Where I live, climate change is not an abstract concept. Every year, my friends and neighbors in Virginia Beach face rising ocean tides, severe flooding and an aging infrastructure that does not have the capacity to deal with our changing climate.
Climate change isn’t only a problem in Virginia Beach. Virginians up and down the coast are seeing the effects of extreme weather in their flooded basements, yards and roadways. According to the Virginia Division of Geology and Mineral Resources, beach erosion also threatens to undermine buildings and destroy Virginia’s power grids.
If another serious storm hits Hampton Roads, we could see much worse than flooding. Now more than ever, we need to address the causes and effects of climate change – before it’s too late.
Coastal Virginians understand the stakes, and so does Ralph Northam, the Democratic candidate for governor. They know another big storm is coming, and they are willing to work together to prepare for what’s ahead. That’s why as a state senator, Northam fought for environmental restoration and protection and headed up a coastal flooding working group to study how Virginia’s coastal communities can mitigate the effects of climate change. Today, he serves on the Governor’s Climate Change and Resiliency Update Commission, where he works to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And as governor, he’ll create a “conservation cabinet” to develop policy recommendations to reduce carbon emissions and protect communities like mine.
Ed Gillespie also has a plan – a six-point plan to be exact. However, his plan neglects to even mention climate change, the root cause of rising sea levels. Moreover, his various campaign promises – to provide better flood insurance and infrastructure improvements, for instance – only treat the symptoms, rather than the causes of extreme weather patterns. He refers to “recurrent flooding” – but fails to say anything about how we can alleviate the problem for thousands of Virginians. The coast of Virginia is not ready for the next hurricane.
Gillespie is not only just treating the symptoms of climate change – he is planning to cause even more. For example, he supports deep sea oil drilling off the coast of Virginia, which comes with huge risks for local wildlife as well as local industries like fishing and tourism. Then again, Gillespie’s commitment to offshore drilling doesn’t come as much of a surprise; when he was a lobbyist, he worked with a company that received more than 50 warnings from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Ralph Northam, a former army doctor, understands that you can’t treat a problem by creating new ones. Northam opposes offshore oil drilling – and in 2016, he helped lead the movement against federal oil and gas exploration of the Atlantic. The Chesapeake Bay is also his home – and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to protect and restore the Bay for future generations. That means investing in clean and renewable energy and fighting for environmental justice for all Virginians – because everyone deserves clean air and water, no matter where they live or how much money they make.
Like Northam, I want a Virginia where no one has to move because their house keeps flooding. A Virginia where people can raise their children without worrying about environmental pollutants and where you can still swim in the Chesapeake Bay today, tomorrow and for generations to come.
We cannot let the interests of big oil companies overshadow the interests of Virginia voters. This November 7, let’s work to keep Virginia blue, in more ways than one. .
Lucas Munson is a Virginia-based writer and a communications fellow for the Center for Community Change Action.