Bill to ban use of sea level projections

The North Carolina Senate has stirred controversy by approving a bill that proposes disregarding scientists’ warnings of rising sea levels.

Senators passed the bill—named “An Act to Study and Modify Certain Coastal Management Policies”—on a 35-to-12 vote Tuesday. The bill will return to the state House of Representatives to consider a minor change adopted by the Senate. In light of new climate studies regarding sea levels, the bill would make it illegal for North Carolina to consider the data from these studies, instead relying on historic data for planning and construction purposes.

In a science panel appointed by the state­, experts warned that sea levels could rise by more than three feet by 2100, endangering more than 2,000 square miles of coastal land. In response, a non-profit coastal economic development group NC-20 contends that the state should instead prepare for an eight-inch increase, noting that stricter regulations would damage the coastal economy.

The legislation would give the state Coastal Resources Commission­—consisting of 15 members appointed by the governor—the sole responsibility for predicting the rate of sea-level rise for governmental purposes.

Republican Sen. David Rouzer, a proponent of the bill, told the News and Observer Wednesday that the more dire predictions of sea-level rise would hurt tax revenues and inflate insurance rates, adding that projecting climate trends 80 years in advance is preposterous.

The passing of the bill has thrust the legislation into the national spotlight—recently receiving a mention by comedian Stephen Colbert.

“If your science gives you a result you don’t like, pass a law saying the result is illegal. Problem solved,” Colbert said in the June 4 episode of the Colbert Report.

Dean of the Nicholas School Bill Chameides noted several faults of the approved bill in his blog the Green Grok, comically observing that by passing the bill, state legislators “wanted to do their civil duty” by inducing some laughter.

“To mandate the use of historical rates of sea-level rise without acceleration is actually inconsistent with the historical record and with the scientific understanding of underlying drivers that has been developed from this historical record,” Chameides wrote in his blog June 7.


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