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Biden’s climate change strategy looks to pay farmers to curb carbon footprint

PUBLISHED FRI, FEB 12 202111:47 AM EST
UPDATED FRI, FEB 12 20214:07 PM EST
Emma Newburger@EMMA_NEWBURGER
Source: CNBC

  • The Biden administration is looking to steer farm aid from the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation to encourage carbon emissions reductions on farms.
  • By adapting more “regenerative practices,” experts estimate that American farmers can sequester a large enough portion of emissions to avert a climate catastrophe.
  •  “If the government supports the farmers who are getting good results, everyone else will follow,” said a fourth generation cattle rancher.
Fourth generation cattle rancher Loren Poncia has made Stemple Creek Ranch carbon positive. He's implemented rotational cattle grazing systems that allow soil and grass to recover, applied compost on pastures and planted chicory that aerate the soil.
Source: CNBC
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Fourth generation cattle rancher Loren Poncia has made Stemple Creek Ranch carbon positive. He’s implemented rotational cattle grazing systems that allow soil and grass to recover, applied compost on pastures and planted chicory that aerate the soil.Courtesy of Paige Green

President Joe Biden has called on U.S. farmers to lead the way in offsetting greenhouse gas emissions to battle climate change — a goal fourth generation cattle rancher Loren Poncia set out to achieve over a decade ago.

Despite working in the beef sector, a big contributor to global warming, Poncia has transformed his Northern California ranch into one of the few carbon-positive livestock operations in the country.

“It’s a win-win — for the environment and for our pocketbook,” said Poncia, who adopted carbon farming practices through a partnership with the Marin Carbon Project.

Experts estimate that farmers across the world can sequester a large enough portion of carbon through regenerative agriculture practices to avert the worst impacts of climate change. Research suggests removing carbon already in the atmosphere and replenishing soil worldwide could result in a 10% carbon drawdown. The United Nations has warned that efforts to curb global emissions will fall short without drastic changes in global land use and agriculture.

Poncia’s ranch sequesters more carbon than it emits through practices like rotational cattle grazing systems that allow soil and grass to recover, applying compost instead of chemical fertilizers to pastures to avoid tilling, building worm farms and planting chicory to aerate the soil. Such climate-friendly projects have allowed Poncia to grow more grass and produce more beef.

“If we as a world are going to reverse the damage that’s been done, it’ll be through agriculture and food sustainability,” Poncia said. “We’re excited and positive about the future.”

While some farmers, ranchers and foresters have already embraced sustainable practices that capture existing carbon and store it in soil, others are wary of upfront costs and uncertain returns that could vary across states and farming operations.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently said it would incentivize farmers to implement such sustainable practices. And more researchers and companies have started to better quantify and manage carbon that’s stored in the soil.

USDA push towards carbon farming

Battling climate change has become a matter of survival for American farmers, who have endured major losses from floods and droughts that have grown more frequent and destructive across the country.

In 2019, farmers lost tens of thousands of acres during historic flooding. And NASA scientists report that rising temperatures have driven the U.S. West into the worst decades-long drought ever seen in the past millennium.

In the U.S. alone, agriculture accounts for more than 10.5% of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, according to the estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency.

As a result, the Biden administration now wants to steer $30 billion in farm aid money from the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation to pay farmers to implement sustainable practices and capture carbon in their soil.

This Monday, March 18, 2019 file photo shows flooding and storage bins under water on a farm along the Missouri River in rural Iowa north of Omaha, Neb.
Source: CNBC
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

This Monday, March 18, 2019 file photo shows flooding and storage bins under water on a farm along the Missouri River in rural Iowa north of Omaha, Neb.AP Photo | Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Biden’s USDA Secretary of Agriculture nominee, Tom Vilsack, who has vowed to help meet Biden’s broader plan to reach a net-zero economy by 2050, said the money could go toward creating new markets that incentivize producers to sequester carbon in the soil.

Former President Donald Trump previously tapped those funds to bail out farmers harmed by his trade wars with China, Mexico and Canada that sent down commodity prices.

Using the CCC money to create a carbon bank might not require congressional approval, and agriculture lobbying groups are expected to persuade Congress to expand the fund.

“It is a great tool for us to create the kind of structure that will inform future farm bills about what will encourage carbon sequestration, what will encourage precision agriculture, what will encourage soil health and regenerative agricultural practices,” Vilsack said at his Senate confirmation hearing this month.

Vilsack, who spent eight years as President Barack Obama’s Agriculture secretary, has also asked Congress to have an advisory group of farmers to help build a carbon market and ensure that farmers receive the benefits.

The administration’s push to encourage carbon capture on farms could bolster an emerging market of on-farm emissions reductions and the technological advances that are helping growers improve soil health and participate in carbon trading markets.

An emerging market

Some farmers have started partnerships with nonprofit environmental and policy groups to work on environmental sustainability. The movement has seen increasing support from private companies, too.

Indigo Ag, a start-up that advocates for regenerative farming practices, said corporations like Barclays, JPMorgan Chase and Shopify have committed to purchasing agricultural carbon credits that help growers with transition costs.

Chris Harbourt, global head of carbon at Indigo Ag, said the company is working with growers to address financial barriers during the transition and provide education on implementing regenerative agriculture practices, like planting off-season cover crops or switching to no-till farming.

“Growers who adopt regenerative practices see benefits well beyond financial,” Harbourt said. “The soil is healthier and more resilient, which creates more opportunities for profitable years even when weather conditions are challenging.”

Erik Fyrwald, CEO of Syngenta, a Switzerland-based seed and crop protection company, said government policies need to provide proper incentives to farmers to accelerate the transition to regenerative agriculture.

“The incentives must be sufficient and reliable enough to give farmers the confidence to make the necessary investments to implement these practices on their farm,” Fyrwald said.

Poncia, who has received state funding twice from California’s Healthy Soils Program to implement sustainable practices on his ranch, said he hopes the administration can provide enough support for agricultural so other people can achieve similar results.

“The agriculture community wants to support this movement, but they need help, education and an ability to decrease risk,” Poncia said. “If the government supports the farmers who are getting good results, everyone else will follow.”

How can you support farmers? What information would you like to see on your food labels? How do you identify food from sustainable and nutritious sources? Foods purpose is to support the body and its functions: the give nutrition to the body.

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We can’t address climate change without tackling transportation

By Guest Column -January 29, 2021
Source: Virginia Mercury

Interstate 64 outside of Waynesboro. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

By Michael Town

Over the past several years, Virginia has taken leaps and bounds forward in the transition to cleaner electricity sources and how we, as a commonwealth, are addressing the climate crisis.

This culminated last year in the passage of the Virginia Clean Economy Act, a blueprint to completely decarbonize the electricity sector by mid-century, and what will be the commonwealth’s guiding energy policy for years to come.

Under the new Biden Administration, we can expect climate action and clean energy to again be a federal priority, and fortunately, Virginia will be ahead of the curve as we work together as a nation to regain our footing on the national stage as a leader in addressing climate change.

But while we have made huge steps forward in Virginia in powering our daily lives with cleaner sources of electricity, these efforts have really only addressed about one-third of Virginia’s carbon pollution, those emissions that come from fossil-fuel burning power plants.

Nearly half of all of our carbon pollution comes from the transportation sector and mostly from the cars, light-duty trucks and SUVs we drive every day. And this pollution is lethal, contributing to the deaths of n estimated 750 Virginians a year, according to the Harvard School of Public Health — about the same number that die in traffic accidents each year.

