(Stacker) — A temperature increase of one or two degrees doesn’t seem like a lot. You would barely notice the change on a sunny afternoon, or in the warmth of a cup of coffee. But over time, it’s enough to change our environment from top to bottom.
Since 1970, Virginia has grown 1.58 degrees Fahrenheit warmer – but the state hasn’t warmed uniformly.
According to that data, Norfolk and Richmond are warming faster than the state on average. Both cities have warmed 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970 – meaning the two cities are warming just over 50% faster than the state as a whole.
(Data: NOAA National Centers for Environmental information, Climate at a Glance: Statewide Time Series, published August 2021, retrieved on August 28, 2021 from https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cag/)
In addition to temperature anomalies, the state has experienced increasingly frequent and destructive storms and flooding.
Nearly two-thirds of Virginia’s electricity is generated by the burning of fossil fuels. Two proposed projects—the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline—would cross the state carrying natural gas from West Virginia, and have prompted concern they will strengthen Virginia’s links to natural gas.
The leading cause of temperature increases today is human-derived greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide and methane, which trap heat in our atmosphere.
Plants and trees mitigate the situation somewhat by absorbing carbon dioxide to produce oxygen. The ocean absorbs carbon dioxide, too, but that process makes it more acidic.
As temperatures rise, winters grow shorter. The ice on the Great Lakes forms later and disappears earlier. Colorado’s snowpack is melting as much as 30 days sooner than it was just a generation ago. With less snow in the New Mexico and Colorado mountains to feed the Rio Grande, the river is drying up.
Meanwhile, springs are wetter, with flooding more common (and more destructive), and summers are drier with longer stifling heat waves that can be debilitating—and deadly—for those who cannot afford the price of staying cool. Wildfires are whipped across mountain forests by overheated winds, and barges run aground in the low waters of the Mississippi River.
Evaporation threatens supplies of water for drinking and irrigation, while algal blooms choke inland lakes. In the heartland, crop yields are declining. Along the coasts, land is getting too salty for farming, as intruding saltwater seeps into freshwater aquifers and groundwater. Dairy and beef cattle stop eating, foliage trees grow dull, and sugar maple trees die.
Spectacular beaches are also disappearing. Rising seas threaten the existence of scenic barrier islands, and ocean levels around the world could rise more than four feet by 2100 if aggressive mitigation efforts aren’t undertaken, according to a study published on May 8, 2020, in npj Climate and Atmospheric Science.