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Climate change isn't going away
The time to ignore climate change has passed. (By Richard Amrhine)

 A threat to vital military installations: Hampton Roads is second only to New Orleans in storm surge vulnerability.
Steve Helber/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 1/20/2013

A THOUSAND years from now, when it's too hot to go outside and Massanutten is an oceanfront resort, we'll kick ourselves for fiddling while the world burned.

The numbers are in and 2012 was the hottest year ever--by a full degree--when experts say records are usually set by a tenth or two. As I write this on Jan. 14 it's 64 degrees outside. What winter? We don't just get storms anymore, we get "superstorms." Figures from the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., put 2012 as 3.2 degrees warmer than the 20th-century average. The last time the country had a record cold month was December 1983.

The effects are being felt close to home. Because Hampton Roads now floods nearly every time it rains, and the area is such a crucial economic engine for Virginia, the General Assembly commissioned a report on how to address the threat of rising sea levels. Put together by experts at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the report finds that due to the combination of sinking land and rising sea levels, Hampton Roads is second only to New Orleans in storm surge vulnerability.

There will come a day when the Pentagon decides it's time to move the region's military installations elsewhere, which means everyone and everything linked to the military will have to leave as well.

But no one is expecting the General Assembly to do anything with the report, because the next step involves looking at ways to actually prepare Hampton Roads for the inevitable, everything from merely prohibiting development in low-lying areas, to installing giant pumps and elevating streets. The cost of these things, plus the political divisiveness of climate change itself, make even studying the issue a futile pursuit.

Virginia's way of dealing with global warming is for attorney general Ken Cuccinelli to challenge the motives of former University of Virginia climate scientist and professor Michael Mann. That portrays both the fatuous Cuccinelli--the likely GOP candidate for governor--and Virginia as choosing to live in denial of scientific fact. The Virginia Supreme Court finally told Cuccinelli to take his case and go home.


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