Despite pandemic behavior changes, atmospheric carbon is still rising

And these numbers should be truly frightening to you:

The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached the highest ever recorded — 417.1 parts per million, according to an announcement yesterday by NOAA and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Even the economic crash related to the pandemic didn’t slow the uptick in CO2, a greenhouse gas and main driver of climate change. Levels didn’t decrease in part because CO2 lingers in the atmosphere for a long time. There is also natural variability in CO2 levels based on plants and soils. So to make a dent in carbon dioxide levels, NOAA said, would require a sustained 20% to 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for six to 12 months.

That debris you see on the beach in the photo all came from one house in Rodanthe, and happened about a week ago. Luckily nobody was occupying it at the time, but several others in nearly the same condition had to be evacuated. The fact the town was even allowing occupation of these homes just gives you an idea of the reckless and negligent approach to development there, but that's a discussion for another time. Governor Cooper and the NC DEQ are making an effort to combat climate change and prepare us for resilience:

It’s against this disturbing backdrop that the NC Department of Environmental Quality this week released its Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan, 372 pages of sobering data and details about the current and future impacts of climate change on North Carolina. It also directs state agencies, including transportation, health and human services, cultural and natural resources, agriculture and emergency management to develop short-term and long-range policies to address the climate crisis.

The report was required as part of Gov. Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 80, which in 2018 laid out numerous mandates and recommendations. Among them were reducing statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 2005 levels and increasing the number of registered electric vehicles to 80,000 over the next five years.

Some of the Risk and Resiliency Plan recommendations are bureaucratic. Others though, would occur literally on the ground. These include “natural-based solutions,” such as using land to sequester carbon, the construction of living shorelines made of natural materials, increasing the number of trees in cities, particularly in low-income neighborhoods.

The ill effects of climate change will be felt all across our state, but the impact to the coastal areas will be nothing short of devastating:

It is virtually certain that sea level along the North Carolina coast will continue to rise due to expansion of ocean water from warming and melting of ice on land.

It is virtually certain that rising sea level and increasing intensity of coastal storms will lead to an increase in storm surge flooding in coastal North Carolina.

High tide flooding will a near daily occurrence at some points along the coast in the future.

Cultural resources in fixed locations are inherently sensitive to flooding and it is difficult to reduce sites’ exposures to flooding.

Sea level rise and flooding will limit available land that is in high demand for both human (economic) and ecosystem services.

More frequent coastal flooding will impact coastal habitats, fisheries, and the protective services that natural areas provide to local communities.

Increased storm surges will erode shorelines and kill vegetation in maritime grasslands, tidal marshes, estuaries, lower reaches of coastal plain rivers, and low-lying wetlands near estuaries.

Coastal erosion will reduce habitat for freshwater tidal wetlands, maritime uplands, and maritime wetlands.

Endangered and threatened species that are vulnerable to storm surge and erosion on beaches are likely to decline.

Coastal erosion will leave properties further at risk of flooding and storm damage, due to land or natural buffers being lost.

When we take the inevitable step to severely limit vacation property development along the coast, you can expect developers to throw massive temper tantrums. When they do, tell them we tried to raise the alarm when atmospheric carbon was still around 385 ppm. And again when it hit 400. Their response was to outlaw the mention of sea level rise in government reports and assessments. We can no longer consider them responsible stakeholders in this discussion.

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