And, as with most sources of pollution, communities of color and low-income regions are on the frontlines, breathing disproportionately dirtier air than White and well-off neighborhoods.

Addressing this major source of pollution — Virginia’s largest by far — is the complex but achievable task at hand before lawmakers this General Assembly and it’s paramount that we act now if we want to protect tomorrow.

House Bill 1965 from Del. Lamont Bagby would make Virginia the next state with standards in place to help ensure a cleaner transportation future by requiring car manufacturers to stock and sell more electric vehicles on their lots — starting at 8 percent for model year 2025. This legislation passed out of committee on Wednesday on a vote of 13-9 and is now before the full House of Delegates. 

Because Virginia is one of the states without what’s called a “Clean Cars Standard” in place, electric vehicle stock is hard to come by as these vehicles are being sold primarily in states that have already committed to cutting carbon and working to electrify their fleet. This is true even as demand is high for these clean cars — between one-third and half of Virginians are considering an EV as their next vehicle.

But in order to really make this work for Virginia, the Clean Cars Standard shouldn’t stand alone: We also need the right mix of incentives to spark the electric vehicle market and investment in EV charging infrastructure to make sure that EVs are accessible and practical. These are advances we’re committed to achieving.

This is why in addition to working with Del. Bagby, we’re also working with other legislative champions and the Virginia Auto Dealers Association to advance measures that will make it easier to buy, sell, own and operate EVs in Virginia. This includes an upfront rebate program as proposed in Del. David Reid’s House Bill 1979 and further expanding vehicle charging infrastructure as called for in House Bill 2282 from Del. Rip Sullivan, House Bill 2001 from Del. Dan Helmer, and Senate Bill 1223 from Sen. Jennifer Boysko.

We must also look at transportation in Virginia at a holistic level. Owning a passenger vehicle isn’t feasible for every Virginian, which is why we must also look at ways to modernize transit and public transportation, with a focus on ensuring equitable access, as called for in legislation (HJ 542) from Richmond Del. Delores McQuinn.

Addressing the climate crisis isn’t simple – there just isn’t a quick fix. Solutions to climate change revolve around changing our business-as-usual, status quo approach to how we do things both on a macro and micro level.  

Lawmakers in Virginia have already transformed how we will power our daily lives in the future, taking advantage of innovation in the clean energy sector that will create jobs and fuel our economy. It’s now time to extend this vision — and the economic opportunities that come with it — to how we get from Point A to Point B.

By moving forward now, lawmakers will have taken the action necessary to protect public health, the environment and our future, while also signaling to the rest of the nation that we take our duty and role in addressing the climate crisis seriously.

We look forward to working alongside our environmental champions at the General Assembly to get this done now, in 2021, while laying the foundation for cleaner air for years to come.

Michael Town serves as Executive Director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. You can contact him at info@valcv.org.

We have published articles previously regarding electric cars and have noted that Biden has an aggressive policy regarding electric vehicles and revitalizing the U.S. auto industry as leaders in auto manufacturing once again. Do you have an electronic vehicle? Tell us about it? Are you considering going electric for your vehicle? How can your purchase of an electric vehicle impact your health and the health of those around you in the world?

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Biden’s Latest Executive Orders Are The Most Aggressive Moves On Climate Change Of Any President

The executive orders will take aim at fossil fuels and set the US up to be an international leader in tackling the climate crisis.
Zahra Hirji, BuzzFeed News Reporter
Source: Buzz Feed News
Last updated on January 27, 2021, at 4:23 p.m. ET
Posted on January 27, 2021, at 9:27 a.m. ET

Source: Buzz Feed News
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed sweeping executive orders to force the federal government to plan for and respond to the urgent threat of a warming planet, laying out his historic vision for how the United States can once again become a global climate leader.

The moves will stop new fossil fuel leases on public lands, boost renewable energy development and conservation, as well as create new government offices and interagency groups to prioritize job creation, cleaning up pollution, and environmental justice.

Since taking office last week, Biden and his Cabinet nominees have repeatedly said that tackling the climate crisis is among their top priorities. With these new actions, Biden is detailing how he plans to make that happen by making the federal government central to the response.

“The United States and the world face a profound climate crisis,” the main executive order Biden signed said. “We have a narrow moment to pursue action at home and abroad in order to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of that crisis and to seize the opportunity that tackling climate change presents.”

Biden’s early climate moves stand in stark contrast to former president Donald Trump’s actions, which included immediately deleting climate change from the White House website, thwarting climate action, and using his executive power to boost oil, gas, and coal development.

Biden’s day-one climate actions were a direct response to Trump, including directing his staff to review more than 100 anti-environmental rules enacted by Trump and to start the process for the country to rejoin the Paris climate agreement. But these new actions go far beyond reversing Trump’s actions or even reinstating climate initiatives first championed by former president Barack Obama.

“Today makes clear that President Biden hears our generation’s demands loud and clear, understands the power of our movement, and is serious about using executive power to deliver on his campaign promises,” said Varshini Prakash, executive director of the Sunrise Movement, in a statement.

As part of a broad new executive order, Biden is directing the Department of the Interior to indefinitely pause new oil and gas leases on public lands and offshore waters “to the extent possible.” The order does not specifically ban new coal leases and leaves fossil fuel leases on tribal lands up to their discretion.

Moreover, Biden is directing a review of existing fossil fuel leases and development projects, and asked the Interior Department to find ways to boost renewable energy projects, especially offshore wind, on federally owned water and land.

The American Petroleum Institute, an oil and gas trade association, balked at the new restrictions. “Restricting natural gas and oil leasing and development on federal lands and waters could threaten U.S. energy security, economic growth and good-paying American jobs,” API tweeted.

While the order would not impact the majority of the nation’s oil and gas drilling and coal mining, which takes place on private land, it could still have a major climate impact. The extraction of fossil fuels on public lands between 2005 and 2014 accounted for roughly 25% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions during that time, according to a United States Geological Survey report.

A key part of the executive orders is creating new offices and committees focused on addressing specific climate problems and goals. Besides formally creating a new White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, led by Gina McCarthy, a former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Biden on Wednesday established a National Climate Task Force that directs members across agencies and departments “to enable a whole-of-government approach to combating the climate crisis,” according to a White House memo.

Biden is also creating a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative designed to create new jobs in conservation, an Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization to take on projects that cut the pollution from existing and abandoned fossil fuel infrastructure, as well as a White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council and White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council to boost environmental justice monitoring and enforcement.

Few details were provided on exactly who will be spearheading the many new efforts, how much funding they will receive, or timelines for delivering on these bold goals.

In most cases, Biden’s actions follow through on his climate campaign promises, such as promising to set aside 30% of public lands and waters to conservation by 2030 and having an international climate summit in his first 100 days — one will be held on Earth Day, April 22, 2021.

“The last four years have been a feeding frenzy on our public lands and waters, and this moratorium is the right way to start our overdue transition to a more sustainable economy,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona and chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources. Grijalva last year co-sponsored the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act of 2020 that similarly supports the 30% conservation goal. He said now Congress will move forward with the bill.

“The stakes on climate change just simply couldn’t be any higher than they are right now,” John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, said at a press briefing Wednesday.

January 27, 2021, at 10:48 a.m.

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Ways to go Green: Recycling

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Recycling

Source: Freeway Insurance
Feature Photo Source: Unsplash, Paweł Czerwiński

In a lifetime, the average American will throw away 600 times the amount of his or her adult weight in garbage. Recycling is an important part of protecting the environment and helps conserve resources and energy, preserves valuable landfill space and supports a healthy environment.

