The coastal and marine geologist once felt his state valued his work.
North Carolina was a leader in coastal management, said Stanley Riggs, a distinguished professor of geology at East Carolina University. It heeded the advice of a “tremendous team of scientists” studying the origins and evolution of the Eastern Seaboard, of which the Tar Heel State has a particularly broad swath. As a result, lawmakers adopted policies in the 1970s and 1980s to safeguard the natural environment and protect human lives, he said. No hardening of the shoreline. Setbacks from the coast. Guidelines about inlets. It seemed, he said, that the state had been able to marry science and economics.
But now, his pride in his state has been replaced by fear and dismay, as Hurricane Florence, recently downgraded to a Category 1 storm, bears down on the southeastern United States, bringing warnings of “life-threatening” storm surge and rainfall, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The state’s coastal plain, Riggs said, would not be in such grave danger if lawmakers had not rejected a study prepared by a panel on which he served that predicted the sea level would rise 39 inches by 2100 because of climate change. The projection should guide “policy development and planning purposes,” advised the 2010 report, whose authors were mainly scientists and engineers at the state’s leading research universities, as well as state and federal regulators. [Continue reading…]