Some years ago the North Carolina legislature actually voted that climate change data couldn’t be taken in to account in planning economic development along the coastline. Had it been, of course, construction of expensive new properties would have been curtailed. Showing all the bravery of Don Quixote tilting at windmills, North Carolina legislators were sure they could turn back the encroaching salty sea.
Now, North Carolina farmers who work the once rich soil along the tidal flats and swamps that were drained to create arable land are dealing with dead crops, high levels of salinity in the soil, and visible salt crystals making increasingly large patches of land useless for cultivation.
“Of climate change’s many plagues — drought, insects, fires, floods — saltwater intrusion in particular sounds almost like a biblical curse. Rising seas, sinking earth and extreme weather are conspiring to cause salt from the ocean to contaminate aquifers and turn formerly fertile fields barren. A 2016 study in the journal Science predicted that 9 percent of the U.S. coastline is vulnerable to saltwater intrusion — a percentage likely to grow as the world continues to warm. Scientists are just beginning to assess the potential effect on agriculture, Manda said, and it’s not yet clear how much can be mitigated.”
I hardly know what to say to the North Carolina legislators — some of whom are probably out of office now anyway. Climate change denial is “somebody else’s problem” until it the adverse effects of a changing world affect constituents’ day to day lives. Would North Carolina legislators vote differently today, when their own farmers are losing their land and agricultural production is down?
Denial is a powerful thing, and I’m not so sure they would.