Virginia GOP Forgets To Deny Climate Change

by Chris Tognotti

It's easy to get jaded... but then, all of a sudden, Republicans are actually talking about climate change! Specifically, the Virginia GOP is working with Democrats on climate change. Historically, this is unexpected, to say the least. Most of the modern Republican Party, at both the state and federal levels, prefers not to even admit climate change exists, let alone talk about how human activity (and thus, government brainstorming) could play any kind of role. Quartz quotes the government affairs director of the World Resource Institute, Christina DeConcini, as saying she thinks this is the first time elected Democratic and Republican leaders have come together on climate change.

Of course, to find evidence of the GOP not believing in climate change, you don't need to look very far. There's crippling divide between the more left-wing outlook on climate change, tempered by years of research and scientific consensus, and the right-wing outlook, which has been seized with rampant denial and anti-science conspiracy theories. In early June, the Texas GOP got a lot of attention for its official party platform, urging that all calls for funding relating to climate change, which they call "a political agenda," be ignored.

As the platform states:

While we all strive to be good stewards of the earth, “climate change” is a political agenda which attempts to control every aspect of our lives. We urge government at all levels to ignore any plea for money to fund global climate change or “climate justice” initiatives.
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The bipartisan effort in Virginia, however, makes sense. The state's coastal regions are at extreme risk for floods, even simply by the forces of the tides rolling in and out. As Quartz notes, Norfolk in particular is prone to flooding from as little as the rise of the full moon. It's one of the most flood-prone sections of coast all along the eastern seaboard, and in the event of a more severe weather event, the effects could be swift and catastrophic.

Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim, a Democrat, has cautioned that a Category 2 hurricane would essentially submerge his city, and in light of the assets in play (Norfolk is home to an enormous naval base) he thinks federal help would be appropriate. Fraim told USA Today:

From a national security standpoint, the country has made huge investments, and those investments should be protected. ... it can't hold back the water on its own.

Seeing the politicians of Virginia find some common ground here is exciting. Though the gains are still quite modest — a task-force has been commissioned to tackle the problem, with the backing of Democratic Governor Terry MacAuliffe — it's still promising.

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It's a huge step up from the attitude of their neighboring namesake, too. West Virginia is pretty hostile to climate change regulation, relying heavily on coal production in their state economy. They even have a senator, Joe Manchin, who shot his own party's cap-and-trade bill for a 2010 campaign commercial. As in, shot it with a rifle.

Unfortunately — and here's the depressing part — scientists believe the problem writ large is no longer possible to solve, with practical solutions now just a matter of mitigating climate change's effects.