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Leshner, Chameides: Fear and Ideology Should Not Trump Climate Science in North Carolina

Too many people still refuse to accept the scientific facts about global climate change, a point reflected in the recent decision of North Carolina’s legislature to disregard projections of sea-level rise, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner and Duke University’s William L. Chameides write 1 Aug. in The (Raleigh) News & Observer.

But understandable fears about climate change, and in some cases political ideologies, should not prevent action to combat a real problem that has been well-documented, say Leshner, who also is executive publisher of the journal Science, and Chameides, the dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke.

“Especially amid severe financial constraints, we all wish for a climate reality that requires no action,” Leshner and Chameides write in their commentary. “Unfortunately, wishing will not make it so.”

The General Assembly in North Carolina instructed the state’s Coastal Resources Commission not to use predictions of sea-level rise in the formulation of plans or policies for the next four years. And although an expert panel of scientists already has recommended that the state plan for a sea-level rise of three feet by 2100, the Assembly directed the panel to conduct a new assessment to be delivered by the end of March, 2015.

On 1 August, Governor Beverly Perdue declined to sign or veto the bill, allowing it to become law.

Policy delays will only mean more building along the coast that likely will prove ill-advised, the authors write. “Climate change can be a scary prospect,” they say, “and dealing with it will require economic dislocations—like reassessing plans to develop threatened coastal land.”

The silver lining: American ingenuity has helped make the United States an economic powerhouse, Leshner and Chameides write, and “it can now help us navigate our way through climate change.” They add, “Our future well-being and prosperity depend on a clear-eyed understanding of climate change risks and our options for combating them.”


Read the op-ed “N.C. Can’t Outlaw Global Climate Change” by AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner and Duke environment Dean William L. Chameides.