Below are 10 ways to recycle, some of which also help with reducing and reusing.

1.    Use reusable bags instead of plastic. A weekly trip to the grocery store requires an average of 10 plastic bags to carry the entire load of groceries home. That is approximately 520 plastic bags per year for a single household. Rather than recycling the plastic bags, use reusable cloth bags that you can wash and reuse throughout the year.
2.    Reuse scrap paper for crafts. Even the smallest bits of pretty fabric and paper can make a big impact. Turn them into strips of decorative tape and you’ll have beautiful trims ready to use.
3.    Repurpose glass jars and containers. You’re paying extra for these food-filled glass containers, why not reuse them for other household items that need a new container? You can look up many green living ideas on Pinterest that will show you great ways to recycle plain glass jars into pretty home-products, ranging from food containers to decorative light-hangers.
4.    Use cloth napkins and towels. Using cloth napkins and towels in the kitchen and bathrooms will help to reduce paper consumption and give you a reusable product, possibly saving you a couple hundred dollars a year.
5.    Recycle electronics. Even if you’ve tried everything you can to revive your electronic device, laptop or computer, don’t just dump it in the garbage. You can donate it to charities that can fix it up or send it back to the manufacturer that will end up recycling the body and parts for other products. Some ink cartridge manufacturers will give you a prepaid label to mail back used-cartridges to recycle. Look into the manufacturers of your devices and find out about their recycling programs.

Extreme recycling

These 5 extreme recycling tips take more work, but if you’re serious about Green Living, then continue on to these ways to recycle:

1.    Recycle water. This one is a big investment, as you’d have to reconfigure your water pipes so that bathwater and sink water can be used for either flushing the toilet or for watering your yards. You’ll be recycling the water to serve more than just a single purpose and as a result, also saving more on your water bills.
2.    Make your own compost. You’ll be leaving your organic waste in a compost bin to decompose so that you can recycle the compost for plants. Be sure that you have the right container and put only decomposable items in.
3.    Switch to using cloth diapers. Using cloth diapers for your child may seem outdated, but women have done this for centuries. Disposable diapers aren’t usually put into recycling categories, so you’re better off using cloth diapers if you truly want to go green.
4.    Collect rainwater to use for watering plants. If you’re in a state other than California, which is in a drought, you should be taking advantage of the rainy season and recycling the rainwater. Save more money on your water bill by using the natural water for watering your indoor or outdoor plants.
5.    Buy secondhand furniture. It’s one of the greatest ways to recycle furniture that is still usable and also reduces trash in the landfill.

True green living requires a lifestyle change, but there are little things you can do that will help our landfills from becoming unusable. Just follow these ways to recycle, and you’ll be on your way to having less garbage and wasted resources.

What ways can you recycle? Are you a community climate change champion? What ways do you recycle now?

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Flash flooding closes roads after heavy rains soak Hampton Roads

usgs-unsplash Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

By ROBYN SIDERSKY and JESSICA NOLTE
Source: THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT |NOV 12, 2020 AT 9:32 AM
Feature Photo Source: Unsplash, Usgs Ugr

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for much of Hampton Roads through Thursday night.

On the Peninsula, a flash flood watch was in effect until 6 p.m. in Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, Isle of Wight, York County and James City County. A flood warning remained in effect until 8 p.m.

Heavy rain fell steadily Thursday morning, with 3-3.5 inches reported by 1 p.m. in Virginia Beach, according to the weather service. About 3-6 inches of rain had fallen on the Peninsula just before 4 p.m. causing road closures and flash flooding.

Hampton reported delays to trash and recycling pickup Thursday morning because vehicles had difficulty navigating flooded roads. Old Dominion University canceled in-person classes after 4 p.m.

Small creeks and streams, urban areas, highways, streets and underpasses are all affected by the flooding.

Virginia Beach announced Thursday afternoon that Bow Creek Recreation Center would be closed for the rest of the day because of flooded roads in the area.

The city reported road closures because of flooding in several areas including:

  • Dam Neck Road at Harpers Road
  • Dam Neck Road at Southcross Drive
  • Horn Point Road at Muddy Creek Road
  • Independence Blvd. South at Salem Road
  • Laskin Road at Hilltop Plaza Shopping Center
  • Potters Road at Air Station Drive
  • Princess Anne Road at Kempshire Lane
  • Red Mill Blvd. at Agecroft Road
  • S Rosemont Road at Country Club Road
  • Salem Road at Elbow Road
  • Salem Road at North Landing Road
  • Sandbridge Road
  • South Blvd. at Maidstone Circle
  • Sullivan Blvd. at Westgrove Road South
  • Wellsford Drive at Old Dam Neck Road

Virginia Beach also reported blocked roads in multiple places including:

  • 21st Street at Mediterranean Avenue
  • Barberton Drive at Old Virginia Beach Road
  • Deer Park Drive at Brookbridge Road
  • Dillon Drive at Continental Street
  • Edwin Drive at Gleneagle Drive
  • Edwin Drive at Masters Avenue
  • Gannet Run at Huntsman Drive
  • Greenwich Road between Newtown Road and Witchduck Road
  • Hannibal Street at Country Club Circle
  • Haygood Road at Perth Lane
  • Indian River Road New Bridge Road
  • Kings Lake Drive at Oxford Drive
  • Lakecrest Road at Riverbend Road
  • N Great Neck Road at Tanglewood Trail
  • Nanneys Creek Road at Charity Neck Road
  • New Bridge Road at Indian River Road
  • Oceana Blvd. at Bells Road
  • Princess Anne Road at Elson Green Avenue
  • Princess Anne Road at Holland Road
  • S Rosemont Road at Dahlia Drive
  • Sandbridge Road at Flanagans Lane
  • Sandbridge Road at Lotus Drive
  • Seaboard Road at County Place
  • Seaboard Road at Princess Anne Road
  • South Plaza Trail at Old Forge Road
  • Townfield Lane at Kerr Drive
  • Upton Drive at Nimmo Parkway
  • Upton Drive at Tennyson Road
  • Van Buren Drive at Presidential Blvd.

Portsmouth reported abandoned vehicles and flooding in several places including:

  • Frederick Boulevard from Turnpike Road to Deep Creek Boulevard
  • I-264 Ramps to Frederick Boulevard are closed in both directions
  • Airline Boulevard at the intersection with Victory Boulevard
  • Multiple locations along Elm Avenue and Effingham Street
  • Rodman Avenue at High Street
  • Rodman Avenue at King Street
  • Churchland Boulevard at Academy Avenue
  • Twin Pines Road at Towne Point Road
  • Virginia Avenue at Portland Street
  • Greenwood Drive at Deep Creek Boulevard
  • George Washington Highway at Elm Avenue

announced it would open the Middle and County street garages at 5 p.m. Thursday until 7 a.m. Friday for vehicles in low-lying areas.

Another half-inch or inch is possible across the region this afternoon, according to the weather service.

A flash flood warning means that flooding is imminent or occurring and if you’re in an area prone to flooding, it’s best to move to higher ground immediately.

The heavy rainfall is a result of an unseasonably moist air mass. The rain will taper off in the afternoon through late tonight.

This is a developing story. Check back to PilotOnline.com for updates.

