Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Declare Climate Emergency

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Declare Climate Emergency

Carbon is one of the main contributors to global warming. On March 7, carbon reached 415 ppm in the atmosphere, a level not seen for 3 million years. Increases in carbon and other greenhouse gases are causing major disruptions like an increase in natural disasters, sea level rise, and will lead to the forced migration of millions of people who live at or near sea level around the world. Virginia has over 3,300 miles of shoreline, and rising sea levels will impact historic sites like Jamestown, as well as the largest U.S. Naval Base in Norfolk. Tangier Island, in the Chesapeake Bay, is already disappearing, and will be one of the first casualties of sea level rise.

Local communities like Alexandria have to be at the forefront of the efforts to slow climate change. Alexandria has been a leader, passing the Eco-City Charter in 2008, and an Environmental Action Plan in 2010, but since then the urgency has only grown. Several years ago, along with the waterfront redevelopment plan, the city proposed a $33 million flood mitigation plan to prepare for 3-4 foot storm surges, but if global temperatures continue to rise, this may not be sufficient. A recent PBS NOVA Program showed that in the past the same level of temperature rise that is expected by the end of the 21st century, led to a 20-foot rise in sea level. Alexandria is continuing to develop their waterfront, with millions in private and public investment, which has historic sites, so this should be of great concern to us. The costs of addressing this climate emergency are far less than the costs of not addressing the climate crisis; and solving the crisis will take significant public investment, commitment and resolve.

This is especially true given that the Trump administration has promised to withdraw from the Paris Accords, which Alexandria pledged to support, and is rolling back any efforts from the previous administration to combat greenhouse gases, and is trying to bring back coal. The President and most of his cabinet are climate skeptics who answer more to Republican donors then to science. Acknowledging the severity of the crisis and the imperative for every community to do something is why the Alexandria Democratic Committee is urging the city, the Commonwealth and the Federal government to not only declare an emergency but take action. They would join Montgomery County, which made the declaration in 2017, and Scotland, the first country to declare a Climate Emergency, and 588 other communities that represent over 65 million people.

It is necessary that we set goals, especially as it is the consensus among many scientists that if immediate action is not taken, then by 2030, the earth will reach a tipping point, where it will be impossible to reverse the process of global warming. So Alexandria Democrats have urged leaders “to use sufficient powers and resources to achieve the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the city and the entire Alexandria community by 45 percent no later than 2030, and to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

The City of Alexandria has the chance to take the first step by passing the updated Environmental Action Plan on June 22. It calls a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and 80-100 percent by 2050 from 2005 levels. It also calls for creating an interdisciplinary task force to guide the plan, encourage private and public participation and converting to renewable energy. Together we can achieve these goals and build a sustainable future.

Boyd Walker