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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sea-level rise threatening? No problem, say lawmakers

Much of eastern North Carolina is low-lying, level land that appears threatened by sea-level rise due to global warming, particularly if some of the more challenging scenarios scientists envision come to pass (more info here on one of these troublesome ideas, by noted climate scientist James Hansen and Makiko Sato).

The legislature of the Tarheel State, however, seems to be considering emulating the fabled approach taken by the medieval King Canute (or Cnut), who some chroniclers say went out to the sea's edge, ordered the tide not to come in, and nearly drowned. Recently, North Carolina's lawmakers elected to ignore a scientific report on the issue and may simply legislate a solution, according to Bill Chameides, dean of Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment.

Writes Chameides in the Huffington Post: "In late April a revised version of a bill from the state House surfaced in the Senate that would enshrine [the position of a group that has lobbied against the scientific report]. This new bill would:
- limit sea-level rise to historical rates circa 1900,
- specify that sea-level rise may be extrapolated linearly to estimate future rates of rise, and
- disallow consideration of scenarios with accelerated rates of sea-level rise.

"Should this legislation come to fruition, North Carolina would be planning for a sea-level rise of about one foot rather than the scientifically projected three feet by the end of the century. That leaves a whole lot of water unaccounted for. And it could leave whole communities up coastal creeks paying for roads and bridges that no longer make sense to maintain in the face of rising seas."

Fascinating approach.

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