|By Gareth McGrath, Star-News, Wilmington, N.C.|
The new state report also comes as a study published this month in the journal Nature found that while sea-level rise was roughly 30 percent lower than first thought for most of the 20th century, it has accelerated since 1990 and is now 2.5 times what it was previously -- or an average of about 1.2 inches a decade.
A pair of researchers peer-reviewing the draft report prepared by the
The report, technically an update to the state's earlier 2010 study, takes another stab at trying to determine how much the seas might rise along the
For example, the range for
The biggest change this time around, though, is that researchers only looked at what changes might occur out to 30 years.
"That seemed to be the biggest credibility problem," said CRC chairman
He said looking out a few decades rather than a century matches the way we measure many other things, such as the 30-year mortgage most people use when purchasing property. The state's plan to update the report every five years also should allow officials to track any dramatic changes, which in most 100-year studies are projected to occur later this century, Gorham added.
"We're doing our best to remain neutral on the topic until we get the final report and from there we'll make some decisions on what the state should do with that information," he said, adding that looking ahead three decades is a time frame that people can relate to.
Still, he thought the numbers in the draft report would raise some eyebrows.
"Six inches in thirty years is pretty significant," Miller said.
But just acknowledging that the seas will rise isn't enough.
"It comes down to how that information is used for future policy decisions," Miller said. "Are we going to keep adding density to areas that we know are going to be subject to sea-level rise?"
That includes beachfront areas that are already erosion-prone, meaning more frequent pricey nourishment projects to keep them viable as the seas rise.
Gorham said that once a final report is ready he's likely to recommend holding several hearings along the coast to allow local officials and residents to learn more about the findings. But he was still on the fence about the bigger question of whether the state should mandate incorporation of the report's conclusions into the state's coastal development policies or leave decisions up to local officials who know the unique characteristics of their coastal areas better.
"Let's see what the final report says first," Gorham said.
The science panel is scheduled to forward the draft report to the CRC by the end of March. An extended public comment period will follow, with the final report then delivered to the
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