Great Moments in Political Science: North Carolina Will Look at Sea Level, but Only 30 Years Out

May 17, 2014

Exquisitely timed for this week’s bad news about Antarctic melt.  When we last looked in on the North Carolina legislature, they were outlawing the study of sea level rise impacts on coastal real estate.

Now, a Solomonic compromise has been reached.

The State:

ATLANTIC BEACH — Hoping to avoid a repeat of the uproar sparked in 2010 when a state science panel warned of a possible 39-inch rise in sea level by the end of this century, the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission decreed Thursday that the next official forecast will look no farther than 30 years into the future.

“We could add credibility to the study if we limit the time frame we’re asking people to consider,” commission chairman Frank Gorham III said.

Many critics of the panel’s earlier forecast had attacked its premise that the recent slow rate of sea-level rise would begin a dramatic acceleration sometime later in this century. They ridiculed a “hockey stick” curve used to portray a rapid rise that would submerge much of the coast by 2100.

But there should be little disagreement next year, commissioners and scientists agreed Thursday, when the advisory panel of geologists and engineers issues a new forecast that is likely to show only a moderate increase for the next 30 years.

The commission will ask for a “rolling 30-year update” of the forecast every five years, Gorham said.

“If it turns out 10 years from now there is a hockey stick starting, we’re going to see that in five or 10 years,” Gorham said.

The science panel’s original report said the sea-level forecast for 2100 was uncertain, and it cited projections ranging from 15 inches to five feet. Asked to settle on one number, the panel concluded that the state should plan for a possible rise of 39 inches.

Developers and political leaders worried that the warning would chill the coastal economy. The state legislature in 2012 told the Coastal Resources Commission to develop a new forecast, and it ordered a moratorium on sea-level policy until 2016. The commission took up this assignment Thursday.

Commission member Bob Emory of New Bern agreed with Gorham that a 30-year focus will give the state a more solid base for making new regulations. But he argued that the scientists also should be allowed to consider a longer time horizon.

“I don’t see why we couldn’t do both,” Emory said. “We can make clear that, based on an 85- or 100-year forecast, we’re not calling for regulation. But we can provide it for the public as an informational and educational opportunity.”



6 Responses to “Great Moments in Political Science: North Carolina Will Look at Sea Level, but Only 30 Years Out”

  1. […] Exquisitely timed for this week's bad news about Antarctic melt. When we last looked in on the North Carolina legislature, they were outlawing the study of sea level rise impacts on coastal real e…  […]

  2. A classic case of the external costs of burning fossil fuels being borne by tax payers.

    But I guess that the majority of US citizens* would rather remain blissfully ignorant of the threat until it’s too late.

    * Only 40% of US citizens acknowledge we are the cause of climate change, which shows inredible ignorance.

  3. dumboldguy Says:

    Two of the best Crock video clips ever here. “This Is Not Happening” needs to be shown often on a double billing with “The Black Knight”—-both are relevant to the mindlessness of the NC legislators. The “Yes Virginia” clip is one of the best overview videos you have producedm, and should be trotted out frequently for reruns.

    In emulation of the “don’t worry, be happy” mindset of the NC folks, I think we should all adopt the “look no further than 30 years out” approach in our daily lives. For example, think how much more stress free driving would be if one looked no further than the rear bumper of the car in front of them rather than at the cars further down the road that may be getting involved in a massive pileup. And the “look in the rear view mirror for answers” approach is good too. After all, you’ve already traveled the road behind you and survived, so why not plan where you’re going based on where you’ve been?

    Yes, we can really see the mindlessness of the Dave Burtons and the greed of the NC-20 folks in play here.

  4. ubrew12 Says:

    Who will be fooled by this 30 year prediction limit? Young Homeowners
    Who will not be fooled? Property Insurers

    Way to support your citizens, NC

  5. Anybody that lives near a coast line and insists on looking “only 30 years out” probably deserves what they get. History supports this outcome. Non-adapatable animals were eliminated.

    We really don’t need any other evidence to identify our fate.

  6. […] 2014/05/17: PSinclair: Great Moments in Political Science: North Carolina Will Look at Sea Level, bu… […]

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