Virginia’s legislature commissioned a $50,000 study to determine the impacts of climate change on the state’s shores. To greenlight the project, they omitted words like “climate change” and “sea level rise” from the study’s description itself. According to the House of Delegates sponsor of the study, these are “liberal code words,” even though they are noncontroversial in the climate science community.
Instead of using climate change, sea level rise, and global warming, the study uses terms like “coastal resiliency” and “recurrent flooding.” Republican State Delegate Chris Stolle, who steered the legislation, cut “sea level rise” from the draft. Stolle has also said the “jury’s still out” on humans’ impact on global warming:
State Del. Chris Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, who insisted on changing the “sea level rise” study in the General Assembly to one on “recurrent flooding,” said he wants to get political speech out of the mix altogether.
He said “sea level rise” is a “left-wing term” that conjures up animosities on the right. So why bring it into the equation?
“What people care about is the floodwater coming through their door,” Stolle said. “Let’s focus on that. Let’s study that. So that’s what I wanted us to call it.”
There is a resistance to calling science what it is, even in the studies commissioned to investigate the impact of climate change. The reality is that coastal cities are spending millions to respond to rising sea levels, like Norfolk, Virginia. Norfolk spends $6 million a year to elevate roads, improve drainage, and help homeowners raise their houses, according to BBC. Already, 5 percent to 10 percent of the city’s lowest-lying neighborhoods have heavy flooding. The world’s largest naval base, based in Norfolk, is spending hundreds of millions to replace piers to withstand rising water. Yet they manage to make no mention of climate change or sea level rise in their response strategy.