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Sea-level bill: Who is John Droz?

Posted June 6, 2012 9:20 p.m. EDT
Updated June 7, 2012 2:31 p.m. EDT

UPDATED: See below

The state Senate's Ag/Environment committee is scheduled to hear a bill Thursday that would restrict how state agencies and planners predict sea-level change.

The measure, currently on the panel's agenda as H819 CAMA Setback Requirements, would instead rewrite state law to spell out who would be authorized to predict the impact of sea level rise on the state's coastal counties. 

An earlier version of the proposal, available here, would ban the state from using current data models to predict sea-level rise caused by climate change. That proposal drew international ridicule from Scientific American, the Guardian (UK), and even the Colbert Report.  

The latest version, available here, appears to back off restrictions on data modeling for the most part. But the devil may be in the details.

The new version bans predictions of sea level rise "unless such rates are from statistically significant, peer-reviewed data and are consistent with historic trends."  This essentially bans any new projections based on climate change, since they would be inconsistent with historic trends.

Environmental activists say the measure is the creature of NC-20, a federation of coastal counties that would have a great deal to lose if the average American began to believe sea-level rise might obliterate NC coastal real estate.

WRAL obtained this NC-20 memo detailing the group's negotiations on the issue with lawmakers and government officials. 

"Bottom Line: we got everything we asked for," writes NC-20 chair Tom Thompson in the memo. "We got a commitment to totally abandon any reference to accelerated SLR (sea level rise)."

Who Is John Droz? 

On the front lines of the debate is NC-20's science consultant John Droz, a retired realtor and climate change denier who's become something of a cause celebre in conservative circles. 

Promoted by the conservative John Locke Foundation, Droz has given presentations on energy and climate change around the state. He's also a fellow of the conservative American Tradition Institute, along with former Locke Carolina Journal editor Paul Chesser. 

Droz's science credentials, according to his resume, consist of a Masters in Solid State Science from Syracuse in 1975. He has yet to publish a single peer-reviewed article in any credible journal. 

Interviewed last December, Droz said his business as a real estate broker Is "a hobby, primarily for a tax deduction." 

“90% of my time is spent on science,” he said. "My focus is to try to educate citizens. Citizens could care less whether I have a peer-reviewed article.”

“There are people who may not like what I’m saying. But science is about facts," he said. "“No one has ever come forward with any proof that what I’ve said is wrong.”

Droz came to the state legislature last November to give this presentation on wind energy to state lawmakers. It depicts lawmakers(all citizens, according to Droz) as Little Red Riding Hood being attacked by clean-energy proponents (developers, according to Droz) represented as the Big Bad Wolf.

“I’m a scientist," Droz said in response to questions about the image. "I like literature. I try to be creative. Just something that came into my head.”

It's not the only questionable image Droz has used. Attendees at an anti-wind-energy presentation he gave last fall to the Carteret County Economic Development Council said it showed President Obama's face morphing into Satan's.

The Carteret EDC could provide neither minutes of the meeting nor the presentation. Nor could Droz.  

"I don’t remember any such image of President Obama," he said. “I’m sorry, I don’t. I’ve given probably a hundred presentations. I don’t keep them all.”

Asked why he should be regarded as a climate expert,  Droz explained, "I'm an internationally known person." 

He says his views on science are based on fact, not politics. "I don’t care whether it’s Democrats or Republicans or unaffiliateds. I am about the science."

And, Droz says, says he isn't being paid for his opinions. "No one has paid me a dime. I have no agenda here to promote anybody’s belief. I certainly have opinions." 

Update: In response to this post, Mr. Droz contacted us to seek a retraction. He says he is not a climate change denier, and says he has "never claimed to be a climate expert." He also claims NC-20 has not been involved in the legislation, though documents obtained by WRAL show otherwise. And he says the "Little Red Riding Hood" in his slide is meant to refer to all citizens, not just lawmakers. 

Mr. Droz also denies ever having used a slide showing President Obama morphing into Satan, and disputes many of the quotes in the story.