Opinion: Commentary: Record Setting Times

Not intending to repeat a column I wrote a few weeks ago, but it is hot outside! That column focused on the findings of experts with the Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine (VASEM) with data mainly about Coastal Virginia but with an explanation that what happens in the coastal region has repercussions across the state. The report is now online where you can read about sea-level rise, more frequent and intense weather-related events, and more variability in seasonal temperature. http://www.vasem.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/VASEM_VirginiasCoastalAreasReport_FINAL.pdf.

As soon as I had turned in my column for publication, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its most recent report that verified its past findings on climate change, but with a great sense of urgency as to how rapidly changes are occurring. They termed climate change as “widespread, rapid and intensifying.” https://www.ipcc.ch/2021/08/09/ar6-wg1-20210809-pr/

As though we did not have enough evidence already, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued its State of the Climate in 2020 with more than 530 scientists around the world verifying what we have been hearing from others. https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/news/reporting-state-climate-2020. Greenhouse gases are the highest on record. Global surface temperature as well as upper atmospheric temperature and sea surface temperatures are at record or near-record highs. July was earth’s hottest month on record. The Arctic and Antarctica are warming and losing record levels of ice. Crazy weather patterns are occurring around the world.

These are not the kind of records we want to set as part of the upward trends that virtually all scientists are reporting. Reversing the trends for which all experts seem to agree is of great urgency; the task at hand will not be done easily or quickly, but we must get started. Ultimately action must occur on an international level. In the meantime, we must act at the national level by ensuring that our infrastructure improvements, about which there has been much congressional debate, be done in earth-friendly ways that help to curtail climate change.

Incentives and tax breaks to businesses and industries must have requirements for environmental action that will contribute to greenhouse emissions reductions.

The Clean Energy Act passed in Virginia is a major step in the right direction. The law requires new measures to promote energy efficiency, sets a schedule for closing old fossil fuel power plants, and requires electricity to come from 100 percent renewable sources such as solar or wind. Energy companies must pay penalties for not meeting their targets. Construction is underway in the Atlantic Ocean 27 miles offshore from Virginia Beach on what will be the nation’s largest wind farm. When completed by Dominion Energy the wind farm will provide zero-emissions electricity to 660,000 homes. Solar farms are sprouting up across the Commonwealth as consumers and businesses are installing small solar farms until larger ones are constructed.

I know you did not ask for or expect two columns so close together on the subject of weather, but the threat to life as we know it is real and closer than we may have thought. Let’s continue to do our part in our personal ways to be kind to Mother Earth, and let’s ensure that our leaders do the same.

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