Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Will Lex Luthor save North Carolina from climate change?

Michael Yudell in Philly.com mocks the latest in denialist legislation -- make it illegal to prepare for sea level rise!: The only sense I can make of the plan proposed last week by North Carolina legislators to join the climate change denialist bandwagon and alter the way the state projects rising sea levels is that they are taking their cues from Superman’s nemesis Lex Luthor.

...Perhaps they were inspired by the diabolical scheme in 1978's Superman: The Movie, in which Luthor has bought up thousands of square miles of land east of the San Andreas fault, planning to trigger an earthquake and send much of the West Coast into the sea. “Bye-bye, California. Hello, new West Coast,” Luthor tells Superman, just before exposing the Man of Steel to kryptonite and setting his evil plan in motion. ...

Could it be that these real-life legislators and their backers, who seem to come from a group called NC-20, have divined a similar strategy – and, like Lex Luthor, have purchased thousands of square miles of land that sits on the edge of areas that will be affected by current scientific projections of sea-level rise? Good-bye, Outer Banks. Hello, Costa Del Legislators. Granted, it may take 100 or more years for their own diabolical plan to pay off, but if ice sheets keep falling into the ocean, sea levels may rise faster than predicted just a few years back. It now seems that sea waters globally will rise at least a half-meter, but possibly twice that by the year 2100.

The absurd proposal – the actual proposal – on the table in North Carolina requires that sea-level rise “shall only be determined using historical data. … Rates of sea-level rise may be extrapolated linearly to estimate future rates of rise but shall not include scenarios of accelerated rates of sea-level rise.”

In other words, to hell with the science. Let’s have an underwater beach party! Scientific American blogger Scott Huler suggests that the legislation is North Carolina’s way to make sea-level rise itself illegal. The proposal, according to Huler, is akin to telling weather forecasters: “Don’t use radar and barometers; use the Farmer’s Almanac and what grandpa remembers.”...

Waves, waves, go away: Shoals exposed after strong southerly winds drive the water north. North Carolina, Cedar Island. Shot by Captain Albert E. Theberge, NOAA Corps (ret.), Wikimedia Commons, public domain

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