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In North Carolina and Virginia, Business and Tea-Party Politics Rise Over Sea Levels

| Tuesday June 19th, 2012 | 2 Comments

If you were wondering what the next target of conservative groups and the tea party after they’ll get over with agenda 21, we have the answer for you: sea level rise. In North Carolina the state Senate approved legislation last week that would limit how the state can plan for projected sea-level rise, and in Virginia state lawmakers agreed to commission a study on the phenomenon as long as terms like “sea level rise” and “climate change” were removed. As you can see, another relatively straightforward indication of global warming is slowly but surely transforming into a questionable, not to say inappropriate term.

Politicians messing up with research and statistical data might look like a bad idea, but on the other hand, as Steven Colbert noted, commenting about North Carolina story, this is actually a brilliant idea: “If your science gives you a result that you don’t like, pass a law saying the result is illegal. Problem solved.” It can actually be a great method to solve most problems in life. The only drawback is that it works well only in the short term. In the long term (if there’s any) it usually leaves you only with unpleasant options, like sink or swim as Colbert suggested in this particular case.

Let’s start with Virginia, where the legislature commissioned a study to determine the impacts of climate change on the state’s shores, given that Virginia is highly vulnerable to flooding. The National Memo reported that Republicans in the state legislature agreed to that, but as long as words like “sea level rise” and “climate change” were left out of the proposal.

Republican State Delegate Chris Stolle, who steered the legislation, said according to the Virginian Plot that “sea level rise” is a “left-wing term” that conjures up animosities on the right. So why bring it into the equation? “What people care about is the floodwater coming through their door. Let’s focus on that. Let’s study that. So that’s what I wanted us to call it,” he added. Democrats, wanting the study approved, agreed on substituting it to a more politically neutral phrase, “recurrent flooding,” and the legislation was approved and signed by the governor.

Do semantics matter or it’s not really that important if we call it ‘sea level rise’, ‘recurrent flooding’, or maybe just ‘it’, as long as studies are been made and actions are been taken? I believe semantics do matter because semantics define perception and perception shapes policy and action. Softer definitions can easily get people to mistakenly identify black flags as white flags, and this is a luxury that Virginia, where scientists say the state’s sea level will rise by about 2 feet over the next century, cannot afford. According to NOAA, 82 percent of the Virginia coastline considered at high or very high risk to sea level rise, not to mention places like the city of Norfolk, which is especially vulnerable to rising sea waters and subsidence, given its geography and marshy footprint. Yet, apparently it’s not enough for some Virginia lawmakers to get over their issues with climate change and raise a black flag, which in itself might be defined one day as a left wing term.

As shocking as it might sound, the Virginia lawmakers are pretty progressive compared to their colleagues in North Carolina. While in Virginia they only tell the researchers what language to use, at least they don’t tell them what data sets to use. In North Carolina, on the other hand, it’s a different story.

The state Senate in North Carolina approved by a 34-to-11 vote last week a bill prescribing how the state can forecast future sea level rise for planning purposes. The bill, according to NCCapitol bans predictions of sea level rise “unless such rates are from statistically significant, peer-reviewed data and are consistent with historic trends.” This rule essentially bans any new projections based on climate change models, as they would be inconsistent with historic trends.

In other words, using historic trends is allowed, scientific modeling is not. What’s the difference? 21 inches. Yep, according to a state-commissioned study on sea level rise conducted before the bill was approved the expected rise would be 39 inches on the coast by 2100. The expected revised forecast, in accordance with the new guidelines, is around an 8-inch rise by 2100. This makes a big difference to coastal developers, who pushed for the bill through a non-profit advocacy group called NC-20, which brought up fears that planning and retrofitting buildings and roads with a 39-inch rise in mind would be a tremendous waste of money, not to mention that “potential investment and construction will be severely impacted.”

“The level of irresponsibility of NC-20 is really fantastic,” geologist Orrin Pilkey of Duke University told ScienceInsider. “What this legislation does is prevent the state of informing people of the hazards that they are facing.” He’s probably right, but when money meets politics, long-term hazards are set aside. But after all, aren’t hazards themselves just a left-wing concept pushed by the (left-wing) media?

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[Image credit: Nick Moys, Flickr Creative Commons]

Raz Godelnik is the co-founder of Eco-Libris, a green company working to green up the book industry in the digital age. He is an adjunct faculty at the University of Delaware’s Department of Business Administration, CUNY and the New School, teaching courses in green business and new product development.


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  • georgemeredithmd

     

     

    It’s About the Sponge, Stupid!

    To Modify Rising Sea Levels

    re: “Words, Not Action on Coastal Flooding” Virginian Pilot Editorial 06.13.12

    Virginia’s
    Tree Huggers and their mouthpiece, the Virginian Pilot, would have us believe
    that if we were to all drive these (dangerous) little Chevrolet Volts, plug in
    to some Rube Goldberg Windmill and eat bamboo shoots, that we could change
    global warming with its associated sea level rise. But we both know that this
    is not the case.