Robyn Sidersky, 757-222-5117, robyn.sidersky@pilotonline.com

We have seen flooding in Norfolk before and will see it again. Rain harvesting and rain gardens are just 2 solutions to flooding. What are your solutions to flooding? What area are you in? What are the climate challenges in your area?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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Past a point of no return’: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero still won’t stop global warming, study says

Solar Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Doyle Rice
Source: USA TODAY
Feature Photo Source: Unsplash, Vivint Solar

  • Humanity is beyond the point of no return when it comes to halting the melting of permafrost, a new study says.
  • To stop the warming, “enormous amounts of carbon dioxide have to be extracted from the atmosphere.”
  • Some experts are skeptical of the computer model used in the study.

Even if human-caused greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced to zero, global temperatures may continue to rise for centuries afterward, according to a scientific study published Thursday.

“The world is already past a point of no return for global warming,” the study authors report in the British journal Scientific Reports. The only way to stop the warming, they say, is that “enormous amounts of carbon dioxide have to be extracted from the atmosphere.”

The burning of fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas release greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, causing global temperatures to increase and sea levels to rise. 

The scientists modeled the effect of greenhouse gas emission reductions on changes in the Earth’s climate from 1850 to 2500 and created projections of global temperature and sea level rises.

“According to our models, humanity is beyond the point of no return when it comes to halting the melting of permafrost using greenhouse gas cuts as the single tool,” lead author Jorgen Randers, a professor emeritus of climate strategy at the BI Norwegian Business School, told AFP.

“If we want to stop this melting process we must do something in addition – for example, suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and store it underground, and make Earth’s surface brighter,” Randers said.

Scientists are seeing an ‘acceleration of pandemics’:They are looking at climate change

The study said that by the year 2500, the planet’s temperatures will be about 5.4  degrees Fahrenheit warmer than they were in 1850. And sea levels will be roughly 8 feet higher. 

The authors suggest that global temperatures could continue to increase after human-caused greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced as the continued melting of Arctic ice and carbon-containing permafrost increase water vapor, methane and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The melting of Arctic ice and permafrost also would reduce the area of ice reflecting heat and light from the sun.

According to the study, to prevent the authors’ projected temperature and sea-level rises, all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions would have had to be reduced to zero between 1960 and 1970. 

To prevent global temperature and sea level rises after greenhouse gas emissions have ceased, and to limit the potentially catastrophic effects on Earth’s ecosystems and human society, at least 33 gigatons of carbon dioxide would need to be removed from the atmosphere each year from 2020 onward through carbon capture and storage methods, according to the authors.

That’s roughly the total amount of carbon dioxide the global fossil fuel industry emitted in 2018, according to Business Insider.

One expert, Penn State University meteorologist Michael Mann, told USA TODAY that he was skeptical of the computer model used in the study: “The climate model they have used is a very low complexity model. It doesn’t realistically represent large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns, such as ocean circulation, etc.

“While such models can be useful for conceptual inferences, their predictions have to be taken with great skepticism. Far more realistic climate models that do resolve the large-scale dynamics of the ocean, atmosphere and carbon cycle, do NOT produce the dramatic changes these authors argue for based on their very simplified model.

“It must be taken not just with a grain of salt, but a whole salt-shaker worth of salt,” Mann said.

Another expert, Mark Maslin, a professor of climatology at University College London, also pointed to shortcomings in the model, telling AFP that the study was a “thought experiment.”

“What the study does draw attention to is that reducing global carbon emissions to zero by 2050 is just the start of our actions to deal with climate change,” Maslin said.

The study authors urge other scientists to follow up on their work: “We encourage other model builders to explore our discovery in their (bigger) models, and report on their findings.”

What are the climate change challenges in your area? What are some solutions to those challenges? How can you implement those solutions?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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PROFESSOR TELLS NORTHAM THAT DECARBONIZATION BY 2050 IS ‘ACHIEVABLE AND AFFORDABLE’

Solar Power Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

October 20, 2020 

Ayear ago at the Virginia Clean Energy Summit, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced a proposal to require the state’s electricity sector to produce net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, a requirement that he has since signed into law. 

How are we doing toward attaining the goal?

On Tuesday, as part of the second annual summit (which is taking place virtually and concludes Wednesday), University of Virginia professor William Shobe gave Northam the first progress report.

Following Northam’s opening remarks, Shobe – who directs the Center for Economic & Policy Studies at UVA’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service and has been at the forefront of environmental research and policymaking for 25 years – outlined how it is feasible for Virginia to decarbonize the state’s economy.

UVA Today caught up with Shobe, a professor of public policy at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, to learn more.

Q. During your presentation at the summit, you said decarbonization by 2050 is “achievable and affordable.” Why do you believe this?

A. Virginia is an interesting case in thinking about how to eliminate carbon emissions for a state. We have a modest potential supply of renewable energy compared to many other states, and yet it turns out that, with current technology, we have more than enough to meet our needs. Add to that our existing nuclear plants, and our non-emitting energy resources outstrip any likely future requirement. So, from a purely technical point of view, we have ample non-fossil fuel resources to meet our energy needs.

Following Gov. Ralph Northam’s opening remarks on Tuesday at the Virginia Clean Energy Summit, UVA professor William Shobe outlined how it is feasible for Virginia to decarbonize the state’s economy. (Contributed photo)

And it is surprisingly affordable. New and improved solar and wind technology have made renewables cheaper than the coal and natural gas alternatives. Even without new policies, we will start to build solar power plants rather than new natural gas plants. The advances in technology have made it cost-effective for Virginia to generate its own energy, rather than import the energy from other places.

The final piece of the puzzle is efficiency. Shifting from fossil fuels to electricity in transportation and for heating and cooling in buildings results in large efficiency gains, which save lots of money. As costs continue to fall, the shift to all-electric buildings and transportation will be all but irresistible.

Q. Without getting too technical, can you tell us a little about the modeling you used?

A. For this modeling exercise, we worked with Evolved Energy Research, a firm specializing in long-run energy system analysis. We factor in current and likely future technology costs, demographics, weather and other factors to evaluate our future energy needs. Then we model the mix of energy resources that can meet these needs, but without any carbon dioxide emissions.

With increased use of renewable energy, you have to be careful to take into account the variability of the resource. For example, every year we have periods of cloudy, windless days, where renewables don’t produce much electricity. At other times they will produce much more than we need. We have to include storage technologies such as batteries, hydrogen and synthetic fuels that smooth out the variability in the supply so it better matches the pattern of how we use electricity.

Planning for the future also has to account for the shift in our patterns of energy use as we electrify cars, trucks, buildings and industrial processes. Converting these uses to electricity has substantial advantages, but the shift in patterns of use will affect the mix of resources we will use to supply the energy.

Q. For those who may be not be that well versed in decarbonization, what are the various economic, health and climate benefits that can be achieved by getting to net carbon zero?

A. If costs continue to fall the way they have recently, shifting from fossil fuels may ultimately be worth doing just for the financial savings alone. But there are other, compelling reasons for doing so.

Climate change is already beginning to hurt Virginia, and the consequences of rising temperatures are likely to rise quickly. Casting our lot in with the many other governments around the country and the world that have pledged to eliminate their emissions of greenhouse gases makes good policy sense. It is only by cooperating that we can solve the problem of climate change. Virginia’s move to eliminate its emissions will make it that much easier for others to increase the level of their commitment.

