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Extreme NC Weather is Proof of Climate Change Say Scientists

September 20, 2011

RALEIGH, N.C. - As the fall season sweeps into North Carolina, it will take a while for the summer of weather extremes to be forgotten.

Much of the state began the season with a drought and ended with flooding caused by extreme rainfall, in addition to the impact of Hurricane Irene. Scientists say the weather extremes are a result of climate change, which happens when rising temperatures cause the atmosphere to release rain less frequently but in large bursts, as the state has seen in recent weeks.

Amanda Staudt, senior scientist in climate and energy for the National Wildlife Federation, explains.

"What we've been seeing over the summer is kind of a snapshot of what climate change has in store for us. We're going to see times when it's very dry and then we're going to see times when it's very wet."

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates average temperatures in North Carolina could rise by about 5 degrees Fahrenheit within the lifespan of a child born today. Parts of the state's 3,300 miles of coastline already have seen a 2-inch rise in sea level in the past century.

Several programs in North Carolina offer solutions to the problem, including a loan program to people and organizations which want to make energy efficiency improvements and develop renewable-energy systems. Staudt says changes in environmental policy can still have an impact.

"It's too late to reverse climate change at this point, but if we were to take action now we could really minimize the worst impacts down the road."

According to the National Wildlife Federation, North Carolina has the potential to generate nearly 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources like wind and biomass.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC