The area just south of Washington on the Potomac River and all the way north of Baltimore on the shores of Chesapeake Bay have become noticeably warmer over the past 22 years. Consequently, it is possible to grow species of plants in that zone that previously needed warmer, more southerly climates, such as those from Tidewater south.

According to a front-page Post story this morning, gardeners have known about the increased warming in the region for years. Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture has made it official. The general warming trend has manifested itself in other ways. Alligators have been spotted in southern Virginia beyond their usual limits in North Carolina.

The Agriculture Department warns that its study should not be taken as fresh evidence of climate change. It also found that parts of the West Coast and South Dakota actually have had colder winters.

Here in the mid-Atlantic, however, the comparison is unavoidable. And that brings up the next point.

If we’re up to our camellias in alligators, why are Virginia’s right-wing politicians continuing their persecutions of academics who suggest that global warming is real and man-made?

Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli has made a second career out of persecuting former University of Virginia climatologist Michael Mann, who says mankind is responsible for global warming, a view held by most scientific experts. After Cuccinelli saw his attempt at subpoenaing Mann’s records quashed by a court, his conservative comrade, Del. Bob Marshall of Prince William County, teamed up with the American Traditions Institute to get some of the records through the Freedom of Information Act.

Scientific evidence apparently means little to Cuccinelli or Marshall. What does it matter? Cuccinelli is running for governor and Marshall for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. Playing to the wing elements pays dividends.

Peter Galuszka blogs at Bacon’s Rebellion. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.