North Carolina Legislature Says Hear No Evil Sea No Evil

Chris Carnevale | June 13, 2012 | Climate Change
House in South Nags Head

The North Carolina Legislature has officially crossed over into crazy.  Two prominent bills widely reported on by the national media in recent weeks want to remove science from decision-making processes, deliberately putting North Carolinians in harm’s way.  One of these bills would outlaw the use of scientifically-formulated sea level rise projections in coastal regulations and policies and legislate what selective data will be allowed to be used.  While this might seem like a dystopian George Orwell or Ayn Rand novel, it is actually today’s North Carolina state legislature.

The North Carolina House of Representatives may vote on this bill as early as tonight!  If you’re a NC resident, click here to make a difference NOW!

Specifically this bill would outlaw the use of projections of accelerated rates of sea level rise caused by global warming (which predicts a few feet of sea level rise by 2100) and instead limit regulatory authorities to using only historical data to predict future sea level rise (which would end up being about 8 inches of sea level rise by 2100).

Following this same logic, comedian Stephen Colbert points out that by basing predictions of the future solely on historical data:

if we consider only historical data, I’ve been alive my entire life.  Therefore, I always will be.  And, if you extrapolate my life from the critical periods of age 8 to 18, I will grow to be over 20 feet tall.

Clearly this reasoning doesn’t work.  And furthermore, it’s dangerous.  Just ask the tens millions of Americans who lost their life savings in the post-2007 recession by optimistically investing under the assumption of the economy maintaining its upward trend.  Unfortunately, and perhaps to the detriment of local coastal residents, the past does not always equate to the future.

Elizabeth City with 1.5 meters sea level rise. Courtesy Architecture 2030.

As the News & Observer recently reported, local city officials are concerned about this new policy.  It will “tie their hands,” be “overly restrictive,” and make it unable for communities to chart the course of action that is right for themselves.  And it seems like an especially bad policy in comparison to other states that are actively embracing planning: Maine is preparing for a rise of up to 2 meters by 2100, Delaware 1.5 meters, Louisiana 1 meter and California 1.4 meters. Southeastern Florida projects up to a 2-foot rise by 2060.

The actions of the NC state legislature should be an outrage to coastal residents whose communities will be endangered and exposed to unnecessary liabilities, to state and local level regulatory and planning agencies who will have their authority usurped, and to proponents of decentralization of political power (looking at you, Tea Partiers) and to those residents in favor of climate action.  These legislative idiocies are in insult to the people of North Carolina and should be abandoned immediately.  Not only do they make a mockery of the Legislature’s ability to reason, but they cause true harm to the communities these decision makers are supposed to be looking out for.

If you are a North Carolina resident, PLEASE CLICK HERE NOW to submit an email to your legislators and find your legislators’ phone numbers here.

See SACE’s video about sea level rise in North Carolina, “Treasure Places in Peril” here.

Chris Carnevale
Based in Charleston, South Carolina, Chris is SACE’s Coastal Climate and Energy Manager and South Carolina State Affairs Liaison. His work focuses on building a critical mass of support for…
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