The Water Is Coming



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In the Safe Coast Virginia report, CCAN calls on Virginia legislators to join nine other states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)—a cap and trade program designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants —and get some money back.

“Virginia needs to join the rest of the world in reducing and attacking the core problem, which is the combustion of fossil fuels. It’s a regional greenhouse gas reduction system that is already in place from Maine to Maryland, and if Virginia would join it, and participate, it would not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, it would generate $200 million a year that Virginia could use to start protecting itself against the tide.” CCAN is pushing an initiative called the Virginia Coastal Protection Act in the General Assembly that would have Virginia participate in RGGI.

Even with the inaction of new, stringent federal rules on carbon emission from the Environmental Protection Agency this past June, and the remote possibility that Virginia would join RGGI, Tidwell says that much of the environmental damage has already been done from past carbon emissions. 

“There’s a certain amount of sea level rise that’s already in the bank, as it were. We are almost certainly going to see a couple of feet in this century even if we unplug everything right now, even if we didn’t emit another pound of Co2. There’s so much momentum built up in the warming of the ocean and the atmosphere. I think now we’re just talking about warding off the worst impacts of climate change.”

But don’t write off Coastal Virginia’s future as a dystopian waterworld quite yet. “We do have some time to think about this,” Covi says. “We’re now in the phase of accessing our vulnerability and starting to talk now about what our options are.” She thinks the response has to be localized “right down to neighborhoods. It’s not going to be possible to put up a huge wall around the region, so we have to look at all the different options. Part of it is to bolster our emergency management, if we do have an event or a big storm.”

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