The Water Is Coming



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This past June, Governor Terry McAuliffe reestablished Tim Kaine’s Commission on Climate Change, which had been inactive during Bob McDonnell’s administration. It will review the commission’s 2008 action plan for Virginia that had 113 very specific recommendations. There is also a new joint committee on flooding in the General Assembly that is considering, among other things, the appointment of a state flood disaster coordinator.

As for Virginia Beach Delegate Stolle, who once decried the use of “climate change” and talk of “sea level rise,” he not only co-chairs the new committee, he pushed the resolution that created it (with State senator Mamie Locke). The Sierra Club of Virginia gave him an award for it.

“People are starting to come around ... the thing that scares those of us who are working on this is not just what we see coming,” Hershner says, “but how exactly do we plan and deal with that change?” He doubts that there is real political will to make the hard choices.

Benjamin Strauss at Climate Central also sees real challenges ahead. “I don’t know how the military bases will be viable and the cities viable. The difference is how much more carbon we put in the atmosphere and also how lucky we are. There’s a range of sea level possibilities at this point, and part of that comes from how much we continue to pollute, and part of it is just how sensitive sea levels turn out to be from warming.”

“We have to move our church,” says Brian Brennan, staring at the encroaching shoreline. “That’s not even easy for a group of 250. To try to swing that in a city ... I mean the businesses downtown would shriek if Norfolk said there couldn’t be any new development five feet above sea level or below. That would just never sail here.”

“There are going to be some unpopular decisions down the road,” Redick acknowledges. “It’s a challenge, and we’re going to address it. The water brings us a lot of benefits for sure but with it, there are also dangers. We know that; we’ve been living with water for a long time. But as long as we respect it and act accordingly, and know for a fact that we’re not going to beat it, that the water is going to win every time, we can live with the water.”

Learn More

Studies, organizations, resources and films relating to sea level rise and climate change in Coastal Virginia:

Report: Safe Coast Virginia, from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network

 “Sea of Change,” documentary from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network

Study: Recurrent Flooding For Tidewater Virginia, from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Study: Virginia and Rising Seas, from Climate Central

Study: Coastal Inundation at Naval Station Norfolk, from the Army Corps of Engineers

Resource: City of Norfolk Flooding Awareness and Mitigation page

Resource: The Center For Sea Level Rise at Old Dominion University

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