State Capitol of the Commonwealth of Virginia

Now, Are We Serious About Climate Change?

Climate news in 2019 is starting off where 2018 left off. Just this past week we learned that our oceans are warming faster than expected and that US carbon emissions rose 3.2% in 2018. This rise ends three years of declining emissions and is the largest increase since 2010. In November, the Black Friday Report  showed how the impacts of climate change are already being felt across the US, including in Virginia. And, in October, we learned that aggressive reductions in carbon emissions are our only chance to avoid catastrophic temperature rise.

There is no doubt, climate change is a serious issue. Yet, as scientists sound these alarms, we are busy debating a border wall, who should run for president in 2020, troop withdrawals from Syria, and how much the Russians are influencing our elections. It is as if we are driving along a challenging roadway but cannot take our eyes off our mobile phones long enough to see the cliff that we are about to drive over.

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Governor Terry McAuliffe’s Actions on Climate Change

During his time in office, Governor Terry McAuliffe led action on climate change through a number of executive actions. These actions took steps to move Virginia forward and provide a road map for near-term to bring cleaner energy and economic growth to Virginia. Some of Governor McAuliffe’s actions are summarized below.

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Support the Renewables First Act

The majority of Virginia’s electricity is based on burning fossil fuels, mainly natural gas and coal. The effects of the resulting climate change are all around us. For example, the six hottest years recorded have occurred over the last decade. Tens of millions of dollars are spent annually to harden Virginia’s coastal military bases against sea level rise. Science tells us that we must hold global temperature increases under 2°C (3.6°F), or suffer staggering economic and social upheaval. To realize this goal, the major economies must pursue ‘deep decarbonization’, reducing carbon emissions by approximately 80% by mid-century.

In addition to producing heat-trapping gases, the burning of fossil fuels produces particulates and gases, which cause toxic ground level ozone. This is a big problem in many parts of the developed and developing world, including Virginia (The American Lung Association gives out letter grades for air quality; Loudoun County’s air gets a ‘C’, Fairfax’s an ‘F’). Public health provides a second strong incentive to reduce fossil fuel-based energy production. We all have to do our part in reducing fossil fuel emissions, including Virginia. Delay is not an option.

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