North Carolina GOP Would Make Truth About Rising Sea Levels Illegal Rather Than Deal With It

Thomas Jefferson once said “The ocean…like the air, is the common birth right of mankind.”  Apparently, the Republican Party agrees because if they have their way, we will all have the ocean lapping around our feet in our living rooms, all in the name of making a buck.

Personally, I’d say that’s taking things too far. I mean, I live pretty close to the ocean now, much closer than in my Midwest days, and I’d be perfectly happy to have the ocean stay where it belongs. But causation rules life and causation requires that water from melting ice caps go somewhere – namely and eventually – to your living room.

After it’s gobbled up a bunch of low lying areas like all those areas of the earth’s surface that tend to be at sea level or below.

I’ll get to the Republicans in a minute but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) offers some pertinent data:

Coastal areas are home to a wealth of natural and economic resources and are the most developed areas in the nation. The narrow fringe comprising 17 percent of the contiguous U.S. land area is home to more than half of the nation's population.

Between the years 1980 and 2003, population in coastal counties increased by 33 million people or by 28 percent. The largest gain was seen in the Pacific region. Additionally, in 2003, 23 of the 25 most densely populated counties were in coastal areas.

It’s apparently the same everywhere: According to, “Three-quarters of the world's mega-cities are by the sea.” And  predicted that “by 2010, 80 per cent of people will live within 60 miles of the coast.”

Obviously, 2010 has come and gone and as I’m about to show, with it all pretense of adherence to a fact-based world.

LiveScience reports that “The number of people living within 60 miles of coastlines will increase by about 35 percent compared to 1995” and that “increasing populations in coastal areas, which will expose 2.75 billion people worldwide to the effects of sea level rise and other coastal threats posed by global warming.”

Suffice it to say, a f*ckton of people live by the ocean, meaning unless we want to be wading through our living rooms we ought to care just a little about facts affecting rising sea levels.

But that’s not the worst part – or perhaps it is the worst part but not the most shocking. No, that would be that it might soon be illegal to talk about it in North Carolina.

Rather than deal with scientific fact, business-friendly Republicans would make it illegal.

You remember the story perhaps, of Persian King Xerxes ordering the sea to be lashed because a storm sank his ships. Futile, we’d say today. Silly. But that’s precisely the attitude of the North Carolina GOP.

As was widely reported this past week, North Carolina Republicans didn’t react well to a report by scientists of  the NC Coastal Resources Commission that the sea level is going to rise a meter or more (39-55 inches) by making it illegal to accurately measure that sea level rise.  As the North Carolina Coastal Federation put it:

A bill that could be introduced when the N.C. General Assembly convenes Wednesday would prevent state agencies and local governments from planning for the higher seas that many scientists expect later this century as the climate warms. 


Instead, the bill requires that any state forecast for future sea-level rise be based on the historical rise of the last century, and it prohibits state agencies and institutions and local governments from developing their own forecasts based on a different standard.

You would think that would be good information to have, wouldn’t you? Especially when the study says “NORTH CAROLINA has been identified by NOAA as one of three states with significant vulnerability to sea level rise.”

But as Beth Buczynski over at Care2 wrote the other day,

Rather than use science to accurately predict what might happen to its valuable coast areas, and thereby educate its citizens about what can be done to prepare for this change, North Carolina’s political leaders would rather just make the truth illegal.

Do they really think if we don’t talk about it that the ocean will just go away and leave us alone? Like I said, it’s about as futile and silly as lashing the sea for being, well…the sea.

It’s no wonder Republicans hate the EPA. Being a Federal agency states can’t shut it up, can’t simply order the EPA to lie. And what the EPA has to say about sea level rise isn’t promising at all: “During the 20th century, global sea level rose by roughly seven inches”:

Due to differences in land motion, estimates of future relative sea level rise vary for different regions. Climate change models project that global sea level rise will accelerate in the 21st century. Models based on thermal expansion and ice melt estimate that global sea levels will rise approximately 20 to 39 inches by the end of the century. However, due to uncertainties about the response of ice sheets to warmer temperatures and future emissions of greenhouse gases, higher values are possible and cannot be excluded.

And besides water in our living rooms, there are other problems to worry about according to the EPA:

Rising sea levels could also increase the salinity of ground water and push salt water further upstream. This salinity may make water undrinkable without desalination, and harms aquatic plants and animals that cannot tolerate increased salinity. [3] In the mid-Atlantic region, sea level rise is making estuaries more salty, threatening aquatic plants and animals that are sensitive to salinity.

Not so in North Carolina, where Replacement House Bill 819, the product of legislators from 20 coastal counties to be affected and developers’ lobbying group NC-20, outlaws the truth.

