Commentary: Saving People, Places and Property; The Time is Now

Climate change is happening and it has real impacts. I recently participated with U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine and Prince William County Chairman Corey Stewart in the Climate Crisis Forum sponsored by the Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions. With more than 400 attendees, the forum looked at climate change from the perspective of impacts on our communities, shorelines, health, national security and government action. As I have stated previously, climate change is affecting us all and while the County has put some policies and plans in place, we need to do more to lead the way. This is about saving people, places and property now.

A few examples of climate change impact we are already seeing are:

  • Sea level rise has increased 10 inches over the last 80 years.
  • This year, we experienced 44 days where temperatures reached or exceeded 90 degrees F. That’s one more than last year’s total and 8 more than the average we typically see each year.
  • More extreme weather events from snowmaggedon to recent and regular torrential rains.

These impacts are important to us in the Mount Vernon District, and Virginia in general, for many reasons. Here are a few:

  • While 29 percent of Virginia land is coastal, 60 percent of population lives on coast.
  • A recent study showed more than 9,000 Virginia homes are at risk of tidal flooding by 2045 due to sea level rise.
  • Low lying areas, like New Alexandria and Belle View, will increasingly be at risk of flooding just from high tides and onshore winds.
  • Extreme heat is the leading weather-related cause of death in the United States and it puts strain on our energy grid.
  • Heavy downpours in our area have increased 30 percent over the last 50 years.
  • Experts have determined that a category 3 hurricane through our area would submerge the Belle Haven Marina through Belle Haven Shopping Center with three-plus feet of standing water.

While the County has taken steps to be good environmental stewards, like signing the Cool Counties Climate Stabilization Declaration, adopting a Countywide Energy Policy, Environmental Vision and Operational Energy Strategy, it is not proportional to the challenge we face. I did not support the recently adopted Operational Energy Strategy because the plan as presented does not go far enough to ensure the County's role as a regional leader or to advance cost savings, real climate change initiatives or resiliency planning. I strongly believe the County needs to move forward quickly to adopt a Community Climate Action Plan and a Resiliency Plan. As a County, we can do far more, and adopting more aggressive goals will result in significant cost savings and a faster return on our investment for both our environment and our budget.

If you would like to learn how you, your family, neighbors and community can help our environment, join us on Saturday, Nov. 10 for the District’s first ever Environment Expo: Saving the Earth One Person at a Time. For more information, visit our website: https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/mountvernon.

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