OPINION: Climate science ban jeopardizes lives in North Carolina

Noah Meyer, Opinions Editor

Graphic by Sam Chaney

As Hurricane Florence begins to batter North Carolina, previous laws passed in North Carolina outlawing climate science could cost lives. Hurricane Florence is currently predicted to bring historic rainfall, violent storm surge, and severe flooding along North Carolina’s coast. While the winds have slowed a bit, causing Hurricane Florence to be reclassified from a Category 4 to a Category 1, it is flooding that can cause the most damage and loss of life, and a 2012 law passed by the North Carolina legislature may cause this flooding to be more catastrophic.

In 2012, North Carolina made headlines by passing a law that banned the latest scientific predictions of sea-level rise. After a report came out from the Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) that predicted the sea level will rise by 39 inches in the next century, and another study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) found sea-level rise in North Carolina is accelerating at three to four times the global rate, North Carolina lawmakers responded by banning the science from influencing policy. By banning these studies from impacting policy decisions, any preparations that could account for sea level rise were ignored, including the drawing of new flood zone areas and road elevation projects.

Without the findings of the CRC and the USGS, new flood zone draws are unable to account for sea-level rise, meaning that current North Carolina flood zones are likely inaccurate. With a massive hurricane now bearing down on North Carolina and severe flooding predicted, evacuation and flood zones could be entirely inaccurate, possibly putting residents in the path of raging floodwater.

What North Carolina legislators and former North Carolina Governor Bev Purdue failed to release is that banning science doesn’t stop it from being true. While the findings of the CRC and USGS are alarming, banning their results from impacting policy does not ban the sea from rising and homes from flooding.

The reason for their blatant denial of science doesn’t come from a place of fear though, but rather pressure from developers who didn’t want the new findings impacting coastal development projects. North Carolinian legislators decided to put their constituents’ lives at risk because developers didn’t want science impacting their ability to develop properties that will likely be submerged by Hurricane Florence.

It was no secret that the law was unpopular with North Carolinians either. Former Gov. Perdue’s office released that they had received 3,400 emails opposing the bill in the first week, demonstrating that the governor and the legislature were more concerned with the profits of developers than the citizens of North Carolina.

North Carolina is poised to face catastrophic flooding and damage from Hurricane Florence—damage that could have been alleviated if lawmakers listened to both scientists and their constituents. Climate science continues to be needlessly controversial while weather continues to be increasingly catastrophic. Lawmakers need to choose between continuing to ignore science at the cost of lives or accepting what the scientific community has been pointing them towards for decades. Hurricane Florence is just another sign that the world is reaching its boiling point. Climate change is a reality that must be reckoned with, lest we all drown.

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