As Scott Huler writes at Scientific American blogs,

 The key language is in section 2, paragraph e, talking about rates of sea level rise: “These rates shall only be determined using historical data, and these data shall be limited to the time period following the year 1900. Rates of seas-level rise may be extrapolated linearly. …” It goes on, but there’s the core: North Carolina legislators have decided that the way to make exponential increases in sea level rise – caused by those inconvenient feedback loops we keep hearing about from scientists – go away is to make it against the law to extrapolate exponential; we can only extrapolate along a line predicted by previous sea level rises.

It’s more than ridiculous to suggest that sea level rise data from a century ago be used to predict sea level rise in the coming century but that’s what North Carolina Republicans want. In the face of unwanted news, they come up with this is a collective bury your head in the sand bill, a close your eyes, cover your ears, nyah, nyah, nyah bill.

Conservatives are conservative after all, but it’s taking defense of the status quo a little far to suggest that the past is more relevant than the present – or the future.

Because developers can’t build on ground under the ocean so the obvious solution is to ensure that land isn’t below sea level – think about the property values! Don’t think about all those millions of people living along the coast: think about those poor developers and the money they stand to make selling and developing land that’s going to be underwater.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

20 Replies to “North Carolina GOP Would Make Truth About Rising Sea Levels Illegal Rather Than Deal With It”

  1. There are a few problems with this legislation, such as:

    1. The First Amendment;

    2. The truth;

    3. The Outer Banks.

    Me, I’m a mountainous 31′ above sea level, so not to worry…yet.

  2. I can't say much for Indiana but at least it's ocean-front real estate. I guess it's true you can always find something to look at fondly after the fact

  3. Actually, they say the spine of Florida is undergoing isostatic rebound, but I don’t think it’s going to do it fast enough.

  4. Two authors come to mind;  one fiction, one scientific.
    "The Year of The Flood", by Margaret Atwood, and "The Third Chimpanzie", by Jarad Diamond.
    Atwood discusses a near future dystopia where the oceans have flooded the coastal areas and how society and citizens "coped" with the event…and I won't give away the rest. Must read.
    Jarad Diamond is chocked full of facts and details about our species; too many variables to even begin to discuss in a comment. But, one thing I recall that reminds me of this scenario is his discussion on humans "taking" 2% of an environment and destroying it by rationalization that. Humans rationalize that we can destroy 2% because over there, we have set aside some larger % that we won't touch.
    He goes on and explains, what if you were asked to give up 2% of your body and the rest was let alone? What 2% would you give? What if anyone, not a skilled doctor with knowledge of the body, were to legally "take"  your 2%? What a 2% of your lung (hypothetically) was removed…you could live, but eventually, you would "break-down" because that small percent was needed to make the entire system work…remember, a skill surgeon was not used on your 'system….
    That's what is happening to us via developers just tromp in, taking pilaging resources for profit resulting in industrial pollution, ect. They don't know or care what happens down the line to the body of the earth…as long as they can "sell-off" 2% and get thier fix, who cares?  It's easy for the elected "sub-specie" to draw their conclusion that  all they have to do is just "legislate and take".

  5. …sorry for the early morning typos/grammer errors…and, BTW, where is the spell-checker for this new format? I can't use my usual Foxfire here to correct.

  6. Maybe those retrogrades in the NC Assembly are riffing off the fact that in NC most population concentrations are inland, like Raleigh and Charlotte.  Their lack of concern about the future of NC itself is just egregious, but too many here can't see past their noses.
    A lot of beach property are just vacation houses.  Most people in NC just visit the coast and even more prefer Myrtle Beach, SC, more commercially developed, for "fun" in the sun.  Personally, I'd hate to see plces like Topsail Island disappear, though, since I prefer the quieter beaches, not the carnival atmosphere of SC beaches.

  7. Speaking of Margaret Atwood, I finally got “The Handmaid’s Tale” out of the library, in consequence whereof I read until 2:30 A.M., woke at 6:00 A.M., and finished it.

    Interesting, about the lawful U.S. government being wiped out by a false-flag attack of consurgents pretending to be Ay-rabs, isn’t it? I mean, they wrote that in 1986…

  8. I love my new home state, and I can assue you I'm well-loved in turn… ha ha ha.
    Two things to say, and two only: STAY THE COURSE. REELECT THE PRESIDENT.

  9. Interesting that you also can’t use data pror to 1900, either. That’s considerably after the post-Pleistocene sea level rises. Maybe they’re afraid that if you look at 19th-century sea level changes, it’s clear that the 20th-century ones are faster.

    We used to say: North Carolina: just plain dumb. South Carolina: dumb and proud of it. Well, dammit, those tarheels have decided they yield pride of place to no one.

  10. Chilling, isn't it?
    It's a good re-read if you read it many moons ago as it's relevancy today is stunning (better prose than Sinclair's "It Can't Happen Here"?

