NC coastal elevation map
U.S. EPA map shows elevation of North Carolina&'s land close to sea level.

The big money behind the assault against sea level rise science in North Carolina

A bill that would block North Carolina agencies from considering the latest science of sea level rise in making planning decisions has gotten a lot of attention nationally -- from a Scientific American blog post that said the state was "making sea level rise illegal" to a segment on the satiric Colbert Report that accused the state of addressing the crisis predicted by climate models "by outlawing the climate models."

But what hasn't gotten much scrutiny are the politically powerful development interests behind the controversial measure.

Some background: Last week, North Carolina's Republican-controlled General Assembly passed a revised version of House Bill 819, which bars state agencies from taking into account scientific predictions of accelerated sea level rise due to climate change for four years while ordering the state's Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) to further study the issue. A previous CRC study that reviewed the best science to date predicted a one-meter rise by 2100.

The original bill would have ordered the CRC to consider only a steady, linear rate of rise based on past patterns, ignoring factors like fast-melting ice caps and ocean expansion caused by a warming atmosphere. That is, it would have ordered the state to consider a rise of only about 8 inches as opposed to the 39 inches predicted by the latest science. Tweaked in response to public uproar, the revised legislation is with Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue, who has the option of vetoing it. Environmental advocates report that at least 1,200 emails have gone to the governor requesting a veto on that and other anti-environment bills.

The push for the legislation came from a group called NC-20, which is comprised of development interests in the state's 20 coastal counties. The group's chair is Tom G. "Tommy" Thompson, director of the Beaufort Economic Development Commission, and its president is Willo Kelly, a former lobbyist for the Outer Banks Home Builders Association. The board also includes a number of realtors and home builders, who worry about the financial impact of any limits on coastal development. (For more on NC-20, click here.)

The group's scientific advisor is John Droz, a climate science contrarian and real estate investor who owns properties along the North Carolina coast. Droz, who has degrees in physics and mathematics, has never published a peer-reviewed article in a scientific journal and has given presentations against wind energy to state lawmakers and the public that were marred by errors of fact. He is a senior fellow at the American Tradition Institute, a conservative think tank with ties to fossil fuel interests that promotes skepticism about global warming and renewable energy and has targeted a leading climate scientist with a controversial lawsuit.

NC-20 argues that the cost of accepting the CRC's estimates of sea level rise "would be incalculable." The group claims that the projected 1 meter rise in sea level by 2100 is a "myth promoted by manmade global warming advocates" rather than a serious prediction based on science.

The bill's primary sponsor was state Rep. Pat McElraft (R-Carteret), a sales representative and real estate broker who previously served as a town and county commissioner in her coastal North Carolina community. Development interests have played a key role in financing McElraft's political career. Since McElraft was first elected to the General Assembly in 2007, real estate has been the top industry contributor to her campaign, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics' FollowTheMoney.org database. Her single biggest contributor has been the N.C. Association of Realtors, followed by the N.C. Home Builders Association.

The real estate industry has also been generous to the N.C. House leadership, whose support was crucial to advancing the measure. Real estate has been the third-biggest industry contributor to House Speaker Thom Tillis' campaign since he first won a seat in the chamber in 2006, trailing only health professionals, lawyers and lobbyists, and Tillis himself. In the run-up to Tillis' last election in 2010, the second-largest single contributor to his campaign was the North Carolina Association of Realtors.

Real estate and home builders have long wielded outsized political clout in North Carolina. A 2007 research report by the watchdog group Democracy North Carolina documented how those two interest groups "saturate the General Assembly with contributions" -- and how their contributions have been growing over time.

The N.C. Association of Realtors donated over $1.5 million to the campaigns of the state's politicians from 2004 to 2012, according to FollowTheMoney.org. In the last election cycle, real estate was the among the top industry contributors to North Carolina politicians, donating over $1 million to state candidates.

While about 57 percent of its contributions went to Republicans, real estate is also an important source of campaign cash for Democrats. In fact, when Perdue last ran for governor in 2008, the industry was among her top contributors, donating over $664,000. The industry has also been among the top contributors to Lt. Gov. (and former state Sen.) Walter Dalton, who's now running to succeed Perdue, and it's been the top industry contributor to past campaigns of this year's Republican gubernatorial nominee, Pat McCrory.

With Perdue expected to make a decision on H819 soon, it will be interesting to see how the sea level rise controversy plays out in the state, which is in an area of the Atlantic Coast that the U.S. Geological Survey has identified as a hotspot for rising seas. Along the North Carolina coast, sea levels are expected to rise three to four times faster than elsewhere around the globe.

In the end, will North Carolina's leaders decide that the best way to proceed is by listening to the vested interests that fund their campaigns? Or will they heed the warning that state Rep. Deborah Ross (D-Wake) delivered during the debate over the bill.

"By putting our heads in the sand literally, we are not helping property owners," Ross said. "We are hurting them. We are not giving them information they might need to protect their property. Ignorance is not bliss. It is dangerous."

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U.S. EPA map shows elevation of North Carolina&'s land close to sea level.
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SEAL LEVEL comment is unbelievable!

I am appalled at the comment of this unknown and unverified commenter, who said he wants to live long enough to see the NC 20 counties under water. Shame on him. He seems irrational, not to want further EXPERT STUDY on the matter of SLR. My family has lived in Downeast Carteret County, for over 300 years and I don't think any of these God fearing people would make such a statement about another population group. I am not a developer or real-estate agent, but I do live on 7.5 acres of waterfront property, that has been in the family, for over 300 years. My ggg-grand parents are buried within 300 ft. of my front door steps and about 30 ft. from my son's grave, in the family cemetery, that has never seen SLR, even when pre-colonial indians lived on this land. I take it that Mr. SEAL LEVEL is not a person of faith, but he still must face judgement, when he knocks on those gates, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Such a person should hang his head with shame and ask forgiveness of the Great Architect of the universe, the land and the seas.

What Errors?

Sue:

I have given my energy presentation in some ten states to many thousands of people. In addition it is online where some 80,000 people have viewed it.

I have yet to have one person show how anything I saw is false.

Your statement that it is "marred by errors of fact" is most interesting. Please enumerate those errors and provide independent citations to support your beliefs.

Sincerely,

john droz, jr.

The errors

I have previously reported on errors in the presentation in this story, which I link to in the piece above:

http://www.southernstudies.org/2011/12/climate-science-deniers-join-forc...

Errors

Yes, Sue, you have made specious claims before.

In the other article you referenced, you questioned three of the 63 slides in my NC Wilmington presentation.

Unfortunately, you failed to provide any PROOF that there were any errors. Instead you used things like a quote from a wind developer... Wow, that is an objective authoritative source!

Just because something someone says disturbs your belief system, doesn't make it wrong.

So far you have provided zero independent verification that anything in my energy presentation is in error. If you do come up with such evidence, I will gladly correct my material.

Seal Level

Does Bill Price really think "NC Lawmakers base Laws on Facts, not Fiction or Comedy"? Talk about someone who has not followed the action of the "Lawmakers". Looks as if his ox might be gored by even considering the possibility of a meter sea level rise. I own property on Topsail Island and have far better scientific credentials than Price or John Droz. My only problem is that I want live long enough to see NC-20 underwater.

Dear Mr. Anonymous Geologist

Dear Mr. Anonymous Geologist ,

You are correct, I have no credentials,, except that, as an American Citizen ,
I think I have the right to ask the experts questions.
So far, they have declined to answer.
I guess they expect citizens to shut up and do as they direct without question?
And as a Science Panel PhD said, in effect, 'they think a fast cheap report is better than accurate.'