But it turns out that some of the greatest gains from reducing our fossil fuel use are to our own health. We have known for a long time that emissions from cars and trucks and from coal and natural gas power plants produce very damaging pollutants that result in lots of negative effects on both health and on worker and agricultural productivity. Even with our current pollution controls, these damages in Virginia alone are even greater than the damages from climate change.

We are currently working to produce good estimates of the true economic savings to health and productivity from reducing fossil emissions. We have reason to believe that these benefits are sufficiently large by themselves to justify much of our efforts at decarbonization.

Q. In your remarks, you discussed “The Four Pillars of Cost-Effective Decarbonization.” Can you give our readers a brief synopsis of them?

A. A large body of research now points to four components that are likely to be part of any cost-effective approach to decarbonization: efficiency in energy use, eliminating fossil fuels from electricity generation, electrifying transportation services and building energy use and, finally, capturing some remaining CO2 emissions and sequestering the carbon in geologic reserves.https://news.virginia.edu/subscribe-form

Converting cars and buildings to electricity not only eliminates their direct emissions, but also increases efficiency, so there is a double savings. Increased efficiency makes it that much easier to supply the remaining energy needs. Capturing and sequestering some carbon will be necessary because it will be very expensive to eliminate the last, most recalcitrant uses. Fortunately, there are some reasonably affordable options for sequestering carbon, including good forest management, coastal ecosystem enhancement, and, ultimately, capturing CO2 from power plants that burn wood waste and other biomass.

Q. To get to net carbon zero, what specific emissions do we need to reduce, and what are some ways we can go about doing that? You mentioned some “timely adoptions” of electric technologies. What might be some examples?

A. The key is to eliminate fossil fuels from our electricity supply and from transportation and buildings. We need to continue to build out new solar generation, because it is cost-effective today. We need to move aggressively to electric cars and trucks. Building out infrastructure for charging vehicles is a pressing current need. Moving to replace gas-fired boilers and water heaters in homes and offices is another step we should start taking now; it is saves both carbon and money.

But it’s not just about what we can adopt today. It is critically important to begin investing in innovation in renewable energy generation and energy storage technologies. Lower costs in these technologies and in electric transportation plays to Virginia’s advantage. We need to start preparing for the likelihood that hydrogen produced using renewable energy will replace oil and natural gas. This will enhance the value of our renewable resources by pairing them with long-term energy storage. With investments in new knowledge, the state can move more aggressively to take advantage of opportunities to be its own least-cost energy producer.

Q. Anything else you’d like to add?

A. The transition away from fossil fuels does not happen on its own. We need to invest in enhancing the state’s ability to plan effectively and act efficiently in moving to a cleaner, fossil-free economy. Virginia needs to invest in developing the expertise needed for the energy transition. Without doing so, there is a danger that we will take a piecemeal and inefficient approach to the challenge before us. Investing now in the capacity for both technological innovation and the policy capacity to take advantage of it will pay large dividends.

MEDIA CONTACT

Whitelaw Reid

University News Senior AssociateOffice of University Communications

wdr4d@virginia.edu 434-924-7499

As with any new solution, one does not want to trade one bad thing for another. Which options are best for our health? Which options are best for our environment? Why? Are you a community champion?

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Virginia charts the first carbon-free policy path in the South — solar’s (sunlight) role still TBD

Solar Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

By Kelly Pickerel | October 27, 2020
Source: Solar Power World
Featured Photo Source: Unsplash, Vivint Solar

It doesn’t go unnoticed when a Southern state takes a stand on clean energy. But saying you’re supportive of renewable energy standards and carbon-free electricity is much different than actually making it happen, as Virginia is beginning to take steps to accomplish.

In April 2020, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed into law the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). In addition to energy efficiency pilot programs, an expansion of net metering and energy storage goals, the state’s two utilities are expected to source 100% carbon-free electricity (Dominion Energy by 2045 and Appalachian Power by 2050). All coal-fired plants must also close by the end of 2024.

Ipsun Solar

Now begins the process of determining how the requirements of the VCEA will be met — and the big question from many residential solar installers is how much their business fits into the equation. After all, Virginia’s 100% goal is for carbon-free electricity, not necessarily from renewable energy sources or solar specifically. Dominion already produces a significant portion of its electricity from four nuclear plants and intends to continue its use of natural gas. The utility does have plans for the country’s largest offshore wind project (2.6 GW), but only 1% of Dominion’s power must come from DG/rooftop solar under the VCEA.

“We’re happy to see rooftop solar being part of the RPS, but it is an extremely small carveout. There’s a lot more work to be done there to make sure it’s a more significant part of the RPS. But this is a step in the right direction,” said Rachel Smucker, Virginia policy and development manager for advocacy group MDV-SEIA.

Karla Loeb, chief policy and development officer for installer Sigora Solar and the DG policy chair for MDV-SEIA, also commented that the real work is now just beginning to ensure the state meets its lofty goals.

“Is the legislation perfect? Absolutely not,” she said. “A bunch of dockets have been started at the State Corporation Commission on the implementation of the VCEA because legislation passage in isolation doesn’t create markets, you need good rules to make the market work.  And, that happens at the Commission.”

The Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) spent the summer establishing workgroups to determine regulations that achieve VCEA-outlined goals. In addition to the carbon-free electricity requirements, the Act must also shape energy efficiency standards, how to scale-up offshore wind, where to construct/acquire 3.1 GW of energy storage capacity and how best to advance solar and DG. One area of focus that will benefit solar most is cutting through the red tape around permitting.

Ipsun Solar

“The solar industry is advocating for more streamlined processes particularly with permitting and interconnection,” Smucker said. “These two processes have a huge impact on construction timelines, which we know can often determine whether a project is economic and is actually going to get built. We are working to refine those processes with a number of stakeholders.”

Many in-state installers are making sure their voices are heard. As Sigora Solar’s Loeb said, “All clean energy is dictated by policy. That is why we are actively engaged in the dockets at the State Corporation Commission to ensure the implementation of the various pieces of clean energy legislation create the most competitive market possible, especially for distributed generation providers.  We believe if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

Residential installer Ipsun Solar has been vocal on permitting issues, with co-founder and VP Joe Marhamati describing some counties as “stuck in the last century on paperwork, bureaucracy and their core understanding of solar.”

That’s why the SCC will hopefully listen to the right stakeholders to make sure the VCEA’s goals are attainable.

“Our commission is going to be crucial for the next year as we turn to the implementation process of this bill. They’re there to regulate, and the success of the VCEA will really rely on proper implementation and whether that meets the legislative intent of the bill,” Smucker said.

Although the initial residential solar requirements aren’t especially significant, that doesn’t mean things can’t change.

“This is certainly not going to be the last piece of legislation that will shape the clean energy market in Virginia,” Smucker said. “The distributed generation carveout is very small, and there are a lot more areas for growth. We are excited to take this first step but recognize that there’s a long way to go.”

Ipsun Solar still sees only benefits coming from the VCEA for its residential business.

Ipsun Solar

“Having a 100% carbon-free electricity plan means not only that Virginia residents are demanding clean energy, but that those who may not have been paying attention are now aware that solar is far cheaper than fossil fuels,” Marhamati said. “This means that the entire Virginia market is likely to be aware of and considering clean energy and backup power for their family, to reduce energy bills, provide resiliency during grid outages, add value to their home, and begin the process of cleaning up the Virginia grid. We expect an exponential rise in the number of inquiries from Virginia residents on how they can own their own solar power as a result of this plan.”

