Given the impressive presentations from London, Rotterdam, Hamburg, and Beijing at the Adaptive Infrastructure Symposium, how is the United States preparing for climate change? Does Virginia, with barrier islands and the long coastline of the Chesapeake Bay, have a coordinated plan to cope with sea-level rise and storm surges? Here is a very quick investigation of governmental climate change studies from the UK, London, the US, and Virginia.
The documentation for London and the UK is accessible and covers questions such as: How do we know that climate change exists and is caused by human action? How were computer projections made for the future climate of the UK? What probability exists that the projected scenarios will take place? How can we reduce the impact of climate change? What are the best means to adapt? What actions can individuals take? The projections are thoroughly researched and clearly presented. The adaptive actions are already well underway.
The US report, Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States, presents a set of projections for the future, yet expends much effort in proving the existence of climate change. Strategies for adaptation do not appear to be part of this report. The Virginia report, Governor’s Commission on Climate Change, concentrates on means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and presents a set of recommendations for specific state and local agencies. Essentially the report gives these agencies instructions to take responsibility for adaptive strategies (pages 34-39). The report recommends that the Virginia “Secretary of Natural Resources should lead an inter-agency and intergovernmental effort to develop a Sea Level Rise Adaptation Strategy by January 1, 2011.”
In a summary of the Virginia report, Skip Stiles, Executive Director of Wetlands Watch and a member of the Virginia Commission on Climate Change, explains that ”Virginia is one of only a handful of states that have put forth adaptation plans as part of their climate commission reports. It is farther ahead than most states in this regard, but remains a lagging state in actually taking action on these recommendations, with none having been introduced in the 2009 session of the General Assembly.”
Is there a reason to expect that the General Assembly will move forward with the Commission’s recommendations in 2010, or should we look to other means to jump-start Virginia’s infrastructural preparations for climate change?