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Hampton Roads: Climate Adaptation, Preparedness and Resilience Exercise

Hampton Roads from space, by NASA/JPL

Hampton Roads from space, by NASA/JPL

By, Sarah Volkman, Policy and Research Associate, Center for Climate and Security

Early this month, legislators convened in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia to discuss the impacts of sea level rise on the region at two major events. The threat to military installations in Hampton Roads has been one of the important discussions of the meetings.

“The thing that frightens me the most is the effect of climate on our military presence,” Senator Tim Kaine said at a December 5th conference hosted by William & Mary Law School’s Virginia Coastal Policy Clinic and the Center for Coastal Resources Management at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

In the Hampton Roads area, sea level has risen 14 inches since 1930 and the 1.6 million people in the region are the 2nd most vulnerable population center threatened by sea level rise in the U.S.. Projections for Norfolk Naval Base—the world’s largest naval base—predict that the main road into the naval base will be underwater for 2-3 hours a day by 2040.

On December 2nd, the Hampton Roads Climate Adaptation, Preparedness, and Resilience Exercise was convened by the National Security Council, with support from the FEMA National Exercise Division, at Old Dominion University, bringing together leaders in regional government to participate in a tabletop exercise

A keynote by Judge Alice Hill, senior adviser for preparedness and resilience at the National Security Council, highlighted lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy, emphasizing the importance of preparing for the “cascading effects” brought by a failure of one part of our infrastructure.

Both events happened in conjunction with the Hampton Roads Sea Level Rise Preparedness and Resilience Intergovernmental Planning Pilot Project, which is using a collaborative approach among government agencies, private industry, and academic research to develop an action plan to mitigate the impacts sea level rise. At a bipartisan meeting in June sponsored by Senator Kaine, Congressmen Scott Rigell, Robert C. “Bobby” Scott and Rob Wittman, Judge Alice Hill told the group, “This is a matter of national security… It’s a mission readiness issue.”


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