Researchers say global warming hurts Virginia

A new report by the 10 assorted scientists in the greenhouse gas working group at the State Advisory Board on Air Pollution, a division of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, concludes that global warming may be on the verge of wreaking havoc on Virginia's ecosystems, tourism industry, and general well being.

"A particular concern is sea level rise," says the 90-page document released January 5. "[International Panel on Climate Change] scenarios suggest a 3.5 to 34.6 inches (0.09 to 0.88 meters) rise by 2100, but accelerated polar ice melting may increase this.

"Sea level rise," the report continues, "can cause coastal inundation, beach loss, salt water intrusion into fresh water supplies, increased vulnerability of coastal areas to storms and substantial stresses on Virginia's agricultural and other resources."

It declares Virginia is not a leading state in promoting energy efficiency or providing "clean energy options."

UVA's state climatologist Pat Michaels has long been skeptical of such fears and maintains that any moderate climate trends are cyclical and will eventually reverse themselves. Parts of his World Climate Report web site can seem like an indirect rebuttal of the group's findings. Take the concluding paragraphs of last Friday's post, for example:

"The global warmers have generated a million websites featuring their ridiculous comparison between tobacco scientists who denied the health consequences of smoking and almost any scientist who questions one word of the popularized presentations of the greenhouse effect–global warming issue."

But Jerry Stenger, research coordinator for the same State Climatology Office, feels otherwise, at least as quoted in the Richmond Times-Dispatch: "Certainly there is little doubt we have been seeing global average temperature increases over the last several decades, and surely at least part, if not most of this, is related to human activity," he said.

Media attention, especially Al Gore's book and accompanying film An Inconvenient Truth but also including the critically derided 2004 popcorn flick The Day After Tomorrow, has recently escalated the fierce debate over global warming. One thing is certain: for Charlottesville, this is certainly one of the warmest winters in recent memory. We'll see next year – or perhaps in 2009 or 2010 – whether Michaels or the Advisory Board was right.