Climate change: the Virginia angle

smith_map_virginia.jpgThe Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is basking in the glory of sharing the Nobel Prize with Al Gore for their “efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”.  Rolling along on that momentum, the IPCC will release its fourth Synthesis Report on climate change this coming Saturday 17 November.  A preview of the report’s contents is outlined here

But what does this mean to us regular folks locally?  Here in my neck of the woods, the release will be publicized at an event hosted by the National Environmental Trust:

Saturday 17 November
11:00 AM
Farmer’s Market, Norfolk

(MacArthur Center, Monticello Ave & Freemason St)

The event will raise awareness of the major findings and implications of the new report, and ask citizens to sit down at the table and write their elected officials requesting action.  I’ll be there to offer a few words on what science has to say about the local consequences of climate change, that is, the projected consequences of climate change on the ground (and in the water) here in the Tidewater region of Virginia (see, for example, here). 

senator_john_warner.jpgThe most exciting recent development is that, for the first time, the political climate (if you’ll pardon the pun) appears actually to be favorable for real, substantive legislation at the national level.  I’m proud to say that Virginia’s senior Senator, John Warner, has emerged as one of the leading congressional advocates of real action to curb climate change.  He has introduced, with co-sponsorship by Senator Joe Liebermann of Connecticut and a diverse bipartisan group of Senators, “America’s Climate Security Act“, which has now survived passage through subcommittee and broken through to hearings in the full Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. 

The last IPCC Synthesis Report for policymakers (the Third Assessment Report) came out in 2001 and a lot has happened since. The scientific evidence for human-induced climate change is much stronger. Skeptics are steadily becoming an endangered species — although we will undoubtedly hear a lot from them, perhaps (one can only hope) their last gasps, as the new Synthesis report is released and makes the rounds in advance of the meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in Bali, Indonesia in December.  The USA will be sending two delegations to the Bali conference, one from the Bush administration and one from Congressional Democrats, with predictably mixed messages.  In the words of Yvo de Boer, UNFCCC Executive Secretary:

 “The Bali conference will be the culmination of a momentous twelve months in the climate debate and needs a breakthrough in the form of a roadmap for a future climate change deal. Early in the year, scientific evidence of global warming, as set out in the fourth assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), put the reality of human-induced global warming beyond any doubt. What we are facing is not only an environmental problem, but has much wider implications: For economic growth, water and food security, and for people’s survival – especially those living in the poorest communities in developing countries. The recent joint award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize to the IPCC for its work in disseminating knowledge on climate change further underlines the implications for overall peace and security.”

For general background, the BBC has compiled 10 of the arguments most often made against the IPCC consensus, and some of the counter-arguments made by scientists who agree with the IPCC.  See that piece here.


About Emmett Duffy

I am a Natural Patriot and an ecologist with expertise in biodiversity and its importance to human society. My day job is Professor of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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