mowbray archBy Peter Galuszka

Pulling the state’s head out of the sand, Gov. Terry McAuliffe has reversed his predecessor’s policy on addressing climate change.

He has reestablished a 35-member panel to see what the state can do to deal with what many scientists believe is an impending crisis. McAuliffe revived the panel first created by Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine and then left to wither away by former Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell.

Ironically, the new panel includes Michael Mann, a former University of Virginia climatologist who was the target of bitter and petty attacks by former arch-conservative Atty. Gen. Kenneth Cuccinelli over his view that mankind was responsible for carbon dioxide-driven greenhouse gases that are helping warm up the earth, melt polar ice caps and potentially flood huge sections of coastal cities such as Norfolk.

It’s about time that Virginia rejoined the 21st Century. McDonnell took the state backwards on environmental issues by gutting commissions such as this one and creating others that were devoid of ecological viewpoints and stacked with members of the fossil fuel industry and utility executives.

McAuliffe’s new commission has utility people like Dominion Virginia Power President Robert M. Blue and Bernice McIntyre of Washington Gas Light Company. But it is also well stocked with green types such as the Sierra Club, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Southern Environmental Law Center whose views were pretty much in the wilderness during the McDonnell term.

It is finally time for the state to realize that climate change is real. Study after study shows that the state is vulnerable – from agricultural impacts brought on by different weather patterns to rising water in coastal areas. One area worth study is doing more to speed the switch to renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

McDonnell had pushed a policy that would make Virginia “the Energy Capital of the East Coast,” but the effort excluded renewables in favor of offshore oil and gas companies, nuclear power and coal.

Curiously, McAuliffe also favors such endeavors as offshore petroleum development. That raises questions in the face of massive fracking onshore for natural gas and the revolution it has sparked. Perhaps the new commission can provide some guidance.

It is refreshing that Virginia is finally emerging from the intellectual horse blinders that kept the debate stuck in Benghazi-style debates over emails at a British university or trying, unsuccessfully, as Cuccinelli did, to harass scientists globally over a ridiculous claim that Michael Mann had defrauded Virginia taxpayers by asserting what most climatologists do – that climate change is real and mankind is a reason for it.

Finally. . .

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22 responses to “Finally, Some Sense on Climate Change”

  1. DJRippert Avatar

    Convene a committee. Hmmmm… Sounds like window dressing to me. Hell, we’ve had the CTB for decades and it’s utterly useless. Is there some reason to believe that this committee will do anything useful?

    Maybe it’s a symbolic victory. That something, I guess. However, we are rapidly approaching the point where we need more than symbolism.

    1. LifeOnTheFallLine Avatar

      What do we need then?

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        Legislation taxing businesses that create a substantial amount of CO2 with the proceeds used to underwrite clean energy research at Virginia universities.

        1. larryg Avatar

          does that now mean you DO believe the science that says there is a connection between a natural substantial CO2 and global warming?

          when did you get converted?


          funding for Universities? WOW – that’s EXACTLY what the deniers have been saying that the scientists are a bunch of lying SOBs trying to boost their funding…

          GAWD DJ!

        2. Tysons Engineer Avatar
          Tysons Engineer

          We don’t need more research, the market can bear it now, what we need is large scale projects with green energy that can centralize the more costly elements of connecting to the grid itself. By creating large scale projects, we bring down the price of the materials the same way manufacturing prices improve on an economy of scale.

          Take that money, and fund a project to remove X number of people, over the next 5 years off the grid entirely, or provide Dominion a chance to build it themselves, with a 20% reimbursement for cost, to remove the same number of people from combustible source by showing a reduction on their reliance of combustibles over that period.

          1. larryg Avatar

            TE – can you expand on what you are saying?

            are you advocating something besides coal to generate energy

            or much more efficient use of it

            or both?

  2. larryg Avatar

    re: ” However, we are rapidly approaching the point where we need more than symbolism.”

    really? I thought you were a skeptic… that climate scientists are lying SOBs, no?

    BTW – I think the panel link is broke which is a shame because the committee is pretty balanced in my view… and includes VDOT who should
    have some serious words about our coastal road infrastructure if sea level rises.

    In New Jersey – several vehicle tunnels went under – to the tune of billions of dollars and months/years to re-open.

    of course the VA GA could refuse to provide funds for the committee to operate…

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Agnostic, maybe but not a sceptic. I do recognize that the majority of scientists have been proven wrong in the past. However, they are usually proven right.

      My skepticism is about our government’s ability to fairly make progress. The usual “rent seekers” and crony capitalists will line the streets of Fairfax, Richmond and Washington with their hands out on this one.

      I had an interesting discussion with a very liberal environmental lawyer who helped battle the Charlottesville Bypass – among other things. You know who he thinks is the Chesapeake Bay’s biggest enemy? The Farm Lobby.

      Do you think the airline industry will sit still as fares are doubled or tripled to make up for the carbon emissions? Will George Clooney fly commercial? Do you think the beef farmers will stand idly by when it takes roughly twenty-five times more energy to produce one calorie of beef than to produce one calorie of corn for human consumption?

      Of course not. They’ll slither up to our hopelessly corrupt political class and start greasing palms.

      My problem isn’t in believing the scientists it’s in trusting our politicians.

      1. larryg Avatar

        that was truly an “artful” response – but still satisfying!

        don’t bet the farm on just the farm lobby.

        the other, just as big, threat is stormwater – and if you’ve been paying attention – there’s a lotta hate on that also.

        but it’s even more than the farm lobby and the cities – it’s industry too because of the TMDLs – total daily maximum load – a protocol created by the hated EPA and now open revolt from the very same folks who are opposed to cleaning up the smokestacks.

        you may not remember, but we went through this same thing in the 60’s.

        here’s the problem in farming. Not all geography is the same. Places that get less rain – and have fewer rivers have more wide-open land for raising food without the same level of runoff problems.

        So a cattle farm in western Va in the Potomac Watershed is going to have a bigger impact on the Chesapeake Bay than say 10,000 cattle in the middle of Nebraska 50 miles from the Niobrara.

        but make no mistake – these are the same folks who fought against acid rain, dioxin, mercury, kepone, etc… for the same reasons.. they consider the environment to be necessary for the disposal of waste and they’re going to fight the TMDLs the same as they are fighting the smokestack reductions.

        Now, Virginia’s own GOP legislators have decided to OPPOSE the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay…. yup.

        1. DJRippert Avatar

          MD passed the so-called “rain tax” and Virginia needs to pass one too. In Maryland it was only applied to populous localities where a lot of runoff occurs (vs the ground’s ability to absorb).

          You’d think that Jim Bacon and the Tea Partiers would agree with this. Tax the impermeable surfaces by the sq ft. Use the proceeds to build stormwater runoff treatment plants. User pays.

          I notice that there was less conservative outrage about the need for pollution solutions for point sources (waste water, for example) than there is for the much less expensive rules for agricultural runoff. I guess average citizens don’t line the pockets of Virginia’s 3 little piggies like BigAg does.

          1. larryg Avatar

            there were donny-brook battles in the 1960/1970’s over point source pollution – for water and air… and in both cases – it became a compromise and it was called National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) in which each point source – air or water – had a list of pollutants and amounts that were allowed to be discharged.

            but the amount was not correlated to much beyond the immediate vicinity of the plant discharging nor did it deal with cumulative impacts of multiple discharge points.

            so we ended up with too much acid, mercury, phosphorous, nitrogen in the regional environment and that eventually evolved to TMDL – which basically sets how much of a certain pollutant is the max allowed – in the watershed (or airshed) -and that, in turn, let to the idea of purchased credits, etc.

            but none of that dealt with non-point source – which is also significant pollution – and acute where there are high-density animal operations, cattle, pigs, chicken, etc… AND stormwater from dense urban areas.

            The trouble is that Libertarian and Conservative types don’t see the environment as something that is owned by anyone – the proverbial tragedy of the commons – and they are loath to do ANYTHING which will make something more costly – even if it goes to clean up the environment.

            Until this point – the municipal treatment plants did yeoman duty in the cleanup – but they are now at the point of the practical limits of technology and the farmers are afraid they’re going to get run out of business because rivers are not divided from land – there are millions of small creeks and tributaries that drain most farms and there is no practical way to raise farm animals or crops without rain washing wants on the land – into the rivers.

            same problem in the urban areas – how are you going to have a dense urban area with huge impervious surfaces – and keep the rain from running across it ..picking up dog poo and antifreeze and washing it into tiny little ditches that then drain into small creeks then into big creeks?

