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Report: NC Sea Levels Rising Faster

June 26, 2012

CAPE HATTERAS, N.C. - Scientists say the waters are rising fast off the coast of North Carolina as a result of climate change. A new report published by the U.S. Geological Survey finds that coastal waters from Cape Hatteras to Boston are rising three to four times faster than anywhere else in the world.

This news comes as the North Carolina State Assembly considers a bill that prohibits the state from considering sea level projections based on climate data. Instead, scientists would be required to rely on past information.

Todd Miller, Executive Director for the North Carolina Coastal Federation, explains the issue.

"They're trying to legislate science and the way it's conducted, and that's particularly problematic when you're dealing with the formulas of public policy. It should be based on good science."

House Bill 819 recently provided fodder for Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report."

Miller says his organization and others often use public and private funds to purchase land at risk from water surges, but those efforts are being stalled to a large degree because of state budget cuts in recent years.

The USGS report identifies North Carolina as one of the biggest areas of concern for rising sea levels.

Miller adds that in the coming years the state's rising water levels could have a big effect during major weather events.

"North Carolina is really ground zero for sea-level-rise issues. We have vast areas in eastern North Carolina that are very low. It puts us in a very vulnerable position."

Scientists for a North Carolina Commission predict sea levels along the state's coast could rise 39 inches by the year 2100. That's between eight and 11 inches higher than global predictions.

Supporters of House Bill 819 say including such sea-level predictions could stifle economic growth along the coast.

The study is at www.nature.com.

Reporting for this story by North Carolina News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest. Media in the Public Interest is funded in part by Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

Stephanie Carson/Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC