North Carolina Developers Promote Law to Limit Planning for Rise in Sea Level

Sunday, June 03, 2012
Like the ancient Persian King Xerxes, who ordered the sea whipped and chained for destroying a bridge his army needed to cross, real estate developers in North Carolina are pushing a law to prohibit rising sea levels owing to global warming–or at least prohibit coastal officials from planning for them. They have criticized a 2010 expert panel report on rising sea levels that recommended planning for a sea rise of up to 55 inches. The developers, who have started an organization called NC-20, argue that planning for significantly higher sea levels will raise costs and retard coastal development, and that global warming climate science is unreliable.
However, climate scientists overwhelmingly project the world’s oceans will rise at a faster and faster rate this century as the climate warms, permanently flooding thousands of square miles of coastal land. How quickly and how much the waters rise will depend on how hot the climate gets and how fast glaciers melt, but coastal states are generally recognizing the consensus that sea levels will rise between 1 and 1.5 meters by 2100. Maine, for example, is adopting a plan for a rise of up to 79 inches by 2100, while Delaware is preparing for up to 60 inches, California 55 inches, and Louisiana 39 inches. Southeastern Florida projects a 24-inch rise by 2060.
NC-20 has had some success, as the Coastal Commission agreed to remove references to planning benchmarks and new development standards for areas likely to be flooded, and the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management, which has a $5 million federal grant to analyze the impact of rising sea levels, reduced its worst-case scenario prediction from 39 inches to 15 inches by 2100. But NC-20 wants more, and has arranged for the introduction of a bill that would limit forecasts for 21st century sea-level rise to what the ocean along the N.C. coast did during the 20th century. Using that standard, the state would plan for rise of about 12 inches by 2100.
But East Carolina University geologist Stan Riggs, a science panel member who is an expert on the evolution of the North Carolina coast, criticized the anti-science nature of the proposed bill. “We’re throwing this science out completely, and what’s proposed is just crazy for a state that used to be a leader in marine science,” he said of the proposed legislation. “You can’t legislate the ocean, and you can’t legislate storms.”
-Matt Bewig
To Learn More:
Coastal N.C. Counties Fighting Sea-Level Rise Prediction (by Bruce Henderson, Raleigh News & Observer)
Sea-Level Rise Debate May Move to Raleigh (by Kirk Ross, Coastal Review Online)
NC Considers Making Sea Level Rise Illegal (by Scott Huler, Scientific American)


SeattleGardenGirl 9 years ago
my first read of this article made laugh -- literally, out loud. really? developers, landowners, whoever you are -- you cannot stop sea level rise by wishing it would go away. then i almomst cried. we would have a hard time stopping it with a combined, conserted global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. and it's not just the sea level rise -- how about all of those hurricanes and major storms hitting your beautiful coastal developments? i used to try to argue with folks like nc-20 who thought that all of us scientists were part of a yuppy liberal conspiracy, and that peer-review of scientific grants and publications was all part of a giant scam. now i just sigh, and feel a little sad, because you can't have rational arguments with folks who are not rational, who do not appear to understand science or the scientific method, and who think that wishing something will be so will automatically make it so. i've wished for years that everyone in this country understood basic science, and obeyed the rules of logic when making decisions (especially those that impact others), but alas -- wishing hasn't made it so. wishing climate change, sea level rise, and major hurricanes away won't make it so either. good luck with that, nc-20. something tells me your efforts to hold back the waves won't work very well...
Lola Sandvik 9 years ago
if (inter)national ridicule doesn't work perhaps north carolinians should let their legislators know exactly how awful this denial is: petition
Bothrops 9 years ago
bill, in the words of the lord to noah "how long can you tread water?"
Bill Price 9 years ago
no one disputes that sea level has been rising since the last ice age - very slowly;  and certainly, if sea level rise is accelerating rapidly, we need to know about it, and plan for it. to do that, the proposed nc sea level rise law appears to be for “comprehensive verifiable science”,  and  against  “selective political science”.  what’s the problem? we know that the crc science panel said, sl has been and is rising 18 inches / 100y , and scientists said that 1 foot of slr would inundate up to 2 miles of tidelands, and sure, scientific reports do show natural and government induced erosion (while generally ignoring accretion ), but they fail to differentiate between erosion and inundation. a real world problem with the sp and the scientist's reports is, a visual comparison of 1850’s us coast survey surveys of nc tidelands, with recent surveys , don’t seem to show 4 miles ( 150 y @ 18 inches / 100y ), or 2 miles ( 1 foot) , or even 1 mile ( 6 inches slr/ 100y) of inundation. when asked about this, the scientists have refused to answer questions, have declined to do analysis of the surveys, and have refused to participate in an open public forum. (  if they know it all, they should be able to answer several simple questions. ) instead they have tried to denigrate we skeptics as ”willfully ignorant” developers against science, even though it’s the local property owners and governments ( along the esturine tidelands ) that will be most hurt by the slr rules, not the developers. as an excuse for the lank of science, the science panel said they weren't asked to do, and didn't do rigorous science, but regrettably, the sps literature search,  was all  selected pro agw and pro slr reports, with no skeptical reports. totally one sided. ( although, considering that the noaa “no regrets” office in charleston, is paying scientists millions to prove slr and agw, it’s not surprising that there’s lots of pro agw and slr literature.) so, maybe sea level rise will accelerate.  maybe not. to be sure, we recognize that, sometimes, decisions should be made based on the preponderance of the evidence, but it's difficult to have confidence in evidence from scientists that:  - won't  provide verifiable science, even on past slr trends, - won't answer simple questions, and - won't participate in an open public forum  but  - then demand people accept their fortunetelling.  are we supposed to blindly accept what the scientists say, and do what they demand without question? looks like the nc general assembly is just trying to get some comprehensive verifiable science, before making important public policy decisions. bill price pine knoll shores

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