              

             Because the planet Earth wobbles on its long
    axis over a 23,000 year cycle, its inhabitants must endure glacial and glacial
    melt cycles. Glacial and interglacial periods. For instance, our shoreline was
    65 miles east, 11,500 years ago. Witness the walrus tusks that scallop boats
    have dredged up in the Norfolk Canyon. And in another 11,500 years, our mid Atlantic
    shoreline will once again be on Broad Street in what was once downtown
    Richmond, Virginia. Witness the whale skeleton fossils that have been found in
    and near Richmond.

              

             Understand: As the earth wobbles on its axis,
    the Atlantic Ocean/Chesapeake Bay shorelines advances and recedes on a precise
    23,000 year cycle. Based on the status of the polar ice cap vis a vis its line
    of declination to the sun. This has been going on for hundreds of thousands,
    probably for millions, of years. And no Obama Volt, windmill or government mandated
    bamboo shoot diet is going to change that!

              

             However, there are some embarrassingly simple things that the
    current residents of today’s receding Atlantic  shoreline can do to
    greatly modify the effects of this “sea  level rise”. Specifically,
    we should stop squandering the navigation channel dredge spoils that the
    central government is, at some considerable expense, parking in a series of ill
    conceived (Chesapeake Bay watershed) USACE vertical dredge spoil sites.
    Including, the Whitehurst Pit, Craney Island and Popular Island. And through the use of hydraulic
    rotary cutter head pipeline dredges and Rolligon amphibious ditcher-spreaders,
    use, instead, these navigation channel dredge spoils to reconstruct the fringe
    marshes and tidal creeks of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. And thus greatly modify
    the flooding associated with major rainstorms, hurricanes and big northeasters.

     

     

    The Virginian Pilot’s editorial board and, specifically news
    writer Scott Harper have been repeatedly advised by me and others that the
    answer to modifying the local effects of rising sea levels involves
    reestablishment/establishment of large, healthy fringe marshes (living
    shorelines). And by unblocking those tidal marshes that have been cut off from
    their estuaries by poorly planned roadways and rail lines.

    Simply by depositing navigation channel dredge spoils on a long
    intertidal slope just seaward of certain bulkheads and eroded shorelines nearby,
    beautiful, vibrant fringe marshes could be reestablished in one short year. And
    by enlarging culverts that pass beneath obstructing roadways and rail
    lines.  Remember:  an acre of salt marsh can remove as much
    carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as can ten acres of (tree farm) pine or oak
    plantings.

    The Pilot, and particularly Harper, continue to ignore two of the most important
    studies on control of rising sea levels, reestablishment of critical tidal
    marshland sponge effect, as well as estuary tidal water cleanup.  The first is the work of former US Senator and
    American sportsman John Breaux. Witness: the pipeline dredging of shipping
    channels in the Mississippi River and placement of the associated dredge
    spoils, on long 1:6 intertidal slopes just seaward of eroded shorelines. So as
    to reestablish healthy fringe marshes. Within one year, without marsh grass
    planting, and without rip rap sills, new living shoreline (fringe marshes) can
    be established (reestablished)’. These marshland restoration projects are
    ongoing or already established in Galveston Bay, in Little River Marsh, New
    Hampshire, in coastal New Jersey and Delaware, in coastal Louisiana, in south
    San Francisco Bay and elsewhere.

    The second study is that of BC Wolverton, a NASA environmental
    engineer. Wolverton has shown that new (living shoreline) marshes can remove
    sediment, nitrogen, phosphorus, raw sewage, Hepatitis A viral particles, heavy
    metals, coliforms and PCBs from the waters that flow through them. During twice
    daily tidal cycles. Accordingly, water clarity is markedly improved and thus
    the ability to grow submerged aquatic vegetation is enhanced! In addition to
    restoring the vital sponge properties of tidal watersheds. Sponge properties
    that are essential to modify the damage of rising sea levels. Especially during
    hurricanes, during heavy rains and during northeasters.
     

    And pipeline dredge restoration of fringe marshes could be done
    for practically nothing. Especially when considering the savings in disposal
    (repositioning) navigation channel dredge spoils….cf: instead of transporting
    same to the Whitehurst Pit, Craney Island, Popular Island and other USACE
    designated vertical dredge spoil deposition sites.

    Pay attention!  Mr. Harper and your
    colleagues at the Virginian Pilot. We need tidal marshes, not granite rip rap
    sills, volunteer trash pickup programs, oyster reefs, rain barrels, expensive
    Bacterra storm water filers, buffer zone shrub plantings and the other feel
    good-do nothing projects that you are so anxious to promote.  Listen! To modify the effects of rising sea
    levels, we must reestablish the fringe marshes and unblock those tidal marshes
    that have been degraded by poorly planned roadways and rail lines. Once the tidal
    marshes are restored, the storm water will take care of itself! But not vice
    versa. Sir, again, I plead with you and your collaborators to use your library
    cards before you offer more illogical, poorly researched concepts as those you
    have presented on this editorial page,  as
    well as in other similarly positioned articles.

     

    It’s about the sponge, stupid!

     

    George Meredith MD, President

    Linkhorn-Rudee Waterway Fund

    To learn more about economical marshland restoration, storm water management
    and Scott Harper’s and the Virginian Pilot’s repeated ignorance of same, search:
    George Meredith MD Marshland Pipeline Dredging Comments

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