Regarding my ox, I live well above Sea Level, and to paraphrase CC Shore Protection Officer said, ' most of the local folks down east will be flooded out by SLR, while we on Bogue Banks will be high and dry.' ( Makes us feel good doesn't it?)
Maybe a question is, do you care about the adverse impacts to taxpaying local folks that have tended their land , in some cases for generations? And what if, after bankrupted them, theoretical SL doesn't rise? Do the local folks have the right to expect that State Agencies to make the best decision possible, based on the best science possible,, not based on a superficial selective quick cheap literature search?

Regarding your property in Topsail,, I was on the CC Beach Preservation Task Force in the Late '90's. The question before the Task Force was, " Has ACOE dredging, requested by the State, caused erosion of down drift Bogue Banks,( ACOE dredging of Beaufort Inlet, and off-shore disposal of 40 to 50 mil cy is a pile of sand 4 to 6 foot deep .200 feet wide / 100 miles long, the distance from Beaufort to Baldhead ) .. If that sand was on the beach, Topsail might not be eroding either.. As you are a geologist, I'm sure you know that there are 6 or 7 theories about what's causing the erosion ( after accretion has been the norm for eons) , but even though NC beach communities plan to spend billions to re-nourish beaches over the next 50 years, so far, no state or Federal agency, or educational institution will do the studies to definitively determine the cause of Beach Erosion.. I wonder why?
Of course, as I'm sure you also know, if disposal of dredge spoil off-shore beyond the litteral zone is causing the problem, then an economical system to deal with that is being used at other inlets. I wonder why we plan to spend billions, when much less cost is possible .. ( And of course, as Sea Grant says that NOAA says that there is NO signal of Acceleration of SLR for NC Coast, it would be hard to blame Past Beach Erosion on Future Sea Level Rise. )

I'm sorry my credentials are not up to your standards,,, but nonetheless, I will continue to ask questions until someone will give me a straight answer...
Will you?
If so I'll send them to you.
Thanks,
Bill Price

NC SLR Law

Regarding NC Sea Level Rise Law

NC Lawmakers base Laws on Facts, not Fiction or Comedy.
CRC’s Scientists have declined to answer questions on their Science Report since Feb.  2011. Why?
One CRC Scientist said, in effect, that it was better to be fast and cheap,,  than accurate.
NC Lawmakers disagreed. They want to be accurate,,,, 
before the CRC starts passing rules to take local people’s property.   

Bill Price   Pine Knoll Shores 

NC SLR law

I am sorry, Mr. Price, but you are joking about lawmakers wanting to be accurate, right?? Historical evidence suggests anything but that.

Ms. Wallace, I have often

Ms. Wallace,
I have often heard the analogy of Law to Sausage ..
In this instance, I believe that many Lawmakers are seriously concerned and interested in finding out what is happening with ASLR..
The problem they have is that if the CRC imposes Planning rules of 39" SLR / 2100 many local down east farmers, fishermen, retired folks, and workers of all sorts that have owned, tended , and paid taxes on land for generations, will lose significant property rights.
Under the US Bill Of Rights that very well could be a " taking", and the State would be liable to compensate the property owner. This is not to mention the millions lost in Tax Base to local government, and additional mega millions necessary to relocate and rebuild schools , public buildings and infrastructure ,,, based on Theoretical SLR . In some cases, entire counties such as Hyde and Pamlico, would become theoretically uninhabitable based on theoretical SLR. I'm sure you would consider these serious concerns for a responsible lawmaker?
It seems to me that it is reasonable, proper and necessary for Lawmakers to assure that they have the best available science upon which to make such important decisions, not , as described by the science panel, "a simple Literature Search", before taking people's property. AND then, when a PhD on the Science Panel objects to the GS's considerations, saying in effect, he prefers fast and cheap >>> to accurate, it gives some observers pause.
Certainly, as American Citizens we are not required to shut up, and do what the experts demand without question?

Bill Price

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