Opinion: Commentary: Inconvenient But Still True

Former Vice President Al Gore titled his book on climate change “An Inconvenient Truth.” Many years have passed but the truth he put forth that the climate is changing and that human behavior is causing it may continue to be inconvenient for a few to acknowledge because of personal biases, ignorance or financial interests. But climate change is even more true today than when Gore first focused public attention on it and its causes.

Over the past several weeks I have written three columns in this space on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change brought together by the United Nations. It issued a report last month, written and edited by 91 scientists from 40 countries and based on a review of more than 6,000 scientific reports, predicting much more dire consequences of climate change much earlier than previously had been expected. Some may see such predictions as inconvenient, but I and most of the world see them as “a warning too dire to ignore.”

Last week the federal government came forth with its National Climate Assessment publication of over 1,000 pages produced by 13 federal departments and agencies overseen by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. The researchers found that climate change “is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us.” Most significant to this report that has been produced annually over the past four years is the conclusion that “humans must act aggressively to adapt to current impacts and mitigate future catastrophes to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.”

As clear as the evidence is about climate change and the near unanimous endorsement of it by climate scientists, the current federal executive branch continues to ignore this truth. Ideally a national response to climate change could ensure the effectiveness of mitigation and other responses to our country and the globe. Since that seems unlikely in the next few years, state governments must step up. I share the concern that the pace of state action seems too slow, but progress is being made.

Last year in Virginia we moved forward with grid transformation that will allow consumers and utilities to have the information needed to make informed decisions on their electricity usage. The best way to eliminate the need for more electricity is to reduce demand even as the population grows and the economy expands. Since 2015 the solar capacity in Virginia has increased by more than 700 times to 825 megawatts—still a small number, but we are clearly on our way.

What was once described as an inconvenient truth is well documented for all but a few skeptics and is recognized as an emergency by most. I plan to maintain my 100 percent voting record with the League of Conservation Voters and my commitment to making Virginia a leader in ending the behaviors of people and companies that lead to climate change.

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