By Karen Kirk:
Virginia’s candidates for U.S. Senate Tim Kaine and Republican Corey Stewart have different takes on climate change: Sen. Kaine believes that human activity is causing significant climate change and we have an obligation to do something about it. Stewart believes the climate has cycles and we can’t change it.
Both Sen. Kaine and Stewart, Chairman of Prince William County Board of Supervisors, separately discussed their views on climate change at Tuesday’s Virginia Climate Crisis Forum in Vienna, hosted by Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions. Kaine was present for the first part of the forum and panel discussion and Stewart participated after Kaine left.
Kaine said that you can see the effects of climate change in Virginia every day. Examples he mentioned were Olde Towne Portsmouth where beautiful old homes frequently have water in their first floors due to normal tidal action and the storm surge that swamped Hampton Roads during and after Hurricane Florence. He said it’s important to pick politicians who believe in science.
“This administration, because this president believes climate science is a hoax and wants to undo policies that President Obama was associated with, has made a number of foolish moves,” said Kaine. “It was wrong to back out of the Paris Agreement. The good news is that many nations, many cities, many states are keeping with it and I’m confident the United States at one time will rejoin.”
Kaine said it was also foolish to roll back the CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards requiring higher miles per gallon and lower emissions for vehicles. “I will join with Senate colleagues to try to reverse this bad decision,” he said.
Yet another foolish decision Kaine mentioned was turning away from the Clean Power Plan, an Obama administration policy to set the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants.
Kaine said that he thinks that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permitting process for pipelines is wrong. “I do believe that FERC needs to be in a position to decide whether pipelines are necessary but conversations with people all over Virginia have convinced me that permitting process was wrong,” he said. “I have introduced a bipartisan bill in both Houses to rewrite the FERC permitting process to encourage more public input, to define differently when a pipeline is needed, to define differently what the routes should be and to consider pipelines in a comprehensive way.”
Moderator Rev. Dr. Jean Wright said that the latest data shows that 87% of Virginians believe in climate change. She said she recently read something about the Trump Organization, which owns a golf course in Ireland, being so concerned about sea level rise that they applied to build a 20-foot sea wall stating in their application that it was due to climate change.
“There’s a wall that we could say there’s justification for,” said Kaine.
When Stewart took the stage, he had his own take on rising sea levels. “With regard to the sea level rise, the reality is that between 1950 and 1970, Virginia began a rapid increase due to improvements in pump technologies, a rapid reduction in the amount of ground water that was being taken out of the Virginia coastal aquifer and as a result, the water level went down and the ground began to compress,” he said. “The land, yes, it is sinking compared to the level of the sea but it’s not so much the level of the sea increasing as much as it is a matter of the actual ground subsiding. This is a scientific fact.”
The boisterous reaction to Stewart’s ground subsiding comments prompted moderator Wright to come up to the stage and remind the audience to be civil and show respect.
“There’s no question that there’s an impact on the residents of the tidewater region of Virginia, no question that there’s an impact on our infrastructure, there’s no question that there’s an impact on our businesses,” Stewart said. “On the one hand, we can pursue a potential solution that a lot of you would agree with, but even if we fully implemented the Clean Power Plan, and I know it’s on hold right now, over the course of 85 years, 400,000 jobs, 200,000 in manufacturing, would be lost in the United States. It would increase the cost of power and the temperature would decrease by less than .03 degree Fahrenheit. All that cost for such a minimal impact. And it wouldn’t address the subsiding of the land vis a vis the ocean and tidal water.”
“Yes we need to fix this problem,” Stewart said. “But let’s focus and put our money where we can most directly address the impacts of that change whether working with the Army Corps of Engineers or water conservation. These are practical solutions to fix this and that’s where I hope that we can agree to work together in the future.”
Kaine and Stewart also answered questions by panelists Samantha Ahdoot, MD, FAAP, Chair and Co-founder, Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action; Major General Rick Devereaux, USAF (Ret.), Former Director of Operational Planning, Policy, & Strategy, U.S. Air Force, Advisory Board, Center for Climate and National Security; and Dan Storck, Fairfax County Supervisor, Mount Vernon District.
PHOTO ABOVE STORY: Moderator Rev. Dr. Jean Wright (left) Samantha Ahdoot, MD, Corey Stewart, Major General Rick Devereaux, USAF (Ret.) and Dan Storck, Fairfax County Supervisor, Mount Vernon District at the Climate Crisis Forum.
Karen Kirk is the Deputy Editor/Photo Editor of The Blue View and a retired journalist who worked for the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, which later became the McClatchy/Tribune News Service.