North Carolina law banning use of recent climate science could worsen Hurricane Florence impact

Policies may have undermined ability to make coastal regions more resilient.

September 20, 2018 |
WIlmington, NC

A 2012 law that restricts taking into account the latest research in climate science could make North Carolina more vulnerable to Hurricane Florence.

The law banned policy makers from using recent climate science data to plan for sea level rise including things like elevation requirements on new buildings in flood-prone areas. The law was reportedly a response to a 2010 Coastal Resources Commission report that predicted sea levels on the Carolina coast would rise 39 inches by 2100.

The bill required the commission to write a new sea-level-rise report that limited its scope to the next 30 years. It was also required to take into account scientific studies refuting sea level rise, and to weigh the economic cost of limiting coastal development.

Scientists say the law is misguided, and will ultimately hurt the region’s ability to withstand damage from major storms. According to a recent article by a retired Duke University coastal geologist, the state should increase setback lines for coastal development, raise the height of buildings, move threatened buildings, prohibit rebuilding of storm-destroyed buildings, and begin a planned retreat from the rising water line.

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