At the start of each summer, outdoor sports enthusiasts and athletes gather in RVA to fight for the championship title in everything from Slackline to Speed Bouldering, Endurance Paddleboarding, Mountainbiking, and more. This weekend festival, sponsored by Dominion, is a mecca for lovers of nature and everything outdoors. Kind of ironic that Dominion, Virginia's top climate polluter, sponsors an event celebrating the outdoors while they're simultaneously destryong the planet, don't you think?
We thought so too. So this weekend at Riverrock, a group of climate activists took to the streets of Riverrock to get that message our to athletes, spectators, and Dominion itself. Our strategy? Photobombing Dominion's Instagram contest.
What does global warming have in store for outdoor sports enthusiasts?
WHEEZING RUNNERS (from more intense allergy seasons)
DRIED UP RIVERS (from more intense droughts)
CODE RED AIR QUALITY (from more intense heat waves)
And who’s the top contributor of climate pollution in Virginia? Dominion Power.
Sponsoring events like Dominion Riverrock, Richmond’s annual outdoor sports festival, can’t erase the company’s huge contribution to the global climate crisis. If Dominion wants good PR, the company should not only sponsor community events, like Riverrock, but also make a real commitment to clean energy, like wind and solar power, instead of building more and more massive fossil fuel plants.
That’s the message we're bringing to Dominion Riverrock on this weekend in Richmond. Sports enthusiasts who are also fans of a stable climate are wearing t-shirts bearing the message while participating in events.
They're even adding to the fun by entering photos with folks who agree with our message into the event's Instagram contest! How fun is that? Check out the photos:
For an idea of how increased extreme weather, like droughts and floods, are already in the picture from climate change, check out this Huffington Post piece.
Climate studies have warned us to expect more frequent and intense extreme events, such as heavy rain and snow storms, along with heat waves. While weather variability is nothing new, the wild swings in weather — termed "weather whiplash" and that have recently occurred across the Midwest and South Central states during the past few years, from record flood to record drought and back to record flood — may be an example of what’s in store as global warming continues to alter the atmosphere.
To learn more about how climate change affects air quality, check out the recent report on the topic from the Union of Concerned scientists, which projected that Virginia would be one of the top 10 most affected states.
Ground-level ozone, the primary component of smog, is generated by chemical reactions between nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) triggered by heat and sunlight. Warmer average temperatures from a changing climate may elevate ozone concentrations in many parts of the country, especially in and around urban areas.
Warmer temperatures also are associated with stagnant air conditions that can cause ozone pollution to settle over an area and remain for extended periods of time.
The UCS analysis, which used the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Environmental Benefits Mapping model, calculated national impacts and ranked the 10 states most likely to experience the worst health impacts and highest costs in 2020.
In terms of costs, it found that California would be hit hardest, followed by Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey and Virginia. These states are most vulnerable because they have a combination of the largest number of residents living in urban areas, large numbers of children and seniors, and high levels of nitrogen oxides and VOC emissions from vehicles and power plants.
And finally, for more information about allergies and climate change, check out this early spring Huffington Post piece.
The planet is getting warmer, and human behavior is responsible. The changing climate has brought early spring, late-ending fall, and large amounts of rain and snow. All of that, combined with historically high levels of carbon dioxide in the air, nourishes the trees and plants that make pollen, and encourages more fungal growth, such as mold, and the release of spores.
We will be paying a wretched price in the coming months for the behavior fueling the explosion of pollen, which are the tiny reproductive cells found in trees, weeds, plants and grasses. By all accounts, there will be more pollen this year than ever before.
Most trees release their pollen in the early spring, while grasses do so in late spring and early summer. Ragweed makes its pollen in the late summer and early fall.
And pollen production is only part of the impact that global warming is going to have on allergies and asthma — and our health overall.
In areas of the country experiencing prolonged heat and drought, dust will worsen air pollution, exacerbating asthma and other respiratory diseases. In other regions, climate change will affect the insect population — their stings and bites can provoke fatal allergic reactions in sensitive individuals — as well as the proliferation of such vines as poison ivy. Poison ivy thrives with increased carbon dioxide, and as a result, now makes a far more potent urushiol — the oil that causes poison-ivy-triggered rashes — than in the past.
We now live in a world of veritable science fiction. Last week, scientists reported that our delicate, life-giving global atmosphere has reached a new level of danger: 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide concentration. There hasn't been this much heat-trapping CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere in at least 3 million years, long before human beings evolved. If there was ever a wake-up-call moment on global warming, a time to become really alarmed, it's now!
Over 100 people, primarily Appalachia residents, took action today at the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C., calling for the EPA to use its powers to end mountaintop removal.
