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North Carolina Outlaws Sea-Level Rise - Sierra Daily
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Sierra Daily

May 30, 2012

North Carolina Outlaws Sea-Level Rise

Our friends over at King canuteGrist illustrated their story about North Carolina's effort to restrict scientists from accurately predicting sea-level rise with a picture of Moses, but clearly the relevant cultural figure is King Canute, who undertook (with predictable results) to command the tides. Here, courtesy of Scott Huler at Scientific American, is the relevant language regarding rates of sea-level rise from a proposed bill before the state's general assembly:

“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. …” 

So, North Carolina would forbid exponential increases in sea-level rise along its shores, such as might occur were, say, Greenland's glaciers to melt. Here's an excerpt from a cheery new book by Fred Guterl, The Fate of the Species: Why the Human Race May Cause Its Own Extinction and How We Can Stop It, discussing the dynamical systems theory approach of Tim Lenton of the University of East Anglia:

If Greenland flipped into a completely ice-free state, it would cause massive rises in sea level—on the order of six or seven meters. Even if this took three hundred years to happen, "it would be an absolute disaster," says Lenton, "a real game changer." At such a rate of sea-level rise, it would be- come more and more difficult to protect coastlines. Low-lying areas would have to be abandoned. That includes cities such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Tokyo, and Hong Kong, not to mention the entire state of Florida and vast swaths of Indochina.

North Carolina, however, will be spared. You might consider investing in shorefront real estate there today!

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PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and father of two. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber.

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