Citizen-Times, 8/2014

This comedy of sadness began in 2010, when a state-appointed science panel of the Coastal Resource Commission (CRC) recommended that N.C. prepare for a 39-inch sea-level rise this century.

We’re at particular risk because we have 2100 square miles of broad, low-lying coastline and thin barrier islands. So structures with long lives, like houses and roads, should be designed accordingly.

Bring in the clowns. Republicans captured the General Assembly that year, and almost immediately, they filed HB 819, a bill that bars state agencies from adopting any “rule, policy or planning guideline that defines a rate of sea-level change.”

In 2016 the CRC will present the state’s official prediction for how fast N.C. sea levels will rise. Late-night comedians made N.C. a laughing-stock. A Scientific American blog quipped that N.C. “can escape sea level rise…by making it against the law.”  

Two weeks after the bill passed, the U.S. Geological Survey reported that sea-level rise at Cape Hatteras and northward is accelerating four times the global average. Nature Magazine wondered if nature is “mocking N.C.’s law-makers.”

I don’t have to tell you what’s going on here, do I?

Real estate and homebuilding interests are big donors to Republicans. One group of mostly development types, called NC-20, argues that “there was virtually no science at all supporting [accelerating sea-level rise], only ‘computer models’ driven by assumptions about global warming [and] ice melting.” And: “All that ‘preparation’ would not come cheaply.” NC-20’s main scientist is John Droz, a real estate investor on the coast who has degrees in math and physics. Incredibly, wrote that Droz posted a call for people with experience in sea-level rise who would bolster his views, because, he wrote, “This is not my area of expertise.”

Later he claimed to have consulted 30 oceanographers.   (NC-20’s website notes a lesson they’ve learned: “Facts do not matter in regulatory issues as much as power.”  

Wow. So while other states less at risk than N.C. (at least Maine, Delaware, Louisiana, Florida, California) believe in science and are preparing for up to four-foot sea-level rises, our Coastal Resource Commission will set N.C.’s own private estimate.

Oh, did I say that Republican leaders have replaced eight of the 13 members of the CRC, plus the chairman (a donor to the governor’s campaign)? The CRC is now friendly to development.

You’re tempted to classify these people as anti-environment nutcakes. But it’s much worse. They’re cynics. Like everything else since 2010, Republicans support the guys making profit. They blow smoke about the “flawed science” of the experts’ report. But in fact, they’re formulating a convenient untruth. Throw ‘em out. This year Tim Moffitt and Michelle Presnell. More in 2016 when our loser governor loses.