Track the science, identify at-risk infrastructure and choose a thought leader to “own” sea level rise in Hampton Roads — these are among the many recommendations contained in a regional resilience report unveiled Wednesday. “Sea Level Rise Preparedness: An Intergovernmental Blueprint for Community Resiliency” is the result of a two-year effort led by Old Dominion University in Norfolk and the World Resources Institute, based in Washington, D.C. It’s one of five intergovernmental pilot projects initiated by the White House in 2014, and looks at rising seas as a concern for national security as well as for Hampton Roads communities. The collaborative effort is intended as a model for other regions.
(From Daily Press/Tamara Dietrich) — Hampton Roads was considered ideal for the pilot project because of its deep military ties, including the site of the largest naval base in the world.
“Fifty percent of the economy there is tied with the Department of Defense in one way or another,” WRI’s Christina Deconcini said in a live-streamed panel presentation of the report by military and national security experts.
“This pilot sought to answer the question of how does a community with a substantial military presence build resilience to climate-induced sea level rise that is coordinated across governments and within communities.”
Hampton Roads is a global hot spot for sea level rise, and the second most-vulnerable region in the country, behind New Orleans. That rise is hastened not only by Atlantic waters warming and expanding, but by a land mass that’s subsiding from glacial rebound and ground-water extraction.
Adapting to the new climate reality will take more than a piecemeal approach, panelists said.
“Our community partners are absolutely essential to work with us to make sure that we create not just installation or military resilience, but regional resilience, so that everybody is more robust, everybody is better protected from the inevitable effects of increased weather events.”
Climate change fueled by global warming is blamed for more intense storms, more frequent flooding, increased droughts and more severe wildfires, among other impacts.
“Climate change will manifest itself in a lot of different ways throughout the world,” McGinn said, including threatening fragile governments and societies and fueling paramilitary and terrorist groups, famine and civil unrest.
At the same time, he said, it threatens to jeopardize the viability of many U.S. military installations and the ability of U.S. forces to respond effectively.
“Norfolk Naval Base, Langley Air Force Base and other installations in that area will be called to duty, obviously, as we go forward in our humanitarian role internationally,” said David Adams, a director at the National Security Council. “Also, helping to stabilize regions that are becoming unstable based on climate impacts.”
Still, he said, it can be hard to focus the public’s attention on a long-term threat such as rising sea level.
“It’s subliminal in onset,” Adams said. “It takes a while for people to get it. It doesn’t go ‘boom.’ There isn’t a day where all the sudden we’re in a reactionary mode.”
The report has four broad take-aways, said retired Rear Adm. Jonathan White, president of Consortium for Ocean Leadership:
•More science is needed across a wide spectrum, from ocean, climate and atmospheric sciences to social, civic and health sciences;
•The effort must move forward quickly from planning and recommendations to building a national plan and securing the investment to get things done;
•Make sure climate change and sea level rise is considered in a variety of critical decisions;
•Be regionally and nationally consistent in planning decisions.
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