15 people, including a couple of youth no older than 10, risked arrest by sitting in front of a main entrance to EPA. They sat next to about 75 one-gallon containers of dirty and toxic water brought to DC by Appalachian residents, the kind of water produced by mountaintop removal operations.
I should be a firefighter. I think I’d be great. When I retire from advocacy, I might pursue my true calling. Keep in mind that my faith in my firefighting abilities is almost entirely baseless. I have no training, no particular skills, nor the will or courage necessary to run into burning buildings to save lives and properties.
But in a sheer metaphorical sense, I’m already a firefighter. Every so often unexpected problems arise that need serious attention. Look no further than the George Washington National Forest, where natural gas companies appear to be on the brink of successfully convincing the Forest Service to overturn its 15-year ban on fracking. Sound the alarm. This is a fire that must be put out immediately!
Today I attended my third Dominion Resources annual shareholder meeting, the company’s 104th. And woah! What a day! The company, which provides 2/3 of Virginia's electricity, announced the results of voting on a resolution addressing the financial risks of climate change, which I worked with a shareholder to introduce. It received an unprecedented 22% of the shareholder vote! While that may not sound like much, in the shareholder activism world, anything over 10% is extraordinary. Resolutions are typically introduced not with passage as the goal but with the intention to educate board members and shareholders.
Outside of the meeting, which was held at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, about 20 activists volunteering with CCAN, Sierra Club and Appalachian Voices held their own “exhibit” of altered artwork to represent the unrecognizable future of rising seas, extreme weather disasters and destroyed mountains that Dominion is leading Virginia toward. The "masterpieces" included a Starry Night marred by mountaintop removal mining, The Birth of Venus submerged by rising seas -- a reality all too close to home for residents of Hampton Roads -- and Napoleon, with CEO Tom Farrell moonlighting as the emperor of climate pollution.
Dominion is Virginia’s biggest climate polluter and a major purchaser of coal from mountaintop removal mining. On the other hand, the company has yet to bring a single kilowatt of utility-scale wind or solar power online for Virginia customers.
Activists got a pleasant surprise when Delegate Peter Farrell, son of Dominion CEO Tom Farrell, wandered by. The Virginia General Assembly member stopped to check out the action, and listened as one of his constituents explained we were there to call attention to Dominion's climate pollution and the impacts of the company's fossil fuel-fired energy. Then he asked to take a picture of our artwork featuring his CEO father!
Back inside the meeting, I presented the resolution (item 8 on the 2013 proxy) calling on leadership to report on risks posed to shareholders by climate change, especially extreme weather. The proposal noted that the three most costly extreme weather events in Dominion's 104-year history-- Hurricane Isabel, Hurricane Irene, and last year's derecho-- have all come within the last decade. In presenting the resolution to the shareholders at the meeting, I talked about residents of coastal Norfolk whose houses have flooded repeatedly due to sea-level rise and increasing storm activity. I pointed out that these folks who live in ground zero of the climate crisis are examining the risks posed by climate change and deciding what to do. Some are literally raising their houses up on platforms to avoid the water, some are moving inland and some are buying solar panels to lower their contribution to the crisis. Clearly 22% of Dominion shareholders agree with me that the company needs to take a cue from Norfolk residents and examine what's coming and decide where to go.
Other proposals received solid support. A proposal to link executive compensation to sustainability metrics received 7%, one related to mountaintop removal coal mining received 6% and one related to nuclear power safety received 4%. In recent memory, the highest vote percentage received by a shareholder resolution that the Dominion board urged shareholders to reject -- in other words, all of the environmentally focused resolutions -- was 16%. That was received by a 2011 proposal related to the community impacts of power plant retirements.
Millions of Americans have recognized the need to take action now to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and the latest movie from 350.org highlights the movement's growing strength. Watch the movie, and then join us in action!
Global warming will shift world's wine-growing regions
Have a favorite local vineyard in Virginia or Maryland? Make sure to get its wine while you can. A study released recently by Conservation International and Environmental Defense Fund found that the world's wine-growing regions will shift as the planet heats up. While other studies have examined the impact of climate change on specific wine-growing regions, like California, this is the first one I've seen that provides global maps.
Check out the map I pulled from Environmental Defense Fund's Google Earth flyover video:
Why will the warming of the planet by a few degrees have such a dramatic impact? Wine grapes are incredibly delicate crops. Even small changes in temperature can mean the difference between a $100 Cabernet Sauvignon and cooking sherry. With ripening timelines shifting, some vintners in California have been forced to harvest their fruit in the middle of the night to get it when it’s cool. Warming can also bring more risk of bacterial diseases, like Pierce’s disease, to vineyards.
As part of an ongoing effort to fight the Keystone XL pipeline, community members and Virginia Commonwealth University students met with Senator Mark Warner's staff during Earth Week to set the record straight on the Tar Sands pipeline project.