North Carolina considers outlawing accurate predictions of sea level rise

When things get tough, lawmakers get creative. Faced with predictions that sea levels in the coastal areas of North Carolina will rise by a meter in the next century, legislators are considering bold action: making those predictions illegal. A bill being circulated in the Tarheel state would force scientists to estimate future sea levels on a linear path based on trends since 1900 — in other words, based on the simple assumption that trends always move in a straight line, no matter what.

Top image: Nick See on Flickr.

Over in Scientific American, Scott Huler has some things to say about this:

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 evidence.

But while the rising sea may engender emotion, it exists in a world of fact, of measurable evidence and predictable results, where scientists using their best methods have agreed on a reasonable – and conservative – estimate of a meter or more of rising seas in the coming century. In 2007 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gave a hesitant estimate of up to 59 centimeters of rise -but even two years later that estimate already appeared low and scientists began to expect a rise of a meter or more.

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.

Huler's amazing rant is well worth reading in its entirety. [Scientific American]