Gov. Terry McAuliffe created a state climate commission Tuesday, directing it to find ways to address global warming and effects such as rising seas and flooding streets.
The 35-member panel is made up of General Assembly members, scientists, environmentalists and industry representatives.
Members include Michael Mann, a Penn State climatologist whose work was questioned by previous Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli; Dominion Virginia Power President Robert M. Blue; Michael L. Toalson, CEO of the Home Builders Association of Virginia; and Ann Jennings, Virginia director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, an environmental group.
McAuliffe’s action reestablishes, with many different members, a panel then-Gov. Timothy M. Kaine set up in 2008. That panel concluded unanimously that global warming could, among other threats, spread disease in Virginia, threaten coastal areas and imperil native animals such as crabs.
Kaine, a Democrat, was followed by Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, who did not continue the commission.
“We need to prepare Virginia’s coastal communities to deal with the growing threat of climate change, which is why I’ve reconvened the climate commission for the first time in four years,” McAuliffe, a Democrat, said in a statement.
“Virginia has the opportunity not only to be a leader in finding creative ways to mitigate climate change in the future but also to adapt to the effects of climate change that we have already begun to see here in the commonwealth.”
McAuliffe announced the move at First Landing State Park along the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia Beach.
That region is suffering the effects of climate change now. A warming planet means warmer water, which expands and raises sea levels. Land in the region also is sinking.
Those problems cause flooding during storms, and it’s getting worse. For example, a low-lying Norfolk neighborhood called the Hague, which flooded fewer than 25 hours a year in the late 1920s, flooded 200 to 300 hours a year in the mid- to late 2000s, scientists say.
“People in Tidewater are tired of driving through tidal water,” said Skip Stiles, a Norfolk environmentalist who was a member of Kaine’s commission. He praised McAuliffe for cranking up the new panel.
McAuliffe named Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward and Secretary of Public Safety Brian J. Moran commission co-chairs.
The panel “will focus on protecting Virginia’s citizens, our environment and our industries in every region of Virginia,” McAuliffe said.
The commission will evaluate the Kaine panel’s report and issue its own report in a year. No meeting schedule was available Tuesday.
Kaine’s commission made more than 100 recommendations, including calls to rely more on nuclear power and increase protections for wetlands. Most were not enacted.
McAuliffe created his Climate Change and Resiliency Update Commission by executive order.
According to the order, federal officials have “identified some Virginia coastal areas as among the most vulnerable to sea level rise in the nation, and (a Navy task force) has identified Naval Station Norfolk as one of its most endangered installations.”
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