Climate deniers could soon overtake a North Carolina commission created to study the effects of sea level rise. The nominations are only the latest blow from conservatives that have done their best to make climate change seem inconsequential to the coastal state. In the process, the Republican-controlled legislature managed to bury a key projection of the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission panel: The state’s shores will face more than three feet of sea level rise within the next century.
Larry Baldwin, a current member of the Coastal Resources Commission, wants to nominate climate deniers to fill the science panel’s vacancies, since he is one himself. Some of Baldwin’s top picks are Nicola Scafetta, David Burton, and Robert Brown. Scafetta, a researcher with the Duke University Physics Department, thinks anthropogenic warming is “significantly overstated.” Burton, who has made a “hobby” out of “the study of the science of sea-level rise,” thinks the panel is “outside their area of expertise, really, when it comes to that topic.” And Brown once argued in a blog post against preparing for sea level rise: “Yet we are asked to spend money and time now, when there literally isn’t a hint of a problem in the … empirical data.”
Once considered a scientific panel, the commission has moved in a more conservative and industry-friendly direction ever since the North Carolina legislature removed many of the actual scientists. In 2013, Gov. Pat McCrory appointed Frank Gorham, a man whose day job is overseeing his oil and gas investment company and who thinks no scientist “is smart enough to say [sea level] is going to rise 39 inches.”
The panel’s three-foot-rise projection offended the Republican legislature enough in 2012 that it voted officially to ignore it. Hoping to avoid a repeat, the panel will now only look at sea level 30 years into the future. North Carolina’s war on science hasn’t ended there, either. There was another incident where the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources was caught deleting public resources about climate change.
One of the few longtime experts left on the panel, Professor of Marine and Coastal Geology Stan Riggs, insists the danger of climate change is here and now. “The land along the shoreline along those areas is just being ripped out at 100 feet a storm,” he told E&E News. “The tipping point in my opinion is not 100 years from now at 2100, it’s right now.” In fact, three feet of sea level rise is likely an understatement, new studies suggest. Without action to curb greenhouse pollution, Antarctica ice could pass an unstoppable melting point, causing seas to rise by 10 to 13 feet.