  11. I remember when my nephew used to put his hands over his eyes and exclaim, “Don’t see me!”  It’s cute when 3-yr-olds cover their eyes thinking we can’t see them if they can’t see us.   It isn’t cute when adults close their eyes and stick their fingers in their ears, it is willful ignorance.

  12. To be blunt, I keep running into tidbits of information that go against global warming as man-caused and not a part of a natural cycle.  These aren't from the dominionists and their kin, but in respectable journal articles and by known scientists.
    I reserve judgment on "global warming", but at the same time I strongly support any effort to curb burning finite fossil "fuels" (as long as doing so doesn't hurt the 99%) and reduce humankind's impact on the earth.   It is my opinion that too many people have jumped on the bandwagon without thinking about it, and that the focus on "Blame humans!" is an error, because it's used to call for things that WILL hurt the 99%.  I prefer to use "Climate Change" because throughout the existence of humankind, the climate has changed drastically, many times.  There are periods where it was warmer than today and sea levels were higher.  There are periods where the oceans were hundreds of feet lower than today (and we've found paleoindian artifacts many miles out at sea, where they were left during that time).  There were periods where the climate was far crazier than today… with sea levels rising and falling all the time – and it's obvious that human activity didn't cause it back then.
    If I'm wrong, well, I'm wrong and no harm done.  If I'm right in my concern, the dominionists and the 1% can use that to deny ALL science and turn people away from the scientific method.  We don't want to go there.  They're close to winning already, and we must not give them any more ammunition than they already have.
    The fact is, they are already trying to deny science in this stupid law… or dictate to scientists. 
    We need to look at the whole picture, and make sure that our observations are accurate and not guided by ideology (just as the NC legislature is being guided by ideology).  Science is not pure, especially when dealing with things like climate, weather, and behavior.  Even today there are a lot of people who because of their "scientific" beliefs, insist that "Clovis First" is correct, even in the face of evidence that my ancestors were here before the Clovis period (maybe by tens of thousands of years, which is tribal lore and backed by recent finds).  I've encountered that myself, and found where a big-name "Clovis First" supporter tried to suppress any evidence that the theory was wrong. 
    I once communicated with one of the big names in "global warming", and his reply to me was "There is no hope, but keep trying anyway!".  I replied back "Well, if there is no hope, why bother?" and started doing some reading.  I quickly found that there were many reputable scientists who had the same doubts and questions I have – and who, at last reading, still had them but were being harassed by the "global warming" group.  Knowing a bit about things like chaos theory and fractal theory, I believe that their models and predictions are not as reliable as they wish, and if they don't look at the micro as well as the macro (and meso) levels, they will fail.
    In the meantime, people need to think about protecting the earth's climate from harm (for instance, all of the bare concrete and blacktop creates some pretty wild microclimates which disturb the whole pattern, and the constant kill-trees-and-bulldoze is also having a real effect).  We also need to protect "wildness" and remember that we're not the only creatures on this planet. – and if it wasn't for modern technology (the artificial fixing of nitrogen), this planet would only support about a quarter of the population – we need to get human numbers DOWN (and in a humane – not coercive – way).  We need to start looking to renewable forms of energy and stop wasting finite resources.  In other words, take a "big picture" approach and not throw so many of our eggs into a single theoretical basket, which I fear will fail.
    The dominionists believe that man is to take dominion over all of nature.  Other belief systems (including forms of Christianity) think otherwise… that we're PART of nature and if anything, stewards or caretakers.  That is what I advocate… avoid the theory as it may (as I think) prove to be wrong, but at the same time try to take care of this planet.

  13. (Laugh!)  At least, a lot further than they do every summer between Assateague and Chincoteague.  (Used to live on the eastern shore as a kid and we went to the pony swim one year.)

  14. If we were supposed to be in a natural warming cycle anyway, it’s not a good idea to accellerate it, especially when there might be another Lake Agassiz under the Greenland ice cap. If we were supposed to be in a natural cooling cycle, looks like we sure reversed it. I doubt all those great and beautiful Pleistocene animals went extinct because a handful of little people threw pointed sticks at them. That just would have pissed them off. Rather, I think the climate fluctuations (as they are now finding) were too rapid and erratic for them to adapt to, and the poor animals died. Don’t overlook the way swift warming can cause outbreaks of insect pests, either. A swarm of locusts could eat all the forage and starve out the herbivore guild, and the predators would follow if you’ve ever taken in our lubber grasshoppers or giant hornworms, you know the same thing could happen to us.

  15. Yes, but, there was a time when my nephew (who was 3 at the time) would stick his finger on the tip of your nose and say, "You're Tuu-pid"…it was very cute, especially when my big mouth republican brother-in-law stuck his big snagzzola in the kids face expecting a kiss…

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