PLANNING FOR SEA LEVEL RISE VULNERABILITY IN NORTH CAROLINA
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Global sea level rise and local subsidence may result in relative sea level rise (SLR) in North Carolina of approximately 20 to 106 centimeters (approximately 8 to 42 inches) or more by 2100. The project on which this paper is based aimed to examine the State’s vulnerability to SLR and possible policy responses, as well as to develop a framework for presenting associated information to stakeholders that takes into account sound risk communication theories and practices. SLR will intensify erosion, flooding, property damage, and wetland destruction; and it will also redefine the boundaries of floodplains. While shoreline change can be modeled, limited conclusions can be drawn from such models because of uncertainty about the natural forces and human decisions that affect the shoreline. This paper argues that those interested in the future of the North Carolina coast should start, as soon as possible, to educate the public about the potential implications of SLR and the risks to coastal residents and properties. Planning ahead for SLR and its consequences will give communities more options and reduce costs. Hurdles to educating policy-makers and the public about North Carolina’s vulnerability to SLR and to fostering discussion of potential responses should be surmountable if appropriate entities take the lead and necessary financial and technical resources are provided. This paper recommends a framework that could serve as a useful starting point for this endeavor. Among other things, the author recommends that strategies for communicating about North Carolina’s vulnerability to SLR be crafted in advance, with care, and in a manner that involves physical and social scientists, risk communication experts, coastal managers, and representatives of different target audiences.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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