WashPost Piece on Carolina Sea Level Quotes Bogus “Physicist”

June 26, 2014

Above, Jim White of the University of Colorado puts climate change in real, on-the-ground perspective.

Below, Washpost notes the creeping realization that, for life in low lying areas,  the climate clock is ticking.

Backstory: media still unable to distinguish actual authorities from self-described “experts”.

Washington Post:

 The dangers of climate change were revealed to Willo Kelly in a government conference room in the summer of 2011. By the end of the century, state officials said, the ocean would be 39 inches higher and her home on the Outer Banks would be swamped.

The state had detailed maps to illustrate this claim and was developing aWeb site where people could check by street address to see if their property was doomed. There was no talk of salvation, no plan to hold back the tide. The 39-inch forecast was “a death sentence,” Kelly said, “for ever trying to sell your house.”

So Kelly, a lobbyist for Realtors and home builders on the Outer Banks, resolved to prove the forecast wrong. And thus began one of the nation’s most notorious battles over climate change.

Coastal residents joined forces with climate skeptics to attack the science of global warming and persuade North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature to deep-six the 39-inch projection, which had been advanced under the outgoing Democratic governor. Now, the state is working on a new forecast that will look only 30 years out and therefore show the seas rising by no more than eight inches.

Environmentalists are appalled, and North Carolina has been lampooned as a hotbed of greedy developers trying to “outlaw” the rising tide. Some climate-change experts are sympathetic, however, calling the rebellion an understandable reaction to sea-level forecasts that are rapidly becoming both widely available and alarmingly precise.

The main problem they have is fear,” said Michael Orbach, a marine policy professor at Duke University who has met with coastal leaders. “They realize this is going to have a huge impact on the coastal economy and coastal development interests. And, at this point, we don’t actually know what we’re going to do about it.”

Cities such as Norfolk and Miami have embraced the data, identifying inundation zones as a first step toward planning — and seeking federal funds for — sea walls, floodgates and other forms of protection. On lonelier stretches of the U.S. shoreline, however, government aid seems less likely than interference and abandonment, and the forecasts are sparking deep anxiety about the future.

Even with an eight-inch forecast, 414 Dare County properties worth $70 million would be marked for inundation. If the state ever activates the Web site that lets potential investors search by address, Kelly said, “all of a sudden, those properties would be worthless.”

Nationwide, $700 billion of coastal property could be below mean sea level by the end of the century — and an additional $730 billion could be at risk at high tide — without new policies to forestall climate change, according to a new report by the Risky Business Project, a high-powered group of financial and political figures who are set to meet Wednesday with senior Obama administration officials.

The Post piece also contained this:

“They said there were numerous things the county had to start doing: Raise roads, elevate bridges, rezone land. Any property affected by 39 inches, they wanted to be rezoned as uninhabitable,” said John Droz, a local physicist who was quickly recruited by Carteret County officials to undertake an independent review of the 39-inch forecast.

Which prompted this from MediaMatters:

Journalists should not be duped into portraying anti-wind energy activist John Droz Jr. as simply a “physicist” and an expert on issues related to climate change. Droz has cast doubt on man-made climate change and undermined scientifically accurate sea-level rise predictions in North Carolina, despite admitting he has no expertise in either area.

Wash. Post: Droz Is A “Physicist” That Undertook An “Independent Review” Of Sea Level Rise. An article published on the front page of The Washington Post on June 25 described how, under political pressure, North Carolina’s state government ditched a report by a science panel stating that the state should plan on about 39 inches in sea level rise by 2100. The state has instead decided that forecasts should only go out 30 years for public infrastructure projects and zoning of land, during which the sea level is expected to rise eight inches. However, the Post inadequately described John Droz, who undertook an “independent review” of the sea level rise report, as a “local physicist”

Droz Is An Adviser To Pro-Developer Group NC-20. The Institute for Southern Studies reported that Droz is an adviser to NC-20, a group formed by local development interests that fears “the financial impact of any limits on coastal development” if accurate sea level rise predictions are acted on:

A bill that would block North Carolina agencies from considering the latest science of sea level rise in making planning decisions has gotten a lot of attention nationally — from a Scientific American blog post that said the state was “making sea level rise illegal” to a segment on the satiric Colbert Report that accused the state of addressing the crisis predicted by climate models “by outlawing the climate models.”

