How States Ignore Climate Change At Peril Of Coastal Residents

(Photo by White House via Wikimedia Commons)

Climate change-denying Republican governors and state legislatures are ignoring scientific consensus that man-made global warming is a serious threat to millions of coastal residents, and that unregulated development could mean the devastation seen up and down the Jersey shore because of Superstorm Sandy could happen again in other states, unless they start planning for rising sea levels and more frequent and intense storms.

These states are putting business interests ahead of the safety of their citizens living in coastal regions while at the same time putting taxpayers on the hook when the inevitable call is made to FEMA and other agencies for federal disaster relief. The Huffington Post recently reported that New Jersey governor Chris Christie has put businesspeople in place of environmental scientists and coastal management experts at the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. In New Jersey, denial about the extent of flooding and devastation from a storm like Sandy extended from the governor’s home at Drumthwacket to the decision makers at New Jersey Transit, who failed to move 300 rail cars from the floodwaters of Sandy, causing $100 million in damage.

From New Jersey to North Carolina to Florida, here are some quotes from climate change-denying GOP politicians, followed by the scientific predictions regarding rising sea levels and storm surges and how many millions of coastal residents are vulnerable to the flooding and devastation that will be caused by the next Sandy — and the many more to come due to global warming:

Florida Governor Rick Scott

“I’ve not been convinced that there’s any man-made climate change. Nothing’s convinced me that there is.”

Tea Party favorite Scott runs a state where 95 percent of the population lives within 35 miles of its 1,200 miles of coastline, and where some scientists predict sea levels could rise over two feet by 2060. The consequences of this without proper planning right now would be the loss of almost 10 percent of land area and the displacement of 1.5 million people. One scientist told NPR that “the cost of inaction — doing nothing to slow climate change and sea level rise — would add up to $345 billion, or 5 percent of Florida’s total income, by 2100.”

(Photo by Kristina Hernandez/Getty Images via Flickr)

New Jersey State Senator Michael Doherty

“There are many credible members of the scientific community who have questioned the theory of global warming, and now we have some scientists actually suggesting the earth’s temperatures may be entering a period of dramatic cooling. With this growing level of scientific uncertainty, it makes no sense to enact a new set of economically damaging regulations prompted by the global warming hysteria of recent years.”

Republican state senator Doherty is not only way out of touch with the scientific consensus regarding global warming (97 percent of climate scientists agree that global warming is real and caused by human activity), but is also, post-Sandy, on the opposite side of Republican governor Chris Christie, a former climate skeptic, who said that “climate change is real and it’s impacting our state. There’s undeniable data that CO2 levels and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are increasing. This decade, average temperatures have been rising. Temperature changes are affecting weather patterns and our climate.”

While the devastation caused to the Jersey shore by Sandy is well documented, the future depends on smart planning right now. Climate Central’s Surging Seas sea level rise analysis predicts more than a 1 in 6 chance that the Jersey shore will experience over one foot of flooding by 2020, putting nearly 60,000 residents at risk.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen via Wikimedia Commons)

North Carolina Representative Pat McElraft

“You can believe whatever you want about global warming, but when you go to make planning policies here for our residents and protecting their property values and insurance rates … it’s a very serious thing to us on the coast.”

North Carolina Republican state representative Pat McElraft last summer drafted a law that bans scientific predictions of sea level rise. Ignorance is bliss in the Tar Heel State, that is, until the next Sandy cuts a path straight at the Outer Banks. As National Memoreported, the law making it illegal for scientists in North Carolina to predict sea level rise came after “a state-appointed board of scientists determined that a one-meter rise in sea level is likely by the year 2100.”

It’s no surprise McElraft drafted this misguided bill — her top campaign contributors are real estate agents and developers. While cynical politicians like McElraft deny science and put short-term profits above long-term sustainability, ABC Newsexplains the inconvenient truth:

“According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), sea level rise along the portion of the East Coast between North Carolina and Massachusetts is accelerating at three to four times the global rate. A USGS report published in the journal Nature Climate Change in June predicted that sea level along the coast of that region, which it called a ‘hotspot,’ would rise up to 11.4 inches higher than the global average rise by the end of the 21st century.”

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Bob Jordan, Army National Guard via Wikimedia Commons)


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