Sometimes in North Carolina, it seems like our legislators have their eyes shut tight and both fingers in their ears, singing at the top of their lungs. How else could state representatives such as Pat McElraft ignore the news of rising sea levels, more intense tropical storms, record heat baking our soil, and the flames ripping through the Eastern Carolina forests?
We are beginning to see the real impacts of climate change all over our state (I’ve been harvesting tomatoes since May), and yet, our legislators are working to dismiss a scientific panel’s recommendations that we begin to prepare our coasts for a meter of climate change-fueled sea level rise by 2100.
Instead, McElraft and other state reps are claiming the best available climate science isn’t scientific enough – that maybe, if we dig through ALL the available science, we will find a more convenient prediction for sea level rise–one that doesn’t necessitate planning now for a harsher future on our coasts, one that won’t require more insurance for the storms and rising waters that are bound to swallow our barrier islands, and most importantly, one that will keep the pockets of the real estate development thickly lined in the short-term.
That’s the premise of House Bill 819 – a bill (sponsored by Rep. McElraft) that would censor climate science, and put off safeguarding our coasts from climate change. But in the last few weeks, North Carolinians have been clamoring not for the convenient stories that allow us to dance as our ship steams straight for the rocks, but for the truth that allows us to see the dangers ahead, and change our course.
On Tuesday, I joined a group of Wilmingtonians and our friends at Forecast the Facts to deliver over 3,000 petitions to Rep. McElraft and Speaker of the House Thom Tillis. Our demand is that we incorporate the best available climate science as we plan development on our state’s islands, beaches and coastal plains.
As press gathered to ask us why we were walking the halls of the legislature with boxes stuffed with petitions, Wilmingtonian Nancy Sharp said it best:
“I’ve been practicing law for 25 years, so I know that you can’t throw out evidence just because it’s inconvenient. Now that I live on the coast, I depend on our government to be honest about the facts of global warming and rising sea levels so that my community can plan for the future and thrive. It’s not fair for the legislature to prioritize short term profit for developers at the expense of the safety of coastal communities like mine.”
It’s not fair, safe, or responsible for our legislators to put industry lobby interests before the safety of people. I, like the 3,000 rapid-responders who signed our petitions, am getting pretty tired of defending facts to a close-eyed legislature that prefers to drown out reality with its own wishful songs.