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Report: Rising Tides, Rising Concerns Over Sea Level Rise

A new report from the National Wildlife Federation highlights the vulnerabilities of North Carolina's coastline if global warming and sea level rise aren't addressed. (Jon Cain/flickr.com)
A new report from the National Wildlife Federation highlights the vulnerabilities of North Carolina's coastline if global warming and sea level rise aren't addressed. (Jon Cain/flickr.com)
August 22, 2016

OUTERBANKS, N.C. — With 300 miles of shoreline, North Carolina is one of the states most vulnerable to sea-level rise. According to a report from the National Wildlife Federation, sea levels could rise by six feet or more by 2100 if steps aren't taken soon to cut greenhouse gas emissions and slow the progress of global warming.

North Carolina ranked third in the country in installed solar capacity, said Tim Gestwicki, CEO at the North Carolina Wildlife Federation. And the state is making progress.

"We're looking at how do we try and mitigate and go into adaption for rising tides,” Gestwicki said. “And one way we can do it is try and deal with carbon emissions, and North Carolina is a leader in renewable energy."

Overwhelming evidence shows global temperatures on the rise. And as temperatures rise, seawater expands and sea levels rise along the shore. There are more than 3 million acres of wetlands in coastal North Carolina and 2.5 million acres of estuarine waters. Rising sea levels threaten almost $7 billion of property in the state.

Shannon Heyck-Williams, senior manager of Climate and Energy Policy at the National Wildlife Federation, said the sea level is rising at twice the global average in the Tar Heel State. And the frequency of severe storms and hurricanes complicates efforts to protect wildlife and coastal land.

"North Carolina is severely threatened by sea-level rise and related storm surges - where the incoming storm waters from increasingly intense hurricanes and other storms that you see in a warming world,” Heyck-Williams said.

According to Gestwicki, Mother Nature has given the state plenty of natural protection from severe weather; we just need to let her do her job.

"Our cushion we're afforded in North Carolina is one of the largest estuaries or wetlands that filter and buffer against rising tides,” Gestwicki said. “And certainly we need to protect our coastal rivers and the vegetative buffers that come in there."

The popular Outer Banks area of the state contributed $21 billion from visitor spending to North Carolina's economy in 2014, and $1 billion in state tax revenue.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC