Friday, January 02, 2015

Outer Banks Sea Levels Could Rise A Foot or More

Highway 12 washed out

Like their Republican counterparts in the Virginia General Assembly, North Carolina Republican officials refuse to admit that climate change is occurring or that seal levels are rising.  Indeed, they past legislation banning any effort to look at the problem until 2016.  Meanwhile, a new report indicates that sea levels along the Outer Banks - a tourism cash cow for North Carolina - may rise a foot or more over the next few decades.  Will the Republicans pull their heads out of the sand and face objective scientific reality?  Don't hold your breath.  A piece in the Virginian Pilot looks at the report findings and the continued GOP denial of reality.  Here are highlights:

A new 30-year report on sea-level rise shows wide variances along the North Carolina coast, from a possible rise of 4 inches at Southport to more than 12 inches on the northern Outer Banks.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reported those numbers are part of a draft report by an advisory science panel for the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission. The commission requested the report after legislators rejected a 2010 study.

The 30-year projections will go through 18 months of peer review, public comment and possible revision. A 2012 law prohibits state agencies from taking any action based on the sea-level forecast until July 1, 2016.

East Carolina University geologist Stan Riggs, a member of the advisory panel, said state leaders should start dealing with the effects of coastal storms whose impact is magnified by the rising sea.
“If you’re going to build sewage plants or hospitals or highways, you’d better be thinking about the longer term,” Riggs said Wednesday.

If the rate of sea-level rise is unchanged over the next 30 years, the new report says the increases will include about 2.4 inches at Southport and about 5.4 inches at Duck. But the report says it’s unlikely the rate will remain static.

Frank Gorham III of Figure Eight Island, the Coastal Resources Commission chairman, rejected calls from critics to replace the original members of the science panel. He also reduced the scope of its new forecast to 30 years.

“We have to do a better job this time of listening to both sides, instead of just throwing it in the trash and saying it’s terrible,” Gorham said Wednesday. “Read the thing and listen to people.”

Two sea-level scientists from out of state will review the new draft report. They are Robert G. Dean, a former civil engineering professor at the University of Florida, and James R. Houston of Vicksburg, Miss., a former research director with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Then the commission chairman is expected to order a study of the economic and environmental costs and benefits of developing coastal regulations based on the sea-level forecast.

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