Senator Tim Kaine: Virginia can be a solution to climate change

Former Virginia Governor and current Senator Tim Kaine (VA) says that Virginia can both serve as a prime example of climate change but also be forerunner in climate change solutions.

Kaine spoke at the Center for Global Studies’ “Global Energy Policy: Transition and Transformation,” part of the 12th Annual Spring Conference at George Mason University’s Arlington campus.

“In Virginia we see [climate change] every day. It may not be as completely present every day in Northern Virginia, but the second most populous area in Virginia is Hampton Roads [and] people are seeing it every day [there],” Kaine said, noting that the Hampton Roads area is commonly affected by flooding and rising sea levels.

During his time as governor, Kaine said these issues were brought to his attention as an energy plan was also being created to tackle climate.

“I developed as a non-energy professional a pretty simple rubric about climate, and that is we’ve got to be cleaner tomorrow than today,” Kaine said.

With Virginians seeing these issues every day, Kaine said, it’s easy for them to believe climate change is a real issue.

“I was very happy to see in polling that Virginians overwhelmingly believe humans are affecting climate, this is a serious issue, we need to do something about it, [and] we ought to do something soon,” Kaine said.

Kaine continued that the next step is considering what to do about climate change. He said the opinions are spread out a little, which is understandable, but he is happy that at least Virginia is not a state where there is a significant challenge to the reality of climate science.

The Clean Power Plan, released by the Environmental Protection Agency, will be another issue coming before Congress. The new plan regulates carbon dioxide as a pollutant and calls for Virginia to drop its CO2 emissions in power production by 30% by 2030.

“That’s big,” Kaine said. “But if you look at what we’ve done in the last 15 years, we’ve done that. It’s not out of reach. It’s going to push us, it’s going to challenge us, it will challenge the George Masons of the world, but there’s no reason for us to feel like we can’t do this.”

Outside of Virginia, the Keystone XL pipeline is an environmental concern that Kaine had to dig into when he got into the Senate because he did not really understand the issue.

“[The] Keystone Pipeline was presented as a pipeline and I was like, ‘Well I was a Mayor. We had a gas utility, we had pipelines. I’m not anti-pipeline,’” Kaine said. “But I eventually concluded that it’s not about the pipeline, it’s about tar sands oil and it [goes against my climate rubric because] tar sands oil is dirtier tomorrow than today.”

This realization led the senator to vote against the Keystone XL pipeline and he said that voting against such ideas needs to be done at the federal level if the U.S. is to embrace cleaner technologies.

Kaine said he is an optimist about the innovative capacity  of the United States and Virginia and he is realistic enough to know that everybody around the world is grappling with similar environmental issues.

“The societies that get to the answers shortly before the others will be the societies that are manufacturing the technology that others are going to be buying,” Kaine said. “There isn’t any reason that can’t be the United States and Virginia.”

Photo Credit: Pamela Phan