State leaders discuss what’s ahead for Virginia, climate

earthA panel of influential voices from across Virginia came together Tuesday to discuss climate change and public opinion, how it shaped the 2016 election, and policy efforts to reduce carbon pollution at George Mason University’s Center for Climate Communications.

The panelists discussed what 2017 – a critical year for climate action – may bring. The shift to a clean-energy economy in Virginia is already underway, driven by consumer demand and aided by market forces. Clean energy is cheaper than ever and public opinion strongly favors clean, renewable energy over dirty fuels like coal and fracked gas.

“The presidential election may be over, but the fight for a clean-energy-driven economy is certainly not,” Kate Addleson, Director of the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, said. “Most Virginians support actions to address climate change. So we will continue to strengthen our work at the state and local levels to cut carbon pollution, move beyond dirty fuels, and secure clean energy commitments.”

The impacts of climate change are being felt in Virginia, with flooding in coastal regions, record heat, and high asthma rates. By limiting carbon pollution, communities will benefit from cleaner air, expanded energy choices and the creation of innovative industries. Virginia is one of 19 states continuing to move forward with a carbon-reduction plan.

“The climate change that is already affecting Virginia won’t wait and neither will the clean energy economy that’s increasingly powering the rest of the nation,” Walton Shepherd, Staff Attorney and Policy Advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said. “That’s why Virginia’s move to start addressing climate pollution and expand carbon free renewable energy and energy efficiency is smart for the economy and our future.”

Panelist and speakers included Dr. Edward Maibach, University Professor and Director of the George Mason University Center for Climate Communication; Laura Martin, Director of Mission Integration and Congregational Care at the Rock Spring Unitarian Universalist Congregation; Josh Saks, Legislative Director with the National Wildlife Foundation; Walton Shepherd, Staff Attorney and Policy Advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council; and Rick Sterling, owner of Chantel Ray Real Estate. The moderator was Natasha Geiling, a reporter from ThinkProgress.

The event was co-sponsored by the George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication,  the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, Environment Virginia, Maryland-Delaware-Virginia Interfaith Power & Light, and the Virginia Conservation Network.

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