7:17 pm
Wed August 6, 2014

CoastLine: Is Public Policy on Sea Level Rise Keeping up with Coastal Planning Needs?

What does sea level rise, now widely-accepted by the scientific community, mean for coastal areas in North Carolina?  How concerned do we really need to be?   

It was 2010  when a report on sea level rise by the Coastal Resource Commission’s Science Panel turned the topic into a lightning rod in Raleigh and across the state.   A draft version of the report initially recommended that North Carolina prepare for sea levels to rise up to 55 inches – that’s more than 4 ½ feet -- by the year 2100.  The report also said that a rise of 39 inches was likely.  

Two years later, lawmakers passed House Bill 819 – the Coastal Management Policies Act -- which put a four-year moratorium on creating any policies related to sea level rise.   The law also required sea level rise to be calculated on historical data -- not on the accelerated rates that scientists have said are the trend of the future.   North Carolina’s response to the science made national news – and became fodder for a well-known comedians. 

Here’s Stephen Colbert from the Colbert Report in 2012: 

The Coastal Resources Commission met last week in New Bern, North Carolina.  Part of the agenda:  to update the report on Sea Level Rise.  

There’s a great deal at stake on all fronts.   Billions of dollars in investment could become virtually worthless if thousands of miles of coastal property are declared unbuildable.  Such a designation could also cause insurance rates for existing property owners to spike. 

But environmental advocates and supporters of a more progressive approach say that without long-term planning – infrastructure, property, and important coastal ecosystems are all at risk. 

In-studio guests: 

Spencer Rogers, a coastal engineer and geologist with North Carolina Sea Grant, a coastal research and education program.  He’s also on the Science Panel that advises the Coastal Resources Commission.

Mike Giles:  He’s worked as a wildlife biologist and enforcement officer with The National Park Service and the Army Corps of Engineers.  For the last seven years, he’s been with the North Carolina Coastal Federation – an environmental advocacy group. 


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