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NC banned a study on sea-level rise. Could it mean more Hurricane Florence destruction?

Abbie Bennett, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) on

Published in News & Features

RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina legislators voted in 2012 to ban the use of a report that showed the ocean could rise as much as 39 inches by 2100.

Now, with Hurricane Florence bearing down on the Carolinas, and thousands evacuating from the coast, that decision is once again making national headlines and drawing criticism from those who say state leaders who approved the bill were nearsighted.

Some are saying the 2012 law could mean more damage from storms like Florence.

In 2010, a panel of scientists from the Coastal Resources Commission presented a report that showed sea levels along the Carolina coast could rise 39 inches over a century, which could put 2,000 square miles in jeopardy.

But that report was not well-received. Some lawmakers, lobbyists, real-estate interests and others thought the report could disrupt valuable coastal real estate development and increase insurance costs, ABC News reported in 2012.

So they sought to undercut the scientists' work.

"After a wide-ranging debate on the validity of climate-change science Tuesday, state lawmakers agreed to ban any state agencies from making policies on sea-level change until 2016," John Frank wrote for The News & Observer in 2012.

"Republican lawmakers had sought to quash a March 2010 report from scientists with the Coastal Resources Commission that projected a 20-to-55-inch sea-level rise by the end of the century, disputing the science because it would hurt coastal development," the N&O reported.

'Sink or swim'

When the bill passed in June 2012, it became the butt of national jokes and the subject of widespread derision.

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