Virginia joins California, Hawaii, Maine, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., on their journeys to 100% renewable or carbon-free electricity. As the South’s guinea pig for 100% clean energy policy, Virginia may be a model for solar legislation in the region for years to come.

“It is exciting to be the first southern state to implement a clean energy standard. We hope Virginia will finally be seen as a leader in solar generation and forward development. I hope this will spur other states in the Southeast to head in this direction and become leaders themselves,” Smucker said. “I don’t think we are quite in the ranks with California and Hawaii yet — they both have over 10% solar penetration, and we are nowhere near that. We are just at the cusp of realizing those economic gains. We took a huge step almost overnight to have some of the most progressive clean energy policy in the nation, but we’ve got a number of building years ahead.”


This story is part of Solar Power World’s annual Regional Solar Policy Report. Find out more in our digital edition of the magazine

There are many tax initiatives surrounding clean energy in general and solar power in particular. What are the mutual benefits of going solar? How will you benefit? How will your neighbors benefit? Are you a community champion?

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Bill pushes to allow people to harvest rainwater

Author: Jaclyn Lee Published: 4:53 PM EST February 22, 2018
Updated: 6:00 PM EST February 22, 2018
Source: WVEC – News 13

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WVEC) — A Newport News business is trying to change current laws to allow individuals to harvest rainwater.

Tyrone Jarvis, the owner of Go Green Auto Shop, said he started harvesting rainwater after he discovered a water leak that ran under his building in 2014.

Jarvis went off the grid and started using recycled water to run his auto shop. His system catches rain on the roof and then it passes through a purification system. The business would then use the water to flush toilets, wash hands in the sink and use it for auto products like antifreeze.

The goal is to save money and protect the environment.

“When we mix those chemicals, we’re using rainwater instead of drinking water, you know every gallon counts for future generations,” said Jarvis.

However, once the City of Newport News learned about the rainwater harvesting practices, Go Green Auto was shut down for two days. This forced Jarvis to reconnect to the city’s water supply. State code doesn’t recognize rainwater as an independent source of fresh water.

“We had fully invested in this technology, but they considered it a threat to even have this sustainable method of water supply,” said Jarvis.

94th District Delegate David Yancey (R) met with Jarvis and introduced a bill in the General Assembly that would allow individuals to use rainwater regularly.

“Reward small business and reward not just the entrepreneurship but the ingenuity, the creativity, the innovation side that really make our small businesses so exceptional,” said Yancey.

The bill already passed the House and passed out of the Senate Committee on Education and Health on Thursday.

It will go before the Senate floor for a vote next week.

There are many rain harvesting efforts already on the way in Norfolk, VA. What are some rain harvesting initiatives in your area? What are the climate challenges in your area? What are some climate initiatives in your area?

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Climate Change Turns the Tide on Waterfront Living

Rising seas and worsening flooding are forcing many communities to plan their retreat from the coasts
Source: Washington Post

William Stiles of the group Wetlands Watch inspects a collapsed water retaining wall in Norfolk, Va. (Photos by Parker Michels-Boyce for The Washington Post By Jim Morrison, APRIL 13, 2020   – Megan Kelly for the Washington Post.

On Richmond Crescent in Norfolk, Va., more than a dozen homes rise in varying heights, forming a streetscape bar graph tracing the past decade’s increasing threat of flooding from an inlet of the Lafayette River. A green house with a prominent front porch is a modest four feet off the ground. Two doors down, a 70-year-old cottage has been newly raised 11 feet on blocks, at a cost of $154,000, nearly all of it federal and state money. On the corner, a one-story white-brick ranch looms about seven feet up, matching the height of the sage-colored brick house next door. A few homes still on ground level hunker among the high and dry houses looking down their proverbial noses at them.

George Homewood, Norfolk’s planning director, has chosen the city’s affluent Larchmont neighborhood for our walking tour on this unseasonably warm December day. He pauses in the middle of Richmond Crescent, where repeated tidal flooding has cracked and buckled the asphalt, and wetlands grasses fringe the street. Nodding toward a new house that towers 12 feet above sea level, he poses the hard questions that cities and counties are only beginning to acknowledge as waters along the U.S. coasts continue their inevitable invasion. Will the city be better off if people live in that house for another 30 to 50 years but are unable to get in or out during high tides or lingering storms? How long, he asks, does the city maintain the street? Or keep the storm-water and sewer systems operating? What happens years from now, when emergency services can’t get to these homes because the street has flooded? “At some point, the investment in infrastructure can’t be sustained,” he says. “That’s the bottom line.”

Hurricanes get the headlines, but on this street, it will be the repeated jabs of flooding day after day from climate change, with its rising tides and increasingly stronger storms, that will force the city to make tough choices. By 2040, projections by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science show, the river will overflow its banks and flood this street twice daily during high tides. Norfolk plans to protect the city with $1.8 billion in storm-surge barriers and flood walls, but those projects — if built — won’t stop the rising tides in Larchmont. The water will come. This is where Norfolk will eventually begin its retreat.

The city doesn’t use that politically explosive term, the Voldemort of climate adaptation. Planners here and elsewhere refer to it as the “r-word.” They’re happy to talk about the other r-word — resilience, which includes projects like sea walls, retention ponds, rebuilding wetlands and improved storm-water capacity. Retreat signals surrender, while resilience screams reassurance: Don’t worry. Stay. We’ll protect you. That medicine goes down easier. It has been embraced by dozens of cities and states that have added resilience officers. Norfolk’s Vision 2100 plan, widely praised for envisioning a city withdrawing from some neighborhoods by making only “judicious” investments in protecting homes from rising waters, uses the word “retreat” only once, and then to say that the city will not retreat but will emphasize “living with the water.” The idea — for now — is not to force residents to abandon neighborhoods like Larchmont, but to have them gradually decide to leave as the inconvenience of staying grows. “I would like to abdicate as much to the marketplace as possible so that we’re not actually making the hard decisions that impact people, but we’re finding ways to encourage people to make smart decisions for themselves,” Homewood says. “We’re not saying that happens on a dime, but over time as that happens with more and more property, then we begin to have that managed retreat.”

Norfolk’s small steps prodding people to move out of harm’s way are rare among local governments. Too rare, say researchers and climate crisis advocates. Rather than discussing retreat, most threatened communities are studying and, in some cases, building billion-dollar projects to protect against coming encroachments. The Center for Climate Integrity, an environmental advocacy group, last year issued a study concluding that by 2040, building sea walls for U.S. coastal cities with more than 25,000 residents will require at least $42 billion. Expand that to include communities of fewer than 25,000 and the cost skyrockets to $400 billion. That’s nearly the price of building the 47,000 miles of the interstate highway system, which took four decades and cost more than $500 billion in today’s dollars. Researchers say those numbers are conservative because they consider only sea walls, not other ways to mitigate flood risk, including buying out homeowners and improving storm-water systems.

There won’t be enough money to protect every endangered place. The Army Corps of Engineers, for instance, has a $98 billion backlog of authorized construction projects yet receives annual construction appropriations of only about $2 billion, according to a Congressional Research Service report. Andy Keeler, the head of public policy at the Coastal Studies Institute and an economics professor at East Carolina University, worries that resilience efforts create a negative spiral of people believing their risks are lower than they are and remaining in threatened areas they should be abandoning. This means that their property values continue to rise, which reinforces economic and political arguments for spending more money on resilience efforts. “How do we make the transition from protecting ourselves to leaving?” asks Keeler. “The big question is time. When is the time to stop investing in protection and start shifting the resources over to people leaving?”

