Northam acts to better prepare Virginia for climate change

As flooding like this Virginia Beach home experienced after Hurricane Irene is becoming increasingly common and challenging for Virginians, Governor Ralph Northam is directing the state to take action. (© Roberto Westbrook)

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has signed an executive order to strengthen the state’s ability to withstand the impacts of climate change.

When signing the order, Northam pointed to the damage Virginia has suffered in recent extreme weather events, including the impacts from Hurricanes Florence and Michael. “As extreme weather events become more frequent and intense, the safety and economic well-being of every Virginian is put at greater risk,” Northam said.

The order contains a range of provisions. Among other things, it calls for creating a Coastal Resilience Master Plan to guide new development away from vulnerable areas and pursue additional projects to improve preparedness and resilience to flooding and sea level rise. The order also names the Secretary of Natural Resources, Matthew Strickler, as the state’s Chief Resilience Officer, with responsibility for planning and implementing pre-disaster mitigation strategies. He will also oversee a review of the vulnerability of state-owned buildings and a standard approach for predicting sea level rise when deciding how to design and where to site new buildings.

We applaud the Governor for recognizing and ramping up efforts to address the increasing danger and costs of our changing climate. This common-sense approach stands in direct contrast to the Trump administration’s head in the sand climate denial,” said Senior Attorney Trip Pollard. “Sea level rise and increased flooding in Hampton Roads and recent tornadoes ripping through the Richmond region underscore the need for a thoughtful and coordinated effort to prepare and adapt to a changing climate. Much more needs to be done, but the steps laid out in Governor Northam’s executive order are a strong start toward building a more resilient Commonwealth.”

The executive order predicts a profound impact on Virginia from the increase in extreme weather events and natural disasters caused by climate change. “It threatens public health and safety, our environment and natural resources, and the economic wellbeing of the Commonwealth, including our ports, military installations, transportation infrastructure, tourism assets, farms, and forests,” the order said. “We must act now to protect lives and property from multiple threats and reduce taxpayer exposure through fiscally responsible planning.”

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