Friday, December 28, 2018

After Back-to-Back Hurricanes, North Carolina Reconsiders Climate Change

In a state where lawmakers once rejected sea level rise warnings, polls show a growing concern among residents and a desire for better policies.

Days of rain from Hurricane Florence flooded homes across a wide area of North Carolina in September 2018. In Spring Lake, nearly 100 miles from the coast, Bob Richling carried items from a home as the Little River flooded. (Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
After North Carolina was hit by two major hurricanes within two years and flooding rainfall from a third, the state that once spurned the science of sea level rise in its zoning rules is starting to take climate change more seriously.

A new governor has a different policy agenda that incorporates the risks from climate change, and polls suggest a growing number of North Carolina residents are concerned about climate change and want policies that help protect them from extreme weather.

There are new efforts to get homes and hog-waste lagoons out of floodplains before the next big storm.  Gov. Roy Cooper has committed North Carolina to cut its heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2025, consistent with the Paris climate accord.  He also instructed state agencies to incorporate climate science into their decision-making, a shift for a state where lawmakers just six years ago passed legislation to prevent North Carolina officials from basing coastal policies on projections of sea level rise.

Some residents hadn't yet recovered from 2016's Hurricane Matthew when Hurricane Florence stalled over the state in September and dumped more than 30 inches of rain.  The deluge turned interstates into rivers, made the port city of Wilmington almost an island, and flooded tens of thousands of homes.  A few weeks later, the remnants of Hurricane Michael brought even more rain to North Carolina, knocking out power to thousands and causing flooding.

North Carolinians are starting to think about extreme weather in new ways, said Geoff Gisler, a Chapel Hill-based attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, which works on coastal protection, clean energy and other issues.

"It's something we're seeing not only from the governor's office but also on the ground," Gisler said.  "Some folks, maybe five years ago, that were saying that climate change doesn't exist are now realizing when you have several 500- or 1,000-year storms in a couple of years, that's not normal."

Read more at After Back-to-Back Hurricanes, North Carolina Reconsiders Climate Change

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