The following statement is provided on behalf of the Mayor and Town Council of Blacksburg, VA
Climate change will be the defining challenge of the 21st century. Evidence continues to mount that continued inaction on greenhouse gas emissions could lead to catastrophic changes, destabilizing the very systems that support and sustain human civilizations. Billions of people will experience these changes through threats to public health, disruption of national and local economies, and food and water insecurity. Buildings and infrastructure will be increasingly impacted by the severity and frequency of weather events. For certain coastal communities, these threats will be amplified by rising sea levels.
Some of Virginia’s communities are among the most vulnerable in the country. The Norfolk-Virginia Beach Metropolitan Areas ranks 10th in the world in the value of assets exposed to sea level rise; and a recent study by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission indicates that “costs from three feet of sea-level rise in the Hampton Roads region are expected to range between $14 billion and $87 billion.”, a cost that would eventually be borne by all Virginians.
A business-as-usual pattern of carbon emissions is likely to create 4°C of warming, and could lock in enough sea level rise to submerge land currently home to 470 to 760 million people, with unstoppable rise unfolding over centuries. Foreign policy experts increasingly warn that people internally displaced from sea level rise, droughts, and super storms are considered a risk to domestic stability within their own countries and international security more broadly.
While a worldwide policy response to climate change is required, a great deal of the action and implementation will have to take place at the local level. This is why state-level policy leadership is so critical. Blacksburg joins many other her sister localities in calling for Governor Youngkin and the General Assembly to take bold action now.
Across America, local governments are taking action to address climate change while making their communities healthier and more resilient and Blacksburg, Virginia is proud to be among them. Our community recognizes its fundamental responsibility to take stock of our share of global greenhouse emissions and do the work necessary to ensure a stable climate for future generations, but in order to do that, we need a policy environment that supports a transition to a clean energy future.
We know that nearly every aspect of our lives is impacted by energy. It warms our homes, fuels our vehicles, runs our businesses, enables communication across distances, and plays a critical role in producing and transporting the food we eat. Our citizens recognize that our community and the world at large will be facing critical energy challenges in the coming years and decades, but with those challenges will also come opportunities. By taking action today, we can ensure a smooth transition that will preserve our quality of life, improve economic resilience and foster an ethic of responsible stewardship of our shared natural resources and climate.
Here’s the good news: communities that are designed for energy efficiency in buildings and transportation options enjoy the economic benefit of avoided energy costs – retaining those dollars in their local economies. Communities that make sure people can get where they need to go in more active ways enjoy better public health outcomes, improved air quality, reduced congestion and more thriving civic spaces. Communities that make deliberate and wise choices about development are better positioned to preserve rural landscapes, support robust local food systems, and maintain the health and integrity of local watersheds, forests, and wildlife habitats. Some of these changes will require significant investment, but it is increasingly clear that the costs of inaction would be far, far greater.
In concrete terms, Blacksburg would most like to see: