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WVEC: Climate change impacting Navy base, other national security infrastructure in Hampton Roads

Updated: Apr 28

Portsmouth Mayor Shannon Glover was among a few leaders in Hampton Roads advocating the Senate to pass funding to protect the area from climate change.


By Ali Weatherton


NORFOLK, Va. — Climate change is a major concern for people around the world and right here in Hampton Roads. Experts say our region is vulnerable to sea-level rise.


On Friday, Hampton Roads leaders along with others called on the U.S. Senate to pass funding to protect our national security infrastructure against climate change.


“If we don’t start addressing it now, we are going to have a real problem in the future,” explained Norfolk councilwoman Andria McClellan.


Gene Magruder, who is part of the local steelworkers union, said the money is desperately needed in Hampton Roads.


Organizers with the Climate Action Campaign said the Hampton Roads region is home to the largest naval base in the world -- Naval Station Norfolk -- where 150,000 active-duty and civilian personnel serve. The growing frequency and impact of extreme weather events inevitably compromises military preparedness and infrastructure around the country as well.


"It's important for us as a community to engage in the conversation first and also to work with our regional partners and a federal government to make sure that we create an environment that limits flooding and greater access for our citizens," explained Portsmouth Mayor Shannon Glover.


Organizers went on to say several U.S. coastal military bases, including ones located in Virginia, are projected to experience permanent land loss and over 1,000% increase in annual instances of flooding by 2050.


Magruder said, “I just want you to imagine Norfolk Naval Base under a foot and a half of water. That’s what we are looking for. It is projected. You can’t move Norfolk Naval Base.”


In November, the House of Representatives passed a $550 billion infrastructure legislation. Part of it will tackle climate change, national security and create clean energy jobs.


“We can build all of the ships and carriers you want at Newport News Shipbuilding, but we have to have a place to put them. If we can’t put them anywhere it’s going to cause layoffs at Newport News Shipbuilding,” said Magruder.


But people on the other side worry about who’s funding all of this?


Organizers with the Climate Action Campaign said wealthy and multinational corporations, as well as billionaires, would provide the additional taxes.


Organizers also said the investments will grow the economy, create jobs, and help us tackle climate change.


Top economists agree that the long-term benefits will far surpass the costs of the investments. They believe the environmental investments will reduce utility bills by moving the country to lower-cost clean energy while creating the next generation of good-paying jobs.


“There’s a great mechanism in place to do this, it’s not going to be a cost to most of our community members, indeed by implanting this we are going to lower the cost because we are going to create more energy-efficient jobs,” McClellan said.


The elected officials who attended Friday’s event thanked Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine for their commitment to climate action. They urge other senators to pass climate and clean energy priorities to meet President Joe Biden’s goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.


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