Ann Phillips, a retired rear admiral who is the special assistant for coastal adaptation and protection for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, says that cities and counties have legitimate concerns about discussing retreat. They fear losing some of their tax base. They don’t want to scare away business development. She is concerned about the social justice aspects of managed retreat. Homeowners in a wealthy neighborhood like Larchmont have more resources and options than those in Ingleside, a mixed-income neighborhood that is also threatened but hasn’t been the beneficiary of home-raising funds. As flooding becomes more frequent in such places, the population transitions from homeowners to renters and the neighborhood deteriorates. “The challenge is, how do you get these people options before you get to the collapse?” Phillips asks as we take a morning walk through Ingleside. She is working on a master plan for Virginia that defines the threat and deals with the various challenges. What happens, for instance, to struggling rural counties that won’t have the means to either armor in place or leave? Finding a way to create incentives for the watermen and farmers and others who have lived on their land for centuries will be a challenge. “As a nation, we should be looking at this risk to our future and evaluating it from a national perspective, and I don’t see that happening,” Phillips says, echoing others I interviewed.

Part of the reason that conversation hasn’t happened is the magnitude and complexity of the potential retreat in the United States. More than 126 million people, about 40 percent of the U.S. population, live in coastal counties that produce more than $8.3 trillion in goods and services, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A 2019 study found that sea-level rise of six feet by 2100 could displace 13 million people, including more than 2.5 million refugees from Miami alone. Another study examining maps of flooding along rivers concluded that 41 million Americans live within the reach of a 100-year-flood with a potential for $1.2 trillion worth of damage. “There is no local, state or federal managed retreat plan or strategy,” says Rob Moore, senior policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It’s just a theoretical construct. The reality facing communities is that we need to move very rapidly from this being theory to being practice, and it’s very difficult to make that happen.”

The first step to managed retreat will be a radical rethinking of federal, state and local policies and subsidies that distort the true risk of living in floodplains. Federal disaster and mitigation funds, for instance, provide little incentive to restrict rebuilding in these areas. That’s fine with cities and counties, because rebuilding in a risky area keeps their tax base intact in the short term. In the long term, though, it’s bad policy, says William Stiles of Wetlands Watch, a Norfolk-based nonprofit organization that works with local governments and other nonprofits on solutions to sea-level rise. “As seas rise, it costs more in public funds to maintain the streets, flood walls, sewer systems and EMT services than the properties generate in taxes,” he says. A study by Zillow and Climate Central last year found that after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the housing growth rate in New Jersey was nearly three times higher in areas likely to flood once a decade than in safer areas. “Think about that,” Siders says. “More homes, more families at risk. And we’re going to reward that by giving states more money the next time they have a disaster.”

In 21 states, buyers and builders aren’t warned that they’re moving into a flood zone. “I can go on Carfax and find out about the car I’m going to buy, but if I’m going to take out a 30-year mortgage and tie up myself financially, in some states I can’t find out if the house has been damaged,” says Siders. “Home buyers are being tricked into buying properties that they would not otherwise buy.”

Kennedy has two children younger than 2 and a third on the way. His wife works at a hospital. They need to get in and out regularly on a street that already floods. They’re about to refinance to a 30-year mortgage. Does Kennedy think the house will be habitable in 30 years? “My wife and I ask this question to each other all the time, because we’re planting our flag here in Norfolk,” he says. The couple are considering their options. If they could sell and not lose money, they would. They may build an addition and raise the house. If they do that, it won’t be with public help. Norfolk has spent $5 million of federal and state funds in the past decade to raise about 50 homes. In January the city received $3.2 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to raise 11 more, but after that, it will stop elevating houses in floodplains. If they sell, Kennedy says, he will inform buyers of the flood risk. That’s not what many others do. A recent nationwide study found that 3.8 million properties in floodplains may be overvalued by $34 billion because buyers would pay less if they knew about the houses’ vulnerability. Failing to properly price the risk also means there is continued development in floodplains, making future retreat harder. “The decisions we make today are going to be very influential in 30, 40, 50 years — the way we design cities and communities and where we put infrastructure,” says Hino, a co-author of the study. “Once we’ve put it there, it is really, really hard to remove it.”

Lack of information isn’t the only barrier to promoting retreat. The National Flood Insurance Program, a political punching bag $20 billion in debt that Congress repeatedly promises to reform and then doesn’t, sets risk based on flood projections that are decades out of date. For example, some areas that flooded during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 had maps that had not been updated since 1983. The program subsidizes rebuilding in increasingly risky areas. Critics — and there are many — say taxpayers in West Virginia are helping to pay for people to live on the waterfront in Virginia. Between 1978 and May 2018, more than 36,000 properties insured by the NFIP filed repeated claims for damage, according to updated statistics from an earlier NRDC study. On average, the properties flooded five times; some flooded more than 30 times. The damage claims for single-family homes worth less than $250,000 exceeded their value. Owners received average payments of $149,980 for homes with an average value of $114,764. Since 2000, according to the study, the NFIP has spent $46.6 billion to repair and rebuild properties, but just $804 million to buy out homeowners willing to relocate. “Many of those homeowners would like nothing more than to never file another flood insurance damage claim. They would like to get out of this cycle of flood, rebuild, repeat,” says Moore of the NRDC. “But the flood insurance program isn’t in that business. The flood insurance program is in the rebuild-your-home business. What it won’t do is help you actually move somewhere safer.”

Moving out of harm’s way saves lives and money. The Great Flood of 1993, when the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and their tributaries overflowed their banks, killed 50 people and caused $15 billion in damages across nine Midwestern states. An Army Corps of Engineers study later found that to reduce the damage would have required more than $6 billion in levee improvements, but voluntary buyouts to remove structures from harm’s way would have cost only $209 million. Joshua Behr and Carol Considine, researchers at Old Dominion University, modeled the effect of a hurricane on a vulnerable Portsmouth, Va., neighborhood and concluded that if the city invested $1 million annually in voluntary buyouts over 31 years and transformed the area into green space for floodwater retention, it would save about $40 million. (The only problem: The cash-strapped city doesn’t have the money.) Similarly, Louisiana has a plan, described as a first step, to buy thousands of threatened homes along the coast, many owned by poor and elderly residents who stayed after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It’s an about-face from a plan just three years ago that championed staying in place. “People often think of retreat as the opposite of resilience,” Hino says. “Actually, in many cases, the most resilient thing we can do is to get out of the way.”

On the morning of Aug. 1, 1993, Dennis Knobloch, the mayor of Valmeyer, Ill., stood in a cemetery on a hill overlooking the town, helplessly watching as the levees that had protected the village for four decades failed when the Mississippi River crested at more than 49 feet, almost 20 feet above flood stage. A wall of water roared through Valmeyer, swallowing homes, rising five feet up the living room walls of Knobloch’s house.

A year later, I joined Knobloch as he wheeled his black pickup over rutted ground being graded on a limestone bluff high above the flood plain. “We’re actually on a street right now,” he told me. “To the left will be the downtown business area.” After two devastating bouts of flooding, the town’s 350 families had voted to rebuild on this higher ground a mile and a half east of the old town. When Knobloch first spoke to FEMA and suggested moving the town, he was told it would take about a decade. He refused to accept that timeline, lobbying Congress and state and federal officials. By January 1994, the first ground had been broken.

