Protesters present petition against sea level rise bill

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Jenny Marienau, field organizer for 350.org, voices her concerns about the Coastal Management Policies bill outside the NC legislature building on Tuesday.

A group of protesters gathered in Raleigh on Tuesday to encourage legislators to reject a bill that requires planning agencies to use historical, rather than scientific data to measure rising sea levels during this century.

Armed with 3,000 signatures and displaying protest signs, ten activists — including coastal residents — voiced concerns about a bill that would not consider a state-appointed scientific panel’s conclusion on sea-level rise.

The scientific panel predicted in March 2010 as much as a 39-inch sea level rise by the year 2100.

“If we plan rise on historical rise, we are not preparing for the gravity of climate change,” said Jenny Marienau, the North Carolina field organizer for 350.org.

Marienau said using historical data would require the commission to assume a 8 to 12 inch rise by 2100.

“This bill throws out the best available science.”

The bill, known as the Coastal Management Policies bill, requires the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission to create regulations that anticipate rising sea levels based on historical trends.

The bill passed in the N.C. Senate by a 35-12 margin two weeks ago. But the House unanimously voted to reject it last Tuesday.

After speaking in front of the legislative building, the protesters visited Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, who is the primary sponsor of the bill.

McElraft said the original study was flawed because it only used one model and ignores historical data, even though she said the panel was asked to incorporate multiple models and historical data. She said the bill will commission another study into the matter.

“We needed to direct the state agencies not to use the 39 inches that the science panel came up with, because we don’t feel that was good science,” she said.

McElraft, who said she doesn’t believe climate change is caused by humans, said it was difficult to use the study to predict climate change.

“In 1974, the alarmists were talking about the ice age coming in,” she said. “What has happened, has the ice age come in?”

She said most of her constituents wanted the bill to protect them from flood insurance increases and possible loss of property rights.

“The short term interests of industry will eclipse the voice of the people and the common good,” Marienau said.

Wilmington resident Nancy Sharp said the legislature was prioritizing short term profit for developers at the expense of her community’s safety.

“If you build on lands that will be comprised by sea rise, there is going to be devastation eventually and it’s going to be us, the taxpayers to foot the bill,” she said.

Marienau said the House rejecting the bill was a reaction to public disapproval of the bill.

The protest was sponsored by two climate change groups — 350.org and Forecast the Facts.

Contact the State & National Editor at state@dailytarheel.com.

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