Adapting to Sea-level Rise: Where North Carolina Stands

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In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released their 4th assessment report which provided indisputable evidence that the world climate is warming, leading to changes in sea-level caused by two factors: melting land ice and thermal expansion of the oceans. This report conservatively estimated between 0.18 and 0.59 meters of global mean sea-level rise by 2100. Although sea level rise is a global issue, the specific effects and magnitude felt by different coastal communities are unique. Sea-level at a specific location, relative sea-level, is not influenced solely by GMSL but also by factors such as variations in global land ice which effects the gravitational field of the Earth, local vertical land movements such as sediment compaction and tectonics, as well as changes in coastal currents and local water temperature. The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration has identified North Carolina as highly vulnerable to effects of SLR because of its “high wave exposure, low-relief coastal slope, and abundance of barrier islands.” In addition, the Atlantic coast of the United States is experiencing subsidence, a sinking of the Earth’s surface caused by either natural or human-induced causes. In 2010, the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission’s Science Panel on Coastal Hazards completed the North Carolina Sea-Level Rise Assessment Report, requested by the Coastal Resources Commission to inform sea-level rise policy in the state. The report included a recommendation that North Carolina use of a one meter of rise benchmark for planning purposes. Almost two-and-a-half years later, North Carolina received national and international ridicule for its legislative decision that prohibits factoring a rate of sea-level rise into coastal planning until, at the earliest, July 1, 2016. This masters project will examine how the current law passed despite the recommendation of the Coastal Resources Commission’s Science Panel and will elucidate the future courses of action that the state may execute after the release of a five-year follow-up to the North Carolina Sea-Level Rise Assessment Report in March 2015.





Shipley, Krista (2014). Adapting to Sea-level Rise: Where North Carolina Stands. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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