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ROAD CLOSED: End of a decade comes with high water ahead

Mark muses over the decade to come and hopes it’s not a dead end. Stock photo


The decade started with merchants peddling doubt to prevent effective action to curb climate change. It started with the North Carolina General Assembly voting to forbid coastal development planning based on the “hoax” science of rising sea levels.

The decade ends with climate activist Greta Thunberg named TIME’s Person of the Year. It ends with much of the Southeast still struggling to recover from four major hurricanes in five years. As we head into the next decade, former South Carolina GOP Congressman Bob Ingles evangelizes on the truth of climate change, and NC’s GOP Senator Thom Tillis has gone on record saying human-caused climate change is real and the associated problems need to be addressed.

The decade ends with a December 4 New York Times article on the decision of Sugarloaf Key to not raise miles of low-lying roads above the rising tides to protect the property value of a few residents. Articles, such as “Florida Keys Deliver a Hard Message: As Seas Rise Some Places Can’t be Saved,” make some people irate. One Sugarloaf resident complained, “Isn’t it government’s job to protect our property?” (That doesn’t sound like rugged individualism or the invisible hand of the free market solving our problems to me.)

The decade ends with a December 8 New York Daily News article highlighting the plight of historic southern towns Charleston, Swansboro and Beaufort in coping with the rising tide. Wilmington is not mentioned, but the full-moon high tide becoming every high tide, coastal overdevelopment, and rising costs of raising sinking roads all apply to us.

“There will need to be political stressors to get people to understand the importance of climate change,” said Beaufort, North Carolina Mayor Rett Newton.

“Political stressors?”

What the mayor may mean is: Before the storms take your house, climate change is an abstraction­—perhaps part of some deep-state hoax.

After the sea reclaims your property, climate change is as real as your fire engine red Ford F-350 pickup with the Rebel flag on the hood, now as underwater as your mortgage.

The decade ends with nearly 75% of Americans understanding climate change is real and human activity is a major reason for its acceleration.

The increase in understanding climate change may be because more Americans are being directly impacted by extreme weather events, droughts, fires and rising sea levels.

In a December 2019 Pew Survey, 62% of American respondents indicate global climate change is affecting their local community “at least some.” That’s positive, but it’s only one step on a long road ahead. Belief is a start to building solutions, but sea levels are rising whether we believe it or not.

There are still doubters and deniers, but the rising tide has washed out most of their roads. Over the last decade, their tactics have shifted. Early in the decade, they shouted “conspiracy” and “hoax!” Next, they admit climate change is real, but human activity isn’t to blame. Now, I’ve heard some speak in concerned NPR tones about the anger of alarmists like Greta Thunberg and the effectiveness of market-driven rather than globalist or government solutions to survival problems.

It’s sad numerous detours, paid for by heavily moneyed merchants of doubt, have cost us decades in adapting to the changing climate of our human habitat. But America hasn’t even been “leading from behind” in solving problems of species sustainability since Reagan ripped the solar panels off the White House in 1986. We’ve just been behind.

I’m not out to save the planet. Mother Earth will do fine without us. I would prefer to be part of a species that doesn’t commit suicide in my lifetime.

It’s an inconvenient truth that problems we individually and collectively could have been tackling, and public-private partnerships we could have been forging decades ago, we will have now. But I’m confident that we will adapt, partly because of ever-strengthening data and partly because of changing public attitudes. Also because I’m sure kinder, gentler EXXON, spewing those magnificent algae energy commercials, will make trillions of dollars from melting ice caps. With all that money to be made, I only wonder why EXXON and other free-market innovators didn’t position themselves as global sustainable energy leaders 20 or 30 years ago.

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