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

Jun 5, 2015

This broadcast of CoastLine originally aired on August 6, 2014.

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 inchesthat’s more than 4 ½ feetby 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 datanot on the accelerated rates that scientists have said are the trend of the future.  North Carolina’s response to the science made national newsand 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 planninginfrastructure, 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.