Don’t Say Climate Change

As Florida’s “Don’t say gay” bill  (SB 1834) occupies the front pages of many media outlets today, one is reminded of an earlier (2012) state legislative exercise in prohibiting engagement with reality: North Carolina’s “Don’t say climate change” bill (H819).Unhappy with the perceived prospect of dampened economic development resulting from the state’s Coastal Resources Commission estimating that the sea level would rise by 39 inches in the next century, the state legislature chose to bury the state’s head in the sand. It passed a bill prohibiting the state’s coastal management and environmental agencies from defining the rate of sea level rise for regulatory purposes for the next four years. (“The Coastal Resources Commission and the Division of Coastal Management of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources shall not define rates of sea-level change for regulatory purposes prior to July 1, 2016.”) 

Well, the climate didn’t care. Based on a 5-year report newly released by NOAA (full NOAA report), the estimate generated by NC’s Coastal Resources Commission has proven to be very much on target. The NOAA report is enlightening, if one wishes to get into the seaweed and look at empirical data and methods for projecting forward. But an easier read can be found in the NC section of the website published by (here). Among the information presented is a simple graph showing the actual (not projected) increases and decreases in sea level, by year, in Wilmington, NC, measured using tidal gauges. Between 2012, when the NC legislature put the kibosh on defining the rate of sea level rise, and 2016, when doing so was again permitted, the sea level in Wilmington rose by about 4.5 inches (from 6.83 to 11.27 inches higher than the 1950 baseline measurement). The simplest of math tells us that this rate of increase exceeded one inch per year.

A 30 year mortgage loan on a Wilmington, NC or Long Beach Island, NJ shore property purchased today will not be paid off until after 2050, when NOAA is projecting that the East Coast sea level will be 10 to 14 inches higher than it is today. Legislators in many states may not yet be listening, but mortgage lenders surely must be. Maybe even erstwhile buyers, however much they may have been dreaming about a house at the beach.

Duane Morris has an active ESG and Sustainability Team to help organizations and individuals plan, respond to, and execute on Sustainability and ESG planning and initiatives within their own space. We would be happy to discuss your proposed project with you. For more information, or if you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Nanette Heide, Seth Cooley, David Amerikaner, Jolie-Anne Ansley, Hari Kumar or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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