April 23, 2013

EARTH: Denying Sea-Level Rise

In 2009, the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission (CRC), a body that controls and regulates coastal development in North Carolina, asked 13 members of its advisory Science Panel to prepare a report on the state of sea-level rise in North Carolina. After the report was published, there was a subsequent maelstrom regarding its utility and validity.

In this month's issue of EARTH Magazine, Orrin Pilkey and Alexander Glass from Duke University describe what happened.

Based on the latest scientific studies both locally and globally, the Science Panel's report concluded that by 2100, a 40-centimeter sea-level rise is highly likely, a 100-centimeter rise is likely, and a 140-centimeter rise is possible. Although the panel did not advocate for any particular response or policy, they recommended that a 100-centimeter sea-level rise should be adopted as the basis for any future coastal management plan.

Opponents said that, if implemented, the new regulations for development would cost developers and homeowners a fortune. After a fierce legislative battle, the opponents advanced legislation that effectively requires no consideration of sea-level rise in any planning until the Science Panel can produce a new report by 2015. How will local political decisions like this affect development along a coastline that is facing rising seas?


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