climate change

An open letter to Pat McCrory


This is the first of many questions we'll be asking you in open letters. Thank you in advance for the favor of a reply.

Let's assume for a minute that you believe climate change has nothing to do with human behavior. Choose whatever cause you want: Sunspots. Natural cycles. Cow farts. King Neptune. Take your pick. They're all good.

Now imagine that you're the Governor of North Carolina, legally and morally responsible for public investments related to natural resources and infrastructure. Infrastructure planning is one of your big deals, right?

Like any good public servant, you expect robust scenario modeling with a long-term horizon. Except in this case, you're faced with a law prohibiting any public official from actually considering one of the most likely scenarios, the one associated with accelerating sea level risk.

The conversion of a climate-change skeptic

Don't expect extremist ideologues like Thom Tillis and Pat McCrory to give a damn, but it's good to see there are still some adults who are capable of critical thinking.

Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

More national attention on NC's anti-science legislation

And it ain't good, to say the least:

The bill's backers issued their own projections, using data from tide gauges and carbon dioxide levels, and citing studies that project no or minimal sea level rise. They predict a rise of, at the most, 8 inches — and contend that sea levels are actually receding in some coastal areas. They say the 39-inch projection would restrict economic development, send insurance rates skyrocketing and decrease coastal property values.

Yes, much better to bury our heads in the (shifting) sands, and continue to entice (trick) people into buying and developing properties that will be on the wrong side of the waterfront a few decades from now. Not only is this anti-science movement embarassing, it's also borderline criminally negligent.

Are the Koch brothers behind NC's anti-science legislation?

The Magic 8-Ball says "very likely, and you don't have to shake me so hard":

Rouzer's talking points—that the science of climate change and sea level rise is debatable—mirrored those not only of NC-20, but also of the rhetoric spouted by right-wing, anti-regulation, climate-change deniers. Not coincidentally, many of these organizations, including the Heartland Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, have ties to the fossil fuel industry.

And for those who deny the deniers are involved in our local denial movement, here's your connection:

Senate committee likes slow-rise approach for sea-level forecasts

I was down in Beaufort last month at the Duke University Maritime Lab and the former director said that all their models are pointing to at least a 3' rise in sea level over the next century and that many coastal communities will be under water by 2100. Well, there are some in the NC Legislature who disagree with science.

This quote by Bill Chameides, current dean of the Duke U. Nichols School of the Environment pretty much sums it up:

Some in the state legislature may be feeling a good deal of self-satisfaction for concocting this little gambit, perhaps even high fiving each other and chanting things like “we don’t need no stinking climate scientists.”

Sea Level Rise, Melting Glaciers, and North Carolina Law

You can read more at: Charlotte Observer

Planning in the rearview mirror

I'm not often surprised by the anti-science bias of today's Tea Party Republicans in Raleigh, but I have to admit that this news caught even my cynical self off guard.

The proposed bill would limit forecasts for future sea-level rise to what the ocean along the N.C. coast did last century. Using that standard, the state would plan for rise of about 12 inches by 2100. Determining the rate would fall to the N.C. Division of Coastal Management. Language in the bill says the rates “shall be limited to the time period following the year 1900” and that "(R)ates 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.”

Many new jobs on the horizon

If our species survives long enough to fill them.

In the minds of most experts, the chief worry is not that the carbon in the permafrost will break down quickly — typical estimates say that will take more than a century, perhaps several — but that once the decomposition starts, it will be impossible to stop.

The only problem with this paragraph is the use of future tense. The decomposition has already started, and from everything I've been able to read, it is already impossible to stop. Thank you free market!

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