[…]

The push for the legislation came from a group called NC-20, which is comprised of development interests in the state’s 20 coastal counties. The group’s chair is Tom G. “Tommy” Thompson, director of the Beaufort Economic Development Commission, and its president is Willo Kelly, a former lobbyist for the Outer Banks Home Builders Association. The board also includes a number of realtors and home builders, who worry about the financial impact of any limits on coastal development. (For more on NC-20, click here.)

The group’s scientific advisor is John Droz, a climate science contrarian and real estate investor who owns properties along the North Carolina coast. Droz, who has degrees in physics and mathematics, has never published a peer-reviewed article in a scientific journal and has given presentations against wind energy to state lawmakers and the public that were marred by errors of fact. He is a senior fellow at the American Tradition Institute, a conservative think tank with ties to fossil fuel interests that promotes skepticism about global warming and renewable energy and has targeted a leading climate scientist with a controversial lawsuit.

NC-20 argues that the cost of accepting the CRC’s estimates of sea level rise “would be incalculable.” The group claims that the projected 1 meter rise in sea level by 2100 is a “myth promoted by manmade global warming advocates” rather than a serious prediction based on science. [Institute for Southern Studies, 7/11/12]

Droz’s “Independent Review” Cites Unnamed Experts, Makes References To “Karma.” Droz’s “Commentary” on the state’s sea level rise report published at NC-20’s website, which The Washington Postportrayed as an “independent review,” quotes anonymous “experts” promoting cherry-picked data:

On the same day that the NC Coastal Resources Commission’s (CRC) Sea Level Rise (SLR) Report Addendum was received, “The Ideology of Catastrophe” appeared in the Wall Street Journal. Some might consider that Karma, but maybe it’s just the system working towards an inevitable equilibrium.

In that insightful WSJ article there are many memorable quotes, like: “My point is … to understand why apocalyptic fear has gripped so many of our leaders, scientists and intellectuals, who insist on reasoning and arguing as though they were following the scripts of mediocre Hollywood disaster movies.”

It’s not apparent that the author read the initial CRC “science panel” report, or it’s newly minted Addendum, but his observations are uncannily prescient.

Droz Was A Speaker At Heartland Institute Climate Denial Conference. Droz spoke against wind power at the 2012 “International Conference on Climate Change” by the Heartland Institute, which touts a description of itself as the “most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change.” [Heartland Institute’s YouTube Channel, 6/14/12; Heartland, accessed 6/25/14]

Droz Has Not Published A Single Peer-Reviewed Paper In A Credible Journal. WRAL reported that Droz does not hold a Ph.D, and has not published a “single peer-reviewed paper in any credible journal”:

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11 Responses to “WashPost Piece on Carolina Sea Level Quotes Bogus “Physicist””


  1. I’m a bit confused. I live close to the coast and flood zones to know that a half a foot of rise in sea levels causes a lot more problems than putting property under water. Even a few inches of rise would spread storm flooding out considerably. Storm damage would be the first threat along with changes to wet lands and water tables. I think the estimates are way too modest.

    Then there’s the threat of even more coastal storms. Anyone with half a brain should think twice about moving to shorefront property.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      The land in the NC coastal plain rises so gradually that a 1 foot rise in sea level would move the “shore line” many miles inland. That’s why Dare County, which is on the inland side of Pamlico Sound and far from the ocean, is at the greatest long-term economic risk from sea level rise.

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    A good article in the WashPost, and the most important parts are nicely excerpted here. It is worth accessing just to see the accompanying photographs, which make clear to anyone with eyes to see and a working brain that NC is headed for hard times with sea level rise.

    Backstory: media still unable to distinguish actual authorities from self-described “experts”—-is certainly true, although the WashPost seemed to be merely citing Droz here as an “expert” for the fools who want to outlaw sea level rise rather than someone to be believed. Perhaps that’s progress?

    (And be thankful there was no mention of Droz’s fellow “science advisor” to NC-20, the infamous DB, the “computer engineer” with no science credentials that used to pollute Crock with his delusional rantings).


  3. […] Above, Jim White of the University of Colorado puts climate change in real, on-the-ground perspective. Below, Washpost notes the creeping realization that, for life in low lying areas, the climate…  […]


  4. My epiphany upon reading this: the deniers in the Carolina’s and Florida, et cetera, aren’t denying because they don’t believe it’s happening. They are denying in order to protect their earning potential when they go to sell property. So they’re just another form of snake oil salesmen.

