When I reported on North Carolina’s attempt to legislate away the reality of sea level rise earlier this month, I hoped public ridicule would deter other states from following suit. Apparently, that hope was as futile as King Canute’s order to the tide.
Last week, the Virginia General Assembly commissioned a study on rising sea levels and their potential impacts on coastal Virginia. But before the study got the legislature’s stamp of approval, all usage of the words ”sea level rise” or “climate change” were removed. Apparently some Republican assembly-members didn’t like the fact the research would give credence to these “liberal code words,” so they insisted that they be replaced with the term “recurrent flooding” instead.
Phew! Now thousands of residents in Norfolk and the rest of coastal Virginia can breath easy–climate change will no longer present a threat to their homes and businesses. All they have to do now is plan for that pesky “recurrent flooding.”
What these legislators fail to realize, in their zeal to purge the world of climate change reserch, is that they’ve villanized the wrong term. As Scott Huler writes for Scientific American,”Sea-level rise is utterly politically neutral, because it is scientific, not political. It involves data and science, not politics and manipulation. ‘Recurrent flooding’ on the other hand is a completely political phrase because it tries to soft-pedal reality.”
According to scientific tide measurements at Sewells Point in Norfolk, the sea level has risen by 14.5 inches in the past 100 years. The trend is projected to continue for at least the next century, and some scientists predict that the rate could accelerate, with the level rising an additional 2 to 3 feet by 2100, and perhaps higher.
To call this type of trend “recurrent flooding” is laughable. Flooding is a sudden and temporary occurrence. It happens, and then it subsides. Sometimes it takes months, but the water eventually goes away. What scientists predict will happen to Virginia’s coastline will not go away. It will get worse every year until the water is lapping at the porches of beach side homes.
Unfortunately, this possibility is less-frightening to some lawmakers than the idea that developers might stop trying to build those homes. So instead of allowing scientific fact to inform their legislative decisions, they’re exercising their right to be totally, willfully wrong.
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