            TMDLs is, in my view, good science. It basically allows pollution but it calibrates the thresholds at which the pollution starts to cause real damage.

            but it is high stakes for those that get targeted for cleaning up their stuff.

            So you get folks like Bacon who love the idea of clean air and water – but hate the idea of rules to clean up the pollution.

  3. It’s fine for the state to convene a task force to deal with the risks associated with climate change. Climate change does pose risks to the commonwealth. We need to know what those risks are and what alternatives we have for dealing with them.

    But I have two possible concerns. The first is if the commission takes the long-range, end-of-century forecasts as “settled science” rather than projections based upon climate models that were unable to predict the 17-year hiatus in global temperature increases. There is tremendous uncertainty about the forecasts. They may pan out. The 17-year hiatus may come to an end, and temperatures could go shooting upwards. But, then, it’s also possible that the forecasts are unduly pessimistic.

    My second concern is that the commission takes it as a starting position that the best course of action is to fund programs to offset CO2 emissions, deemed responsible for rising temperatures. Any actions Virginia can take to offset the global rise in CO2 emissions is infinitesimally small, capable of reducing global temperatures by a couple of 1/1,000ths of a degree Centigrade by the end of the century. The commission needs to compare the cost-effectiveness of that approach versus investing the same sum in adapting to the negative effects.

    Hopefully, reason will prevail.

    1. larryg Avatar

      re: “common sense”

      what a kidder you are Bacon!

      after all this stuff coming from the “skeptics”… who don’t even want to see even a RANGE of potential longer-term impacts.. just do the “see no evil” option?

      have you looked at the panel ?

      do you think that panel is reasonable?

      who else would you put on it that you think is missing from it?

      Do you think that someone who says climate science is a scam/hoax should be on it?

      or would you have it end up like the MediAid Expansion study commission?

      with regard to the co2 emissions.. I did not see that as it’s defined mission. Did I miss it or are you worried about things just to be worried about them?

      also – you’re a gloom and doom guy when it comes to deficit/debt – but you’re the exact opposite on climate …

      how does that work? you don’t think we need to reduce emissions because no one else will? Is that what happened with the Ozone Holes or acid rain or mercury?


  4. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    I doubt the commission has any money to distribute. What it can do is recommend that tax breaks and incentives be given to renewables and that might also create jobs. Traditional Energy has gotten billions of such incentives, such as billions for nukes in research and insurance breaks and billions in one-sided severance and royalty charges against coal firms.

    One more problem. The “it won’t make any difference” argument is rather silly. Why do anything? Glug glug.

    1. larryg Avatar

      Oh – and then we have this:

      ” Virginians in Congress fight Chesapeake Bay cleanup”

      these are the same folks as the climate deniers :

      ” Veiled behind high-minded sounding nonsense, 39 federal lawmakers – including three from Virginia – have put their weight into efforts to prevent the clean-up of the Chesapeake Bay.

      The congressmen are the latest to join a deeply misguided, if utterly predictable, legal campaign to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from doing what states surrounding the bay agreed the agency would have to do if the cleanup didn’t progress.

      The first Chesapeake Bay Agreement was signed in 1983 by governors from Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, the mayor of Washington, D.C., and the EPA administrator. It led directly to the 1987 agreement that codified the EPA’s involvement in the bay cleanup.

      The past 30 years of state labors proved dismally ineffective. The oyster and crab populations declined. Grasses disappeared. Summer dead zones expanded in area and duration.

      Under mounting pressure and with big infusions of local, state and federal money, communities made progress in treating sewage-treatment effluent contributing to the bay’s woes.

      But the larger problem – nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from farms and neighborhoods – has proved intractable. Political opposition meant states refused to hold polluting farmers or homeowners accountable. Builders campaigned to prevent meaningful changes in requirements to control stormwater runoff from neighborhood streets and yards.

      When the Chesapeake Bay Foundation sued the EPA, it wanted the agency to exercise its authority to force states to get serious about the bay.