    Not sure why it wasn’t obvious to me before. But now I understand WHY they’re deliberately misinterpreting the science.

  5. ubrew12 Says:

    So, to recap, on the Republican left hand we have, two articles down, in an interview with Hank Paulson, the First words out of his mouth are “Short-termism is the enemy we all face here”.

    And on the Republican right hand we have: “[North Carolina] has… decided that forecasts should only go out 30 years for… zoning [purposes].”

    Left hand… meet Right hand.

    OK, lets limit the forecast to 30 years, but apply appropriate caution as Dr White does above: “just going out by a factor of 3 in terms of speed, which is quite possible, very doable, in the paleo-record… factor of three means 3 feet in 30 years. Now, that’s a mortgage. People can understand that. You buy a house on the beach and before you get that thing paid off its worthless.”

    Reading about NC’s maneuvering to dump (excuse me, sell) its beachfront before the rubes (er, young homeowners) make the scam (er, notice their feet are getting wet), I’m reminded of that Walter Scott saying ‘oh! what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!’

    • j4zonian Says:

      I remember when a construction company that was required to photograph every weld they made in a certain part of a nuclear reactor they were building (in order to prove it was done right and wouldn’t come apart under pressure), instead photographed a few welds and just copied the photos over and over.

      In that spirit, and in the spirit of Republicans all over the US, I suggest that instead of projecting sea level rise out 30 years, we just project it out 30 minutes or so and then copy that report over and over and over and pretend it’s for the next 30 years. Problem solved.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        “…… instead of projecting sea level rise out 30 years, we just project it out 30 minutes or so and then copy that report over and over and over and pretend it’s for the next 30 years”

        I have it on good authority that he Kansas legislature is considering passing a law that mandates such a procedure. If it works in NC, why not in Kansas?

  6. andrewfez Says:

    Are there that many people that will both accept NC’s 30-year forecast and will be in total ignorance of the longer term forecast? Is there really someone considering moving to the Outer Banks, who will, say, Google ‘NC sea level rise’ and only believe the info they find concerning the short term? Considering 70% of America sees climate change as a threat, are there that many slowpokes left to be duped into buying a ‘slow-diving-leaky-submarine’ with an incredible view?

    Obviously some people will buy because they want to be close to another family member or faction who already lives there, or for other emotional or near term reasons. But they would more than likely live, on some back-of-the-mind level, in fear of either a storm surge, or a future change in policy prompted by a critical mass of homeowners, freaking out and wanting the legislature to ‘do something’ as the end draws nearer.

    In the 1980’s Hilton Head Island, SC mandated that all new building has to be 14 feet above sea level. The homes built beforehand which are near the beach are having a little trouble selling presently, so I’ve heard. Just looking on Zillow, it looks as though property values in general never recovered from 2005-06 highs like they have done partially in other parts of the country, or in comparison to Los Angeles based coastal property.

    The first thing to get you financially is beach erosion maintenance – they dredge the part immediately off the coast and pump the sand back onto the beach; they hall huge rocks out onto the beach and put up ‘breakers’; they remodel the chaparral, sea oats, and dunes to make it seem as though the beach is still there:

    https://www.google.com/maps/@32.2176058,-80.6677336,677m/data=!3m1!1e3

    This map spot is a particular place on the beach that i’ve been going to yearly for 39 years. It has changed considerably in shape since i was a kid. Notice the north to south striations in the chaparral that starkly and abruptly end at the white beach boarder. That’s not natural – that’s the work of man, pulling out some of the vegetation to make the beach look wider. And that type of work will only accelerate erosion.

    From a real estate blog (http://www.schembrarealestategroup.com/tag/hilton-head-island/ ):

    ‘Achieving these awards doesn’t come as easily as one might think. Our Town has spent approximately $50 million pumping 8.6 million cubic yards of sand on to our beaches since 1990. The beach renourishment projects are paid for by the taxes placed on short-term rentals and lodging. In 2003 Hilton Head was recognized by the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association as “one of the best restored beaches in the country.” Beginning in March, Hilton Head will be competing for the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association’s award for “Best of the Best” which highlights the value of beach restoration.’

    As sea level rises and storm surges come further inland the next things to get you are flooded sewer systems, destruction of manicured lawns, and perhaps foundational related erosion causing, at first, slight shifts in one’s home, doing all manner of annoying destruction to interior rigid materials: grout and tile cracks for kitchens and bathrooms, &c.

