Stop the presses! That little problem of global warming you’ve been hearing so much about? Well, worry no more. The state legislature in North Carolina has made climate change illegal.
State lawmakers passed a four-year moratorium on using forecasts that take into account the effect that warming oceans and melting ice are having on sea level. Governor Beverly Perdue had the chance to take a stand for science and veto the bill. Instead, she chickened out, and decided to “let the bill become law without her signature.”
How did this happen? Well, it all started in 2010, when a panel of climate scientists examined the potential sea level rise on North Carolina’s coast. Their report predicted that the combined effects of melting ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland and higher ocean temperatures would raise sea levels by over three feet by the year 2100.
Apparently, this wasn’t what state legislators wanted to hear. They created a bill this spring that forbids planners from using any sea level rise projections higher than the rate the state has experienced in the past, completely ignoring the science panel’s findings.
Unsurprisingly, North Carolina was mocked by everyone from scientists to late-night comedians. But the state legislature didn’t give up: they quietly revised the proposal to reduce the moratorium to four years, and that bill passed the State House 68-46 and the Senate 40-1. When the Governor allowed the veto deadline to pass, one of the dumbest climate bills in history became state law.
It’s easy to make fun of the state’s ridiculous actions, but the matter is quite serious. Ironically, the bill was intended to boost the economy by encouraging development on the coast, but ignoring sea level rise is going to cost far more down the line.
Building in locations vulnerable to rising sea levels heightens risks for flooding and erosion and creates a whole host of other problems and dangers. And it’s not just developers’ investments that are at risk when waters rise. Soil dissolving into estuaries can harm fish that use them as nurseries. Broken septic systems make the environment toxic to both animals and people. Road flooding after a severe storm can make it difficult for emergency vehicles to reach people in need.
In 2011, damage from Hurricane Irene in North Carolina caused an estimated $400 billion in insurance costs. Flooding was reported in Pamlico, Hyde, and Beaufort counties, all of which border the Pamlico sound.
And with this new measure in place, North Carolina is sure to experience even more damage, expense and habitat loss, leaving its taxpayers and native species to suffer the consequences.