      In a settlement, the EPA agreed to use a mechanism called “total maximum daily load” to reduce pollution under the Clean Water Act. That essentially requires states to put a ceiling on the amount of pollution a river or creek can send downstream.

      How pollution is controlled is determined by the states, but the idea that the EPA could step in to reduce pollution appears to be a step too far – for a few dozen ideologically inventive lawmakers, the businesses that depend on pollution for profits, and the states worried about their own pollution problems.

      It’s perhaps no great wonder that the American Farm Bureau Federation, which opposes all manner of efforts to clean the nation’s waterways, has been joined in its lawsuit by the National Association of Home Builders, the National Chicken Council, the National Corn Growers Association, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Turkey Federation, The Fertilizer Institute and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association.

      And it’s no surprise that the “Dirty 21” states are far from the Chesapeake Bay: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

      It’s not even much of a surprise that federal lawmakers would oppose a move from the Obama administration if they thought it would earn them points back home. Accusing the federal agency of “overstepping” is the usual charge, as it is here:

      Among the signatories are U.S. Reps. Robert Goodlatte, Morgan Griffith and Robert Hurt, who all call Virginia home when they’re not in Washington. None of them represent people who actually live near the Chesapeake.

      In a recent op-ed, Griffith described the EPA as “running amok” for its efforts to limit air pollution from coal plants and water pollution from farms, the largest problems in the Chesapeake watershed. His alliance with the Farm Bureau, Big Agriculture and 21 other states should lead his constituents – along with Goodlatte’s and Hurt’s – to question whom, exactly, he represents.”

      1. Interestingly, the need to ensure more clean water addressed in part by expensive improvements in sanitary sewers and better treatment of storm water is increasing water, sewer and tax bills. At the same time, the mindless UN bureaucrats are arguing Detroit’s water bills are two high.

      2. DJRippert Avatar

        Goodlatte, Griffith and Hurt – Virginia’s version of the 3 little pigs.

        BigAg lines their pockets and they return the favor.

        Virginia – most corrupt state in America.

        1. larryg Avatar

          The GOP – in Virginia is opposing the Chesapeake Bay cleanup… that’s right.

          watch them squeal and try to do a little revisionist history and diversionary tactics…

  5. TBill Avatar

    Even without adding on a climate change allowance, sea levels have been rising 8-10 inches per 100 yrs. and additionally Virginia’s land mass is slowing sinking too due to natural forces (not sure how inches per 100-yrs). So Va. has at least some problems in the base case, and it is only prudent to consider that climate change could possibly worsen the situation.

    1. larryg Avatar

      “prudent” – now there’s a word the deniers don’t seem to have in their vocabulary.

      what would have been a “prudent” course of action with the Ozone Holes?

      and then the ever popular: “what would be a “prudent” course of action with climate change”?

      just bet the farm that the whole thing is a hoax that will never happen?


    2. larryg Avatar

      re: sea level change verses subsistence.

      well.. if you talk to some folks – the two forces do not combine .. the subsistence predominates over sea level rise – at least that’s what some were arguing here a week or so ago.

      obviously the two forces will both happen and the question is will they actually accentuate with the combined force.

      but I agree – just looking at what the science is going to say about the forecasts – OUGHT TO BE USEFUL – … IF we don’t get into the same kind of kerfuffle that NC got into by essentially arguing (like Bacon here) that we ought not to be looking at the long range – just the short range which seems pretty short-sighted when you’re talking about infrastructure projects that could take – decades to get rolling to build higher islands and bridges for the Chesapeake Bay-bridge tunnel and Hampton’s tunnels and docks.

      we also have some significant fiscal issues with paying for that stuff something we don’t want to have to be building and paying for – at the last minute.

      in other words – planning ahead – which now has ..of all things… opponents from folks who claim to be fiscal conservatives.

      the more it goes on – the crazier it gets. this is what happens when you deny the science. It leaves you with no viable options.

      1. DJRippert Avatar

        TBill was right – climate change will make matters worse in areas negatively affected by subsidence. My only point has been that using “rising sea levels” for land on or near the Chesapeake Bay confuses two issues – climate change and sinking. One may be controllable, one is not controllable. It is somewhat intellectually dishonest to cite the speed which “sea levels are rising” in an area that is sinking as justification for global climate change remedies.

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