Thursday, June 7, 2012

Science-suppression legislation to be debated today in NC Senate

If you thought that this Kevin Costner bomb was over the top; prepare yourself for something even sillier.

Legislation to suppress the forecasts of the NC Coastal Resources Commission's Science Panel on Coastal Hazards will be debated in the NC Senate today. Under the Dome reports
Bloggers and TV comics have ridiculed it, and now state legislators will get their first chance Thursday to debate unusual legislation that would put tight restrictions on how state and local agencies cope with rising sea levels.

The Senate Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee will air the proposal, which was drafted by Republicans in response to controversy over a state-appointed science panel’s warning that a rise of one meter (39 inches) is likely by the end of this century.
If the legislation goes through, new roads, bridges, utilities, and other public infrastructure could be put at risk by being placed in areas of rising waters. Subsidized development might also be encouraged in areas that may become a flood risk.

It would be one thing if private developers using entirely private money wanted to develop these areas. However, the developers inevitably reach into the public purse for infrastructure. Also, when disasters happen, the victims will expect (and will almost certainly receive) help. Don't look for the developers to be offering to help those victims then.

Public decision-making in this case entails two types of risks. Over-preparing (relying on a forecast that is too pessimistic) would be wasteful because it would involve either building too many protections or not building at all. However, under-preparing is likely worse because the entire initial investment could be lost. Under-preparing could also put lives at risk.

The science panel provided a range of forecasts; the one-meter projection was near the middle of this range. The forecasts were also in line with those of other state coastal agencies. The panel further recommended  refining the forecasts every five years.

The forecast that would be mandated under the legislation would actually be substantially below the lowest forecast that the panel made. Relying on this wish, rather than the panel's judgment, would be a short-term boon for developers, but would likely bring high costs to other taxpayers.

North Carolina shouldn't substitute developers' wishes for sound, scientific judgment.


Jeri Johnson said...

Sound, scientific judgment?

The Science Panel (N.C. Coastal Resources Commission’s
Science Panel on Coastal Hazards) that made the sea level rise
projection was not practicing sound scientific judgement.

According to their study, North Carolina Sea-Level Rise Assessment Report:
The Science Panel first reduced the 12000 years of data they had available to
around 35 by focusing solely on tide table charts, a culling of 99.7%
of their data.

The Science Panel then culled those eight tide table charts they had
available to one, Duck NC. In doing so they chose to simply ignore 90%
of the data that remained from their first culling.

In each of the cullings the Science panel retained only the most
extreme data. It was from the extreme data that remained that the
panel created a baseline from which to project future sea level rise.

Whatever this is it is not science and NC lawmakers are not only
right to reject it but create guidelines that avoid such abuses of
science going forward.

more here:

polifrog said...

I would have avoided defending the Science Panel's findings as well, Dave.

polifrog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave Ribar said...


I appreciate the comment, but due to an extremely busy week, haven't had time (or felt the need) to rehash our discussion from Ed's blog.

Sometimes no response is just that--no response.

The Management :)

Jeri Johnson said...

The problem is that at Cone's you never defended the abuse of the data present in the study. Instead you disappeared.

Do you consider what the Science Panel did appropriate?

Or is the addition of the Water World trailer in your post an admission that the report was science fiction?

Fred Gregory said...

Balance Needed on Coverage of Sea Level Rise

" RALEIGH — Environmental pressure groups, activist scientists, and the legacy media are predictably upset by the movement of a bill through the N.C. General Assembly that requires state policies dependent on sea level forecasts to be based on historical trends, rather than speculative computer projections.

The implications for such policies are not small, as extreme predictions — such as the 39-inch-rise-by-year-2100 prophecy spat out by computer models — would, at a minimum, require billions of dollars (much of it from taxpayers) to build new infrastructure; adjust to new building codes and higher insurance rates; and restrict land use and property rights.

Yet those aspects of the debate were downplayed in nearly every green activist’s testimony and major news story. Instead, property rights defenders such as the NC-20 coalition, which represents coastal counties, were marginalized as “deniers” of real science. At the top of nearly every news report journalists bemoaned the fact that North Carolina has been “mocked” worldwide because of its ignorance.

The sources of the mockery are undoubtedly among the foremost minds on the planet, right? Well, decide for yourself. The first is a blogger for the Scientific American website, Scott Huler, whose scientific credentials are nonexistent, but whose bio boasts that he’s “written on everything from the death penalty to bikini waxing, from NASCAR racing to the stealth bomber… .” Another dreaded mocker is The (U.K.) Guardian, unfamiliar to most Americans but which ideologically sits on the political spectrum where The Nation, Mother Jones, and MSNBC reside. And perhaps worst of all for the eco-conscious mavens and media, Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert parodied the N.C. legislation – oh, the Tar Heel humanity!"

Dave Ribar said...


Chesser's column is wrong, misleading, and unbalanced at nearly every turn. It would be laughable if the consequences weren't so severe.

Let's start with his first paragraph where he describes the forecasting choice between "historical trends, rather than speculative computer projections."

With the exception of forecasts made by the Almighty, all forecasts are speculation. The legislature is speculating that the next 88 years will be no worse than the last 88. Worse, the law does not allow the Coastal Resources Commission to consider any relevant additional information, such as land-based glacial melting or accelerated movement, that has not appeared in the recent historical record.

The analogy would be of a turkey that is told it must only consider its past treatment in forecasting its future and ignore the "Thanksgiving event" that it has heard about but never experienced itself.

Second, Chesser points to the costs of over-protecting (a risk my post acknowledged) but says nothing about the costs of under-protecting. A "balanced" approach would consider both risks.

Third, Chesser mocks the credentials of some of the mockers, but then cites Nils Axel-Morner. Putting aside Dr. Axel-Morner's affinity for the practice of dowsing, he claims that there is no sea-level rise whatsoever. None, nada, zip. If Chesser really believes his source, he should be protesting against any forecast involving an upward trend.