UPDATE: Monday, July 16 North Carolina Governor Beth Purdue signed 38 bills into law on Friday, but the controversial bill on coastal development, HB819 was not among them. If Perdue does not veto the bill by August 2, it will automatically become law.
The Republican-majority North Carolina legislature today passed a bill placing a 4-year ban on acknowledging rising sea levels due to global warming when considering coastal development within the state. The bill now goes to Governor Bev Purdue (Democrat), who thus far has not indicated whether or not she intends to sign it into law.
The legislation comes a week after research from the U.S. Geological Survey and published in the journal, Nature Climate Change, reported that since 1980, the 600-mile stretch of Atlantic coastline between Cape Hatteras, NC and Boston, MA, has experienced a rise in sea level that is 3-4 times the global average.
More disarming is another study, published this week in the same journal, indicating that even if efforts were underway to stabilize globally averaged temperatures at 2-3°C above pre-industrial measures, sea levels will continue to rise. Essentially, we have already passed a point-of-no-return, and even with aggressive mitigation, sea levels will continue to rise for the next several hundred years.
The ban instituted today is the result of a conflict between developers, who were willing to accept no more than a projected 8-inch rise, and a state-sponsored climate study that predicted a 39-inch (1 meter) rise in sea level by 2100. Rather than using any projection at all, the legislature elected to wait a new study is completed in 2016.
If signed by the governor, developers would have a 4-year window during which to propose building or rebuilding on land that would have been declared off-limits if the prediction of a 3-foot rise was considered.
Comedian Steven Colbert addressed the absurdity of ignoring the predictions of ocean and climate scientists (per an earlier version of the bill), in a June 4, “Sink or Swim” segment.