Local News

Sea level rise documentary with NC focus comes to Triangle

Posted February 4, 2014
Updated February 5, 2014

A documentary on sea-level rise with a focus on the North Carolina coast is coming to the Triangle for several screenings this week.

Shored Up examines development and beach engineering in coastal communities such as New Jersey and the Outer Banks amid the impacts of climate change. The documentary caused a stir in November when the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences passed on an offer to screen the film during one of its weekly Science Cafe events.

North Carolina State University will show the film at the Hunt Library Auditorium on Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. ahead of a panel discussion by director Ben Kalina, professors and civic leaders.

Two more screenings will follow on Feb. 6 at the Full Frame Theatre in Durham, first at 5 p.m. and again at 7 p.m. A panel at the second screening will also feature Kalina and will be moderated by Chris Fitzsimon, director of the liberal think tank N.C. Policy Watch. The event is hosted by Capitol Broadcasting Co., the parent company of WRAL News.

Film denied at science museum

Shored Up Triangle audiences have chance to see sea-level rise documentary

The North Carolina Coastal Federation, which is sponsoring the Durham screenings, raised concerns about the museum's decision not to show the film in November, saying the move was politically driven.

The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, which like the museum is managed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, showed the film in November.

In a message posted on the Shored Up site on Nov. 18, Kalina said he was surprised to hear the museum passed on the film, which he said is "grounded in consensus science that addresses the far-reaching impacts of climate change now and in the future."

"I’m sympathetic to the fact that some of the subjects raised in the film could be perceived or construed as being politically sensitive, but now more than ever we need our stalwart institutions of science and reason to provide a framework for these critical discussions," Kalina said.

The museum contends the decision wasn't political at all. According to a written statement in November, science museum Director Emlyn Koster said showing the film wouldn't be the best way to present "an issue as significant and complex as sea level science."

"For contemporary issues that connect science with societal innovations and environmental stewardship, the most constructive role for this Museum is to be an engaging venue with multiple resources and views," Koster wrote in the statement.

When reached Tuesday afternoon by phone, Kalina said the screening would have been an opportunity to engage the public at an institution that takes climate change seriously.

"Film is a medium that is perfectly poised to create discourse," Kalina said. "This would have been a great opportunity to create a conversation."

Museum spokesman Mark Johnson told WRAL News in November that a committee made up of museum staffers typically reviews proposals for outside programming, such as speakers and other events.

Film proposals are rare, Johnson said, but for the first time under Koster's tenure, the committee decided to get final approval from management for the film before scheduling it. He said the committee did not recommend showing the film by itself but discussed pairing it with a panel or other alternatives.

The science of the film, Johnson said, was not the committee's primary concern.

"The concern was about whether this was the best and most complete way to discuss the topic," Johnson said.

Criticized sea change models featured

The film also highlights legislative changes to the way the state predicts sea level rise on the coast, a process that played out in the General Assembly while Kalina was filming in the state.

Initial versions of the bill, which drew mockery from scientists and comedian Stephen Colbert alike, restricted the use of current models to plan the future of coastal communities. It opted instead for less dramatic, linear models scientists say do not represent the best available data. The version that eventually passed both houses – and dodged then-Gov. Bev Perdue's veto – delayed the adoption of new models for four years.

Backers of the measure at the time said criticism was unfair and that scientific studies are conflicted on sea level rise.

"Local governments are completely left alone in this bill," said Sen. David Rouzer, R-Johnson. He said that bill would only affect one state agency.

Orrin Pilkey Duke professor talks sea level rise

But Duke geology Professor Orrin Pilkey, who's featured in the film, says ignoring sea level rise is not the answer.

"It was just mind-boggling that a group of reasonably intelligent and educated people would come to this conclusion," Pilkey said. "It was utterly irresponsible."

Pilkey said that sea level models show that much of the lowest-lying northeastern part of the state will be underwater in 100 years, a change that will deal a serious blow to the Outer Banks.

"With a three-foot elevation, that's the end of development on our barrier islands," Pilkey said. "The cost of holding the shoreline, the cost of stopping the storm surge is going to be impossible."

And with the impact felt up and down the East Coast, where the slope of the land is much more gradual, money to maintain sea walls and build other structures will flow to major metropolitan areas, not recreational shorelines.

"New York is going to trump Wrightsville Beach," Pilkey said. "That's an economic fact."

Given the difficulty of the problem, Kalina said he can understand the temptation to avoid it. But he said he hopes his film will help kickstart a conversation that's as critical as it is uncomfortable.

"This is not an issue that has one solution, or even a couple of solutions," Kalina said. "It takes a reckoning. It takes input from all the stakeholders."


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  • Danny22 Feb 5, 2014

    more liberal hogwash. The earth's surface has always been in a state of change.

  • Pirate01 Feb 5, 2014

    Really??? At this point the "global warming" crowd is a joke. We have all seen their lies in their own words and every prediction they have made over the last several decades be completely false.

  • westernwake1 Feb 5, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Let's see what Dr. Judith Curry, Professor and Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has to say about the sea temperature rise.

    "The punchline of his calculations: the heating in the layer 0-2000 m translates to 0.065 C +/- 20%. His calculations are essentially confirmed from this ARGO page where they confirm that since the 1960s, the warming of that layer was 0.06 °C."

    Link - http://judithcurry.com/2013/09/26/the-relentless-increase-of-ocean-heat/

    (Includes links to the ARGO data).

  • westernwake1 Feb 4, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Maybe you should read the report and refute the data. Instead of declaring every entity that provides factual information as "in the pockets of oil companies" and simply dismissing the reality.

  • westernwake1 Feb 4, 2014

    View quoted thread

    The data is from ARGO, the organization that maintains all the ocean data buoys. You can look up the information yourself. It is widely available on the Internet. You can plot the ocean temperature data yourself at the ARGO website.

  • normson7 Feb 4, 2014

    I'm surprised that the NC General Assembly will allow this to be shown. After all, they tried to pass laws against such talk.

  • Plenty Coups Feb 4, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Educated people don't fall for non science. "Friends of Science" is oil industry funded garbage that tries to mislead and that's all.

  • patriotsrevenge Feb 4, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Sources please

  • Plenty Coups Feb 4, 2014

    View quoted thread

    I don't buy your argument and neither should you. Your "less than 50% of scientists support it" is a classic straw man argument. I'm assuming you're using Schulte's (or similar) argument in which he carefully chooses papers that only endorse "catastrophic climate change". Then extrapolates that in obvious dishonesty to then try and claim that they "don't support global warming" at all". That's middle school stuff.

    From the national academies of science of 11 nations:

    To Oreskes in 2004:


    To Doran 2009: (hardly many years ago)


    To Cook 2013:

    To studies of peer reviewed studies:


  • westernwake1 Feb 4, 2014

    The temperature of the oceans globally has only risen 0.06 degrees since 1960. This represents about 30 x 10^22 joules in heat content added (which is not much unless an alarmist makes it into a big scary chart). The recent ocean level increase is well within the natural statistical means of the past 10,000 years. There is no reason to panic.