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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Climate change is not up for discussion in the Tar Heel State.

The first example of this informal ban on science in North Carolina came last May, when lawmakers debated a bill that would essentially make it illegal to predict a sea-level rise along the coast. As The National Memo reported in May of last year, a state-appointed board of scientists concluded that a one-meter rise in sea level was likely by the year 2100. This conclusion, however, did not please developers such as the group NC-20, who stood to lose lucrative contracts if “flood zones” along the coast popped up.

“If you’re wrong and you start planning today at 39 inches, you could lose millions of dollars in development and 2,000 square miles would be condemned as a flood zone,” Tom Thompson, the chairman of NC-20, told News & Observer of Raleigh at the time.

Thus, rather than accept scientific estimations, North Carolina Republicans drafted the bill outlawing predictions of a sea-level rise.

Now state legislators are taking further steps to ensure the general public doesn’t get its hands on any pesky scientific facts. As WRAL.com reports, information about climate change is no longer available on the North Carolina Division of Air Quality’s (DAQ) website. Information about climate change, which mysteriously disappeared from the DAQ website two months ago, was also scrubbed from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ website in 2013.

At least one Democratic lawmaker in North Carolina believes the missing content is politically motivated. Rep. Pricey Harrison of Greensboro said last summer that legislative debate on climate change all but vanished after Republicans secured the majority in North Carolina in 2010.

Prior to the Republican victory in 2010, action on climate change was labeled a “fierce urgency” by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. According to The News Record of Greensboro, in the most recent “Strategic Plan” by the department, it is not even listed under the “Important Issues” header.

Drew Elliot, spokesman for the department, summed it up best last summer when he said climate change was no a longer a “specific focus” of the agency.

Siding with business interests instead of climate scientists is not an uncommon practice for North Carolina’s Republican politicians. One recent example is Governor Pat McCrory’s handling of the Duke energy coal ash spill, which affected North Carolina’s Dan River and was first reported on February 3 of this year. Duke estimated that 82,000 tons of coal ash mixed with the river, making it the third largest coal ash spill in U.S. history. McCrory, who previously claimed climate change is “in God’s hands,” has been accused of working with Duke to fight off lawsuits from environmental groups. Instead of allowing federal lawsuits against Duke to move forward, state agencies intervened and took over environmental enforcement of Duke’s coal ash ponds.

McCrory previously worked for Duke, which is a top donor to many of the state’s Republican politicians.

Photo: taberandrew via Flickr

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