    Marsh ecology may be disrupted (note all the interior bodies of water on the map (scroll outward): all of those have bass, bluegill, turtles, eels, gators, ibises and other birds, frogs, &c. living in and around them). There are man-made sewer tunnels connecting a lot of those inland ponds and waters to reduce flooding during rains. Down the beach at Palmetto Dunes Plantation, southward from the map spot, i’ve heard they even actively pump out water at high tide, which is in itself expensive.

    https://www.google.com/maps/@32.1688269,-80.7017479,5421m/data=!3m1!1e3

    There’s a map update showing the inland waterways at Palmetto Dunes. Those guys are in an Outer Banks sort of situation with Skull Creek right behind them; they will have to abandon ship first when the deuce comes alook’n for payment.

  7. andrewfez Says:

    2nd attempt with one less link in the comment:

    Are there that many people that will both accept NC’s 30-year forecast and will be in total ignorance of the longer term forecast? Is there really someone considering moving to the Outer Banks, who will, say, Google ‘NC sea level rise’ and only believe the info they find concerning the short term? Considering 70% of America sees climate change as a threat, are there that many slowpokes left to be duped into buying a ‘slow-diving-leaky-submarine’ with an incredible view?

    Obviously some people will buy because they want to be close to another family member or faction who already lives there, or for other emotional or near term reasons. But they would more than likely live, on some back-of-the-mind level, in fear of either a storm surge, or a future change in policy prompted by a critical mass of homeowners, freaking out and wanting the legislature to ‘do something’ as the end draws nearer.

    In the 1980’s Hilton Head Island, SC mandated that all new building has to be 14 feet above sea level. The homes built beforehand which are near the beach are having a little trouble selling presently, so I’ve heard. Just looking on Zillow, it looks as though property values in general never recovered from 2005-06 highs like they have done partially in other parts of the country, or in comparison to Los Angeles based coastal property.

    The first thing to get you financially is beach erosion maintenance – they dredge the part immediately off the coast and pump the sand back onto the beach; they hall huge rocks out onto the beach and put up ‘breakers’; they remodel the chaparral, sea oats, and dunes to make it seem as though the beach is still there:

    https://www.google.com/maps/@32.2176058,-80.6677336,677m/data=!3m1!1e3

    This map spot is a particular place on the beach that i’ve been going to yearly for 39 years. It has changed considerably in shape since i was a kid. Notice the north to south striations in the chaparral that starkly and abruptly end at the white beach boarder. That’s not natural – that’s the work of man, pulling out some of the vegetation to make the beach look wider. And that type of work will only accelerate erosion.

    From a real estate blog:

    ‘Achieving these awards doesn’t come as easily as one might think. Our Town has spent approximately $50 million pumping 8.6 million cubic yards of sand on to our beaches since 1990. The beach renourishment projects are paid for by the taxes placed on short-term rentals and lodging. In 2003 Hilton Head was recognized by the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association as “one of the best restored beaches in the country.” Beginning in March, Hilton Head will be competing for the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association’s award for “Best of the Best” which highlights the value of beach restoration.’

    As sea level rises and storm surges come further inland the next things to get you are flooded sewer systems, destruction of manicured lawns, and perhaps foundational related erosion causing, at first, slight shifts in one’s home, doing all manner of annoying destruction to interior rigid materials: grout and tile cracks for kitchens and bathrooms, &c.

    Marsh ecology may be disrupted (note all the interior bodies of water on the map (scroll outward): all of those have bass, bluegill, turtles, eels, gators, ibises and other birds, frogs, &c. living in and around them). There are man-made sewer tunnels connecting a lot of those inland ponds and waters to reduce flooding during rains. Down the beach at Palmetto Dunes Plantation, southward from the map spot, i’ve heard they even actively pump out water at high tide, which is in itself expensive.

    https://www.google.com/maps/@32.1688269,-80.7017479,5421m/data=!3m1!1e3

    There’s a map update showing the inland waterways at Palmetto Dunes. Those guys are in an Outer Banks sort of situation with Skull Creek right behind them; they will have to abandon ship first when the deuce comes alook’n for payment.

    • andrewfez Says:

      Keep in mind when reading the “Our Town has spent approximately $50 million pumping 8.6 million cubic yards of sand on to our beaches since 1990.”, that this ‘Town’ is a small, 11 mile long, by 4 mile wide island.


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