NC Senate panel rejects sea level rise warning

Posted June 7, 2012
Updated June 8, 2012

— A much mocked proposal to ignore scientists' warnings of rising sea levels is moving ahead in the North Carolina Senate.

The Senate's environment committee on Thursday approved a measure sought by coastal developers and ridiculed on national television by comedian Stephen Colbert.

"North Carolina Republicans have drawn a line in the soon-to be-underwater sand. They have written a new bill that would immediately address the crisis predicted by these climate models by outlawing the climate models," Colbert said in a recent segment of the "Colbert Report."

The full Senate was expected to vote Monday on whether to ignore a state-appointed science panel's warning that sea levels could rise by 39 inches by 2100. That could threaten 2,000 square miles of coast land.

Under the proposed legislation, state and local governments could only use predictions of a rise of 8 inches, based on historical trends. The difference – more than 2½ feet – could affect tens of thousands of people near the coast.

"We're not preventing projected sea level rise, but we are putting some guardrails in place – some structure in place – to guide those projections," said bill sponsor Sen. David Rouzer, R-Johnston.

Rouzer said he doesn't believe the sea level will rise as fast as experts say, and he said their projections would hurt the coastal economy.

"You're talking about affecting land use, you're talking about affecting property values and you're talking about insurance rates and everything else," he said.

"Science should be based on real hard data," he said. "Just because there is a group of folks that project the sea level rise does not mean the sea will rise. There was consensus years and years and years ago that the earth was flat; turned out to be round."

Scientist says legislation puts NC coast at risk Scientist says legislation puts NC coast at risk

Duke University climate expert Rob Jackson told lawmakers that every major science organization in the U.S. and the vast majority of climate scientists are in agreement about the projections the state would ignore under the bill.

"My primary concern is that the bill won't take into account the best science available," Jackson said. "It's already clear to the scientific community that the rates of sea level rise are accelerating. We know why they're rising because of warmer temperatures and ice melting. This bill basically says we can't use the best scientific information to protect people along the coast of North Carolina."

Rouzer, who is running for the state's 7th Congressional District, said the lower projections can be adjusted as needed by the state Coastal Resources Commission.

"Let's assume in year seven, eight, nine the sea level rise does increase at a more accelerated rate," he said. "At that point, you have that historical data to incorporate in your model to project for the future."

Jackson said, however, that prohibiting communities from using more recent scientific data will put people and property in harm's way, and taxpayers will eventually get the bill for it. He asked the Senate to hold the bill for a month to allow for more input from scientists and the public.

"Real estate, road building, storm surges associated with hurricanes, salt water intrusion into our water sources along the coast – there are a whole series of things that we can take steps to avoid and to mitigate," he said. "If we don't think about those options, it's going to cost people a lot of money."


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • Come On_Seriously Jun 8, 2012

    Let's try an analogy...

    If my house is on fire, I'm not going to wait on historical data to see if the first half burns all the way through before I get out the fire extinguisher to save the second half.

    By the gop's measure, I should get an expert like a realtor or an accountant to tell me if they think that an actual fire is actually consuming my actual house prior to taking action. If it's an inconvenient time to call the fire department, maybe I'll keep building the second story and just hope it goes out after it burns through the carpet.

  • bowens44 Jun 8, 2012

    "The climate constantly changes. The real ignorance comes from those that pretend to know what it will be like 100 years from now."

    No the real ignorance comes from those who established ignore science and try to make ignoring science the law.

  • bowens44 Jun 8, 2012

    Once again NC makes a mad dash toward the 15th century....

    What can you say to this kind of ignorance? Attempting to make stupidity the law.

  • Plenty Coups Jun 8, 2012

    dennis8-"Please people, stop this demonizing all that is not convenient to your views."

    I agree. But the conservative movement has now decided that scientists and teachers are public enemy number one since they go against recent conservative views.

  • Come On_Seriously Jun 8, 2012

    I find it rather hilarious myself that people think they know more than prfessionals in a given field and don't understand the difference between a trend and a specific event. I can predict that I will have arthritis and be less strong in 30 years, but I can't tell you exactly what pains I might happen to feel in three days.

  • Return of Finz Jun 8, 2012


    I have had conversations with many knowledgable folks in the scientific field about this very subject......I'm sure this will come as a surprise to you but a great many of them don't agree with the data of the so called "consensus". I find it rather hilarious that you scientist think you can accurately predict 100 years out but you can't tell me with any reasonable certainty what the weather will be 3 days from now.

  • ykm Jun 8, 2012

    Can anyone think of a reason we need a commission with 15 members appointed by a governor.

  • dennis8 Jun 8, 2012

    Another stellar moment for NC and the GOP. No worries, they gutted education funding so the next generation will not understand that humans caused the sea level rise. Scientist are not the enemy, we are the messengers. What we do can be complex and difficult to understand at times but most of us love to explain what we do and why we reached the conclusions we did to anyone who cares to ask. There is no global conspiracy of scientists cooking data. Anyone who does that or tries to go with the flow soon finds themselves out of a job. Scientists are not all what you would call liberal or conservative. No matter how strongly we may believe something when the data does not fit our beliefs we must reassess those beliefs, not ignore the facts. Please people, stop this demonizing all that is not convenient to your views.

  • Plenty Coups Jun 7, 2012

    "If Rouzer had of been around then, he would have been one of the ones swearing that the world was flat."

    I just can't respect a man like David Rouzer who knowingly pretends the science is "unsettled" just so that his constituents (at least the ones he cares about) can make more money short term.

  • archmaker Jun 7, 2012

    seriously wral? this is news i heard days ago - on colbert of all places!