Today, Valmeyer is thriving. The old town had 900 people. The new one has 1,300 and is growing by the day. A white water tower stands sentinel over winding streets radiating from a town center. A handsome red brick school on South Cedar Bluff Drive and a village hall on nearby Knobloch Boulevard form the heart of the new community.

Valmeyer is a model — on a small scale — of managed retreat. But it’s also an illustration of the rare combination of people and circumstances that need to come together to make it happen. Knobloch says the total cost for moving 225 families, businesses and churches was about $70 million — $30 million for infrastructure and the new school and $40 million more to buy out homeowners and businesses. The move wasn’t without losses. Local businesses couldn’t wait for residents to populate higher ground, he says, and many set up shop in nearby towns.

Successful relocations, Pinter says, follow similar models: They start while feet are still wet, they have relocation blueprints in hand or create them quickly, and they have a strong leader. Knobloch, who has consulted with other towns looking to relocate, says that Valmeyer hit the rare sweet spot of available funding and political will. “If you look at our situation,” he says, “it was probably the only period in recent history where we could have done this, because at both the state and federal level, the people that were involved, both on the political side and on the side of the agencies, embraced this idea, and they had the resources to help make it happen.”

Propelling the Valmeyer relocation was post-disaster funding by the state and FEMA to pay residents for their homes. Twenty-five years later, buyouts remain a key retreat tool, although a recent study showed that they had gone down even as the threat from flooding has risen. They are expensive and the process takes years, often discouraging people who want to sell. A study by Hino, Siders and others published last year of 43,000 FEMA buyouts between 1989 and 2017 found they disproportionately benefited wealthy urban communities that have the staff to cut through the paperwork and apply for federal money. Rural communities, which have fewer resources overall to deal with the climate crisis, were less likely to apply. And purchases were piecemeal, a few properties in an average county, unlikely to effectively restore wetlands that help mitigate storm surge and flood damage.

There are a few locally funded buyout programs in the United States. Since 1999, Charlotte — an example of an inland city with a network of creeks and streams that overflow their banks when it rains — has spent $64 million to remove 460 structures and replace them with grasslands. And New Jersey’s Blue Acres program has spent $375 million to buy about 1,000 of the 346,000 homes destroyed or damaged by Hurricane Sandy, most of them threatened by river flooding.

No Driving Beyond This Point” admonishes the sign on East Seagull Drive on the southern end of Nags Head, N.C. It’s an unnecessary remnant of days past. The signpost is half buried. The street has disappeared beneath five feet of drifted sand. All but two of the eight homes that once stood on the surf side of Seagull Drive have been demolished, bought and removed by the town at a cost of $1.5 million. One defiant pink house remains, rising two stories on stilts. Another, damaged by a storm more than a decade ago, is a ramshackle, boarded-up shell with “No Trespassing” signs adorning its stilts. The owner won a long and expensive legal battle with the town, which tried to condemn the property. He has refused a $35,000 buyout offer. Instead, he’s waiting for the next big storm to knock the house down so he can collect up to $250,000 in federal flood insurance.

For the town, whose population of 2,900 balloons to as many as 40,000 on summer weekends, rising seas are an existential threat, eroding some portions of the beach by as much as six feet annually. But it has no plans to retreat. In fact, Nags Head removed the idea of retreat from its comprehensive plan years ago. Why? The town can afford to delay the inevitable, preserving a waterfront tax base by spending tens of millions of dollars rebuilding beaches. It’s working. Despite the devastation of three hurricanes in the past four years, property values in Dare County, home to Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk and other destinations, have boomed to nearly $16 billion, 25 percent more than seven years ago.

Nags Head levies a special tax on beach properties to rebuild the beach. In 2011, the town spent $36 million to replenish the sand on 10 miles of beach. When Hurricane Matthew swept away about a third of that sand in 2016, the town rebuilt again at a cost of $43 million, $16 million of which came from FEMA. Western Carolina University researchers who compile a database on rebuilding beaches say that nearly $503 million has been spent in the past 15 years in North Carolina.

Nags Head Mayor Ben Cahoon says the town will continue to replenish for the foreseeable future, planning to spend $10 million or more every six to eight years. “Retreat in the abstract makes perfectly good sense, but it gets more complicated when you consider what if it’s just one of the most gorgeous places to live?” he says, sitting in a conference room at the town hall. “What happens if you make a retreat decision? What does that look like? It’s not an instant thing. You’re not going to buy out rows and rows of multimillion-dollar houses at one time and say, now we’ve retreated from the beach.” In his view, not rebuilding the beaches means a house here or there will be lost, creating a patchwork of vacancies over decades. Septic tanks will be exposed. Streets will surrender to the tides. “That, in fact, is what retreat would look like,” Cahoon says. “That’s not a sustainable solution either.”

For cities like Norfolk, which is more than a billion dollars in debt, buyout options are limited. Norfolk has spent $650,000 to buy four homes and return those parcels to nature, but the city has more than 1,000 properties at risk, a number that will grow as the water rises. Next door, Virginia Beach shifted from focusing on elevating homes to buyouts, with an initial $1.5 million investment and a $500,000 annual budget. The city’s new study on sea-level rise identified 2,500 vulnerable properties for buyouts. “We have to get creative,” says Erin Sutton, the director of the Virginia Beach emergency management office. “The federal government is not creative. The way for us to do that is to start a program and see how it goes and hopefully continue to fund it.”

Norfolk is working with Wetlands Watch to explore buyouts using the transfer of development rights through a program with a third-party nonprofit land trust. Under the city’s zoning ordinance, developers looking to build on higher ground need a certain number of “resilience points.” In its simplest form, the developer pays the land trust and gets resilience points in return. The land trust uses the money to buy a property that has flooded at least twice within a decade. The homeowner gets a tax credit. The developer gets to build new properties. And the city gets threatened parcels removed and returned to nature. And the marketplace drives the transactions, not government.

That’s similar to a program Keeler has been championing, using buyouts but renting the property back to the homeowner until a certain date or until certain triggers — damage to the home, sea-level rise or a street becoming impassable a certain number of days within a year — come into play. Managing retreat through buyout programs, Keeler says, offers the promise of controlling the transition rather than facing what New Orleans endured after Katrina, with more than 40,000 abandoned homes. “There are no magic bullets. We’re hoping for a set of public policies that create a situation where people can avoid the worst consequences,” Keeler says. “I’m optimistic that if we’re smart, that a century from now, we can have relocated a lot of population that would have been at horrible risk if they stayed.”

A wipeout from a hurricane or a lingering storm is what George Homewood wants to avoid for Norfolk neighborhoods. But he also recognizes that property rights mean the city can’t force people to leave. “Somebody who has more resources than I have and is willing to put them at risk to enjoy looking out over water, that’s a choice they get to make,” he says.

On Richmond Crescent, Brian McDonald has made that choice. He sits in his dining room overlooking the Lafayette River as the setting sun highlights whitecaps propelled by a north wind. He bought the 80-year-old house next door, lived there for three years, sold it for a small profit, then carved out this lot and built his palace, 12 feet above sea level. A recent appraisal put his home’s value at more than $500,000. The flooding isn’t that bad, he says. He knows the water will come — there was a mark from Hurricane Isabel in his old house — but he doesn’t feel threatened. He’s in the best school district in Norfolk for his two children. He’s along the Elizabeth River biking and walking trail. And he pays only $500 a year in flood insurance. “Sure,” he says, “there were hesitations, but I think the good outweighs the bad. I mean look at this sunset. I don’t feel threatened at all by the water.”

Jim Morrison is a writer in Norfolk.

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