North Carolina has yet again come to national attention. In the June 4 episode of The Colbert Report, host Stephen Colbert satirically described Replacement House Bill 819, which rejects sea level rise predictions by the Coastal Resources Commission’s Science Panel.
“It would be a tragedy,” Colbert says in the video, “to lose precious coastal wildlife habitats to flooding. Those habitats should be lost to developer’s bulldozers.”
Under the language currently in the bill, North Carolina will use rising sea-level predictions based on historical data. This means that the commission will project the sea-level rise rates from 1900-2000 onto the predicted sea-level rise for 2000-2100. Based on the historical data, the state’s sea-level is predicted to rise about eight inches. In 2010, the commission initially predicted a 39-inch rise in sea levels by the year 2100, but pressure from coastal governments and development groups caused the commission to revoke the prediction. On March 1 2011, the commission released a document explaining why it retracted its original prediction.
Blogs have been blowing up, condemning Republican representatives for pushing House Bill 819 to pass and ignoring scientific data. Scientific American blogger Scott Huler said the bill is driven more by economic gain than by concern for the environment. Care2 said that if this bill passes, it would be “the legislative equivalent of plugging your ears, closing your eyes and screaming ‘I can’t hear you!’ A blog by the North Carolina Coastal Federation calls this a “sea-level rise silliness” that would cause legislation to accept statistics that wouldn’t even hold up in introductory environmental classes.
NC-20, a coastal-development organization, is a key supporter of House Bill 819. The group’s website states that the 39-inch sea level rise prediction would place over 1 million acres of coastal land in flood-zone areas, making them off-limits to developers. This would go against NC-20′s plans for further development because it would create problems in financing development, obtaining insurance, getting permits and might lead to the construction of costly elevated highways.
The website also states that it has information showing no sea level rise acceleration for the N.C. coast and that the state should not restrict land that could generate millions of dollars based on projects that are “computer models based on human speculation.”
But Replacement House Bill 819 still has a long way to go, it has not yet been introduced. Once the bill has been dropped into the hopper, it can be brought to debate on the floor. So until that time, we must wait and “sea.”