The Word From Colbert to North Carolina: Sink or Swim


In a segment on Comedy Central's “The Colbert Report” this week, comedian Stephen Colbert ripped into a proposed North Carolina law that would mandate that state policymakers only consider historical rates of sea level rise when planning for future increases in sea level. Sea level rise projections from climate scientists all show that, due largely to melting land ice and warming ocean temperatures, sea level rise is likely to accelerate significantly during the next few decades, possibly reaching as much as 1 meter, or 3.3 feet.

In Wilmington, N.C., the sea rose by 4 inches between 1935-2006. According to Climate Central's calculations, this rise is likely to nearly double by 2050, with 11 inches of sea level rise expected during that period.

Colbert isn't the only one who has skewered North Carolina lawmakers over this proposed bill. In commentary at Scientific American's website, Scott Huler wrote: 


...North Carolina legislators have decided that the way to make exponential increases in sea level rise — caused by those inconvenient feedback loops we keep hearing about from scientists — go away is to make it against the law to extrapolate exponential; we can only extrapolate along a line predicted by previous sea level rises.

Which, yes, is exactly like saying, do not predict tomorrow’s weather based on radar images of a hurricane swirling offshore, moving west towards us with 60-mph winds and ten inches of rain. Predict the weather based on the last two weeks of fair weather with gentle breezes towards the east. Don’t use radar and barometers; use the Farmer’s Almanac and what grandpa remembers.