North Carolina Passes Law to Ignore Science

Great. Climate change is here, and it’s not pretty. Even a Koch brothers funded skeptic has admitted it’s real. Unfortunately, North Carolina no longer believes in science. (Never mind the majority of the Republican party).

North Carolina lawmakers have temporarily banned using a science panel’s recommendation to plan for rising sea levels, after the governor decided Thursday not to veto the measure.

That’s from the beginning of an article in the SF Gate explaining how North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue (Democrat) and other lawmakers pushed the legislation forward out of worries that science-based policy would harm the coastal economy.

Okay. If North Carolina is banning science for four years in favor of more money, what’s the worst that could happen? According to climate scientist James Hansen, a hell of a lot.

“Our analysis shows that it is no longer enough to say that global warming will increase the likelihood of extreme weather and to repeat the caveat that no individual weather event can be directly linked to climate change. To the contrary, our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change.

The deadly European heat wave of 2003, the fiery Russian heat wave of 2010 and catastrophic droughts in Texas and Oklahoma last year can each be attributed to climate change. And once the data are gathered in a few weeks’ time, it’s likely that the same will be true for the extremely hot summer the United States is suffering through right now.”

I’d like to point out the inclusion of words such as “deadly” and “catastrophic” in Hansen’s piece. Funny thing — those words are associated with people dying. Now, Hansen has been accused of more than his share of fear-mongering, and those words aren’t going to help the accusations, save for the part where they’re true. Much of the debate around climate change (and environmental issues in general) is about “alarmists” or “tree-huggers”. We don’t want to admit that the reason climate change is an issue is because it’s a threat to people. If we listened to what people said about environmentalists, it’d look like they’re only about saving the polar bears and the pretty flowers and maybe the occasional weird bug.

When North Carolina puts profits first, the policy doesn’t just harm weird bugs. It harms my friends who can’t breathe when it gets too hot and humid outside, or the elderly people I’ve met who are on oxygen because years of bad air have destroyed their lungs. It hurts those who can’t afford groceries when drought drives food prices up too high. In this case specifically, the policy is going to come back to bite anyone who builds in coastal areas that will soon be flooded when scientists’ predictions about sea level rise become a reality, and the rising temperatures make hurricanes more frequent and powerful.

But policymakers don’t seem to care that much about people. It’s faith or dollars (or both) over science. My parents taught me when I was a little kid that ignoring problems does nothing except help them get worse. As Hansen points out, this is just the beginning with climate change. If we keep ignoring the problem, we’re going to be in for a really interesting (and not in the good way) ride.