would only approve a study of climate impacts only if the terms ‘climate change’ and ‘sea level rise’ were removed from the enabling legislation.    While Cuccinelli and the rest of the GOP ticket are in denial of the obvious, the City of Norfolk (and to a lesser extent the City of Hampton) is struggling to face the reality of rising seas and growing areas of repetitive flooding, many of which include high value properties.  And the problem is not limited to Norfolk and Hampton.  Other Hampton Roads cities are facing a growing threat as well.  Surprisingly, Think Progress has done a piece on Norfolk's attempts to combat a slow-motion disaster hitting the city and the GOP's refusal to accept objective reality.  Here are highlights (read the whole piece):

“We are here to ask for your help,” said Paul Fraim, Mayor of Norfolk, Virginia. “It is a threat we can no longer ignore.”

Fraim was speaking to a group of elected officials and emergency planners earlier this month. The focus of their discussion: the state’s lack of action on climate change, particularly as it pertains to sea level rise.

Sea level rise is a slow-moving threat that presents a tremendous risk to some of the world’s most heavily-populated regions. For Fraim and his fellow residents of the Tidewater area, sea level rise isn’t a problem for the distant future — it’s impacting their everyday lives right now.

Because the ground beneath Norfolk is subsiding while the water around it rises, the city serves as a snapshot of what other coastal communities will face in the coming decades if nothing is done to address climate change. Today the Center for American Progress released a new video examining the risks and cost associated with sea level rise, with a particular focus on residents, scientists and community leaders in Norfolk. Watch it: 

According to a recent study from NOAA,
… climate-change related increases in sea level have nearly doubled today’s annual probability of a Sandy-level flood recurrence as compared to 1950. Ongoing natural and human-induced forcing of sea level ensures that Sandy-level inundation events will occur more frequently in the future from storms with less intensity and lower storm surge than Sandy.
If the several inches of sea-level rise that have been measured to date have nearly doubled the chances of a Sandy-like storm surge, then the several feet that may await many coastal cities could be catastrophic. No longer a distant threat, many of these impacts are already bearing out in coastal Virginia.

“The fact of the matter is, we’ve got rising waters,” said Virginia State Senator Jim Watkins (R-Midlothian).”We’ve got recurrent flooding. There are more 100-year storms in the last 15 years than we’ve ever seen. Somebody has got to deal with it.”

While the cost of helping coastal cities prepare for the impacts of sea-level rise is daunting — an initial set of projects identified by the city of Norfolk in partnership with the Dutch consulting firm Fugro Atlantic totaled $1 billion, more than the city’s annual operating budget — the cost of inaction is far higher.

As National Journal explains, “Hampton Roads is a major engine of the state’s economy, home to 1.6 million people, the world’s largest naval base, including the only U.S. shipyard that builds nuclear submarines, and the tourist mecca of Virginia Beach.” As sea level rise threatens the region’s infrastructure and assets, “the economic impact of these forces will be profound; some estimates run as high as $25 billion.”

82 percent of Virginia’s coastline is considered at high or very high risk to sea level rise, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. But action to address climate change and prepare coastal communities for the impacts of sea-level rise is often impeded by politics. In 2011, the state legislature approved a study examining the impacts climate change was having on the state, but only after Republican delegates forced the removal of the terms ‘climate change’ and ‘sea level rise.’

And this year’s high stakes governor’s race includes Republican Ken Cucinelli. Not only does Cucinelli question the science behind climate change, as Attorney General, he used taxpayer dollars to wage a widely criticized witch hunt against University of Virginia climatologist Michael Mann. Mann has since become active in Virginia politics, telling MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, “Virginians have a very stark choice before them … [Cuccinelli is] somebody who views science as something to attack if it doesn’t comport with his ideological views or the views of the special interests that fund his campaigns.”

The reasons to vote against the Ken Cuccinelli and the rest of the Virginia GOP slate this year are many, but for those who are concerned about the growing flood problems and the treats they pose to Hampton Roads' economy, Cuccinelli and company's denial that a real problem exists alone is reason enough to cast a straight Democrat ballot on November 5, 2013.

Disclosure:  The boy friend and I live in a home that has flooded 3 times in the last ten years (more than during the previous 45 years since the house was built) due to sea level rise and increased storm activity/intensity.  We pay hefty flood insurance premiums and after the 2009 Nor'Ida storm spent into six figures repairing and flood proofing our home.  Last year we spent the equivalent of a new car to install a whole house generator and 3 high capacity industrial sump pumps to be ready for future  flood threats.  Cuccinelli can live in his alternate universe if he wants, but sea level rise IS HAPPENING.  We do not need him in the Governor's mansion.

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