According to North Carolina law, I am a billionaire. I have a
full-time nanny for my children, I have won the Pulitzer Prize, and I
get to spend the entire year taking guitar lessons from Mark Knopfler.
Oh, my avatar? I haven’t got around to changing it, but by law, I now
look like George Clooney. There’s also a supermodel clause, but
discussing the details would be boasting.
You think I’m kidding, but listen to me: I’m from North Carolina, and
that’s how we roll. We take what we want to be reality, and we just
make it law. So I’m having my state senator introduce legislation
writing into law all the stuff I mentioned above. This is North
Carolina, state motto: “Because that’s how I WANT it to be.”
Okay, though. These are hard days, people are crazyish, and you just
have to soldier on, right? But then it turns out that North Carolina
legislators are now tossing around bills that not only protect
themselves from concepts that make them uncomfortable, they’re
DETERMINING HOW WE MEASURE REALITY.
In a story first discussed by the NC Coastal Federation and given more play May 29 by the News & Observer of Raleigh and its sister paper the Charlotte Observer,
a group of legislators from 20 coastal NC counties whose economies will
be most affected by rising seas have legislated the words “Nuh-unh!”
into the NC Constitution.
Okay, cheap shot alert. Actually all they did was say science is
crazy. There is virtually universal agreement among scientists that the
sea will probably rise a good meter or more before the end of the century, wreaking havoc in low-lying coastal counties. So the members of the developers’ lobbying group NC-20 say the sea will rise only 8 inches, because … because … well, SHUT UP, that’s because why.
That is, the meter or so of sea level rise predicted for the NC Coastal Resources Commission
by a state-appointed board of scientists is extremely inconvenient for
counties along the coast. So the NC-20 types have decided that we can
escape sea level rise – in North Carolina, anyhow – by making
the law. Or making MEASURING it against the law, anyhow.
Here’s a link to the circulated Replacement House Bill 819.
The key language is in section 2, paragraph e, talking about rates of
sea level rise: “These rates shall only be determined using historical
data, and these data shall be limited to the time period following the
year 1900. Rates of seas-level rise may be extrapolated linearly. …” It
goes on, but there’s the core: 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.
Things like marriage rules involve changing social mores and those
who feel that certain types of marriage are wrong can be understood and
even forgiven. They’re certainly on the wrong side of history, but it’s a
social issue where emotion understandably holds sway over things like
No matter in North Carolina. We’ve got resorts to build and we don’t
care what the rest of the ocean does – our sea isn’t going to rise by
more than 15.6 inches. Because otherwise it’s against the law.
No information on whether the scientists on the panel, like Galileo,
have stamped their feet and muttered “And yet it rises!” But there’s no
doubt that NC’s legislative inquisitors will be classified along with
Galileo’s papal persecutors and their own forebears who outlawed
interracial marriage, as on the wrong side of history.
But these folks will also be wet.
I’d love to write more, but I have chores to do and kids to manage.
Man — all this housework after a full day of work at my desk just
doesn’t seem right. There oughtta be a law. Hey, wait a minute ….
About the Author: A writer who commonly explores science, culture, and the relationship between the two. Follow on Twitter @huler.