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04 June 2012

FollowUp 12: Republican Denial of Climate Change

Cape Hatteras lighthouse being moved inland due to rising sea levels, 2000.
One of the long anticipated results of climate change is change in sea level.  This is understood by scientists and discussed at the website of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Sea level is rising along most of the U.S. coast, and around the world. In the last century, sea level rose 5 to 6 inches more than the global average along the Mid-Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, because coastal lands there are subsiding.
Higher temperatures are expected to further raise sea level by expanding ocean water, melting mountain glaciers and small ice caps, and causing portions of Greenland and the Antarctic ice sheets to melt. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that the global average sea level will rise between 0.6 and 2 feet (0.18 to 0.59 meters) in the next century (IPCC, 2007).
The range reflects uncertainty about global temperature projections and how rapidly ice sheets will melt or slide into the ocean in response to the warmer temperatures. Furthermore, some processes affecting sea level have long (centuries and longer) time-scales, so that current sea level change is also related to past climate change, and some relevant processes are not determined solely by climate. Climate models, satellite data and hydrographic observations demonstrate that sea level is not rising uniformly around the world. Depending on the region, sea level has risen several times the global mean rise, or has actually fallen (IPCC, 2007). While current model projections indicate substantial variability in future sea level rise at regional and local scales, the IPCC has concluded that the impacts are “virtually certain to be overwhelmingly negative” (IPCC, 2007).
Rising sea levels inundate wetlands and other low-lying lands, erode beaches, intensify flooding, and increase the salinity of rivers, bays, and groundwater tables. Some of these effects may be further compounded by other effects of a changing climate. Additionally, measures that people take to protect private property from rising sea level may have adverse effects on the environment and on public uses of beaches and waterways. Some property owners and state and local governments are already starting to take measures to prepare for the consequences of rising sea level.
Among those Mid-Atlantic states that are expected to be most affected is North Carolina.  But, the House of the North Carolina General Assembly has passed HB 819, legislation that is now under consideration by their Senate, to ban consideration of science in planning for sea level rise.  Here is the germane section of that legislation:
"§ 113A-107.1. Sea-level policy restrictions; calculation of rate of sea-level rise.
(a) No State agency, board, commission, institution, or other public entity thereof shall adopt any rule, policy, or planning guideline addressing sea-level rise, unless authorized to do so under this Article.
(b) No county, municipality, or other local public body shall adopt any rule, ordinance, policy, or planning guideline addressing sea-level rise, unless it is a coastal-area county or is located within a coastal-area county.
(c) No rule, ordinance, policy, or planning guideline that defines the rate of sea-level rise shall be adopted except as provided by this section.
(d) The General Assembly does not intend to mandate the development of sea-level rise policy or rates of sea-level rise. If, however, the Coastal Resources Commission decides to develop rates of sea-level rise, the Commission may do so, but only by instructing the Division of Coastal Management to calculate the rates.
(e) The Division of Coastal Management shall be the only State agency authorized to develop rates of sea-level rise and shall do so only at the request of the Commission. These rates shall only be determined using historical data, and these data shall be limited to the time period following the year 1900. Rates of sea-level rise may be extrapolated linearly to estimate future rates of rise but shall not include scenarios of accelerated rates of sea-level rise. Rates of sea-level rise shall not be one rate for the entire coast but, rather, the Division shall consider separately oceanfront and estuarine shorelines. For oceanfront shorelines, the Division shall use no fewer than the four regions defined in the April 2011 report entitled "North Carolina Beach and Inlet Management Plan" published by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The oceanfront regions are: Region 1 (Brunswick County), Region 2 (New Hanover, Pender, and Onslow Counties and a portion of Carteret County), Region 3 (a portion of Carteret County and Hyde County), and Region 4 (Dare and Currituck Counties). For estuarine shorelines, the Division shall consider no fewer than two separate regions defined as those north of Cape Lookout and those south of Cape Lookout.
(f) Any State agency, board, commission, institution, or other public entity thereof and any county, municipality, or other local public body that develops a policy addressing sea-level rise that includes a rate of sea-level rise shall use only the rates of sea-level rise developed by the Division of Coastal Management as approved by the Commission. If the Commission has not approved a sea-level rise rate, then the sea-level rise policy shall not use a rate of sea-level rise.
(g) If the Commission chooses to adopt rates of sea-level rise for the coastal area as developed by the Division, all rates shall be adopted as rules that are subject to Chapter 150B of the General Statutes."
I have enlarged and emboldened the sentence which effectively states that modern scientific models may not be considered.  Discussion of this on the blogs at Scientific American is appropriate titled, NC Considers Making Sea Level Rise Illegal.  Perhaps we should get legislation going to outlaw ignorance....

1 October 2011, Original Pedantic Political Ponderings post.
10 October 2011, FollowUp 1.
11 October 2011, FollowUp 2.
17 October 2011, FollowUp 3.
21 October 2011, FollowUp 4.
27 October 2011, FollowUp 5.
30 November 2011, FollowUp 6.
29 January 2012, FollowUp 7.
15 February 2012, FollowUp 8.
18 February 2012, FollowUp 9.
2 March 2012, FollowUp 10.
11 March 2012, FollowUp 11.


  1. The light house was NOT moved due to rising sea levels. The Light house had to be moved because the outer banks are continually migrating west due to wind, wave, and ocean currents. Your use of such a blatant falsehood only highlights the the lack of real evidence to support your claim.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. NOAA disagrees with your statement, anonymous.

      Of course, the moving of the lighthouse was not my main point. That sea level rise is real was not my main point. That the government of North Carolina is trying to legislate away scientific realities was my main point. Facts and science should never be legislated away.


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