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.”
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)
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