It’s the legislative equivalent of plugging your ears, closing your eyes, and screaming “I can’t hear you!”
North Carolina’s General Assembly has proposed a bill that would prevent scientists from using modern, scientific models to accurately predict what might happen to sea levels if climate change continues unabated.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Rather than use science to accurately predict what might happen to its valuable coast areas, and thereby educate its citizens about what can be done to prepare for this change, North Carolina’s political leaders would rather just make the truth illegal.
Typically, scientists use an exponential model to predict how much sea levels will rise if global temperatures continue to do the same. They have to use a non-linear model because each time the climate warms even a fraction of a degree, it has a major impact on the ocean’s current volume as well as ice cap melt rates.
Taking these variables into account, most climate experts say that sea levels will rise at least three feet by the end of the century. But this doesn’t sit well with a group of legislators from 20 coastal NC counties whose economies will be most impacted by the swelling seas. So, they’ve introduced Replacement House Bill 819, which makes it illegal for state scientists to use exponential models to predict changes in sea level.
The key language is in section 2, paragraph e, talking about rates of sea level rise: “These rates shall only be determined using historical data, and these data shall be limited to the time period following the year 1900. Rates of seas-level rise may be extrapolated linearly. …”
“It goes on,” writes Scott Huler for Scientific American, “but there’s the core: North Carolina legislators have decided that the way to make exponential increases in sea level rise – caused by those inconvenient feedback loops we keep hearing about from scientists – go away is to make it against the law to extrapolate exponential; we can only extrapolate along a line predicted by previous sea level rises.”
Under the new, linear-only rule, the state-appointed board of scientists of the NC Coastal Resources Commission would only be able to predict an 8-inch sea level rise by the end of the century. And that leaves the legislators from those 20 coastal counties feeling just tickled pink.
Now this level of denial might seem shocking, but it’s par for the course in North Carolina. Throughout it’s history, the state has attempted to legislate away lots of pesky things that it just didn’t like, including abortion, gay marriage and racial integration. Unfortunately, this war on reality does nothing more than jeopardize the physical and economic safety of North Carolina’s citizens, who would probably like to know the truth about what’s in store for their state.
Personally, I’m almost looking forward to the day when, knee deep in water on the front porches of their Outer Banks mansions, these legislators will be forced to inform the ocean that it’s breaking the law.
Image via Thinkstock
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