The Bush/Cheney White House had a remarkable way of dealing with discouraging news: when government reports would point to a serious problem, officials would simply eliminate the reports. Unfortunately, Republicans in North Carolina have adopted the same strategy when dealing with the climate crisis.
In 2005, for example, after a government report showed an increase in terrorism around the world, the administration announced it would stop publishing an annual count of international terrorist attacks. After the Bureau of Labor Statistics uncovered discouraging data about factory closings in the U.S., the administration announced it would stop publishing information about factory closings. When a report showed Washington shortchanging states, Bush’s OMB discontinued the report. When Bush’s Department of Education found that charter schools were underperforming, the administration said it would sharply cut back on the information it collects about charter schools.
Solving problems is hard. Deliberate ignorance is easy. Just ask GOP officials in North Carolina.
Republican lawmakers in North Carolina are circulating a bill which would limit their state agencies’ ability to calculate sea-rise levels, a proposal that one member of the state’s Coastal Resources Commission science panel has termed “bad science.”
The bill has not yet been introduced, but the language in the version being circulated would make the Division of Coastal Management the only state agency allowed to produce sea-level rise rates, and only at the request of the Coastal Resources Commission, and then only under the following conditions:
“These rates shall only be determined using historical data, and these data shall be limited to the time period following the year 1900. Rates of sea-level rise may be extrapolated linearly to estimate future rates of rise but shall not include scenarios of accelerated rates of sea-level rise.”
As Eric Lach added, “In other words, instead of taking into account global warming to predict higher seas, as expected by most scientists, the bill would have the state rely only on the historical record.”
As practical matter, this would, Western Carolina University geology professor Rob Young explained, run counter to the findings of the National Academy of Sciences and “every major science organization on the globe.”
What North Carolinians don’t know can’t hurt them, right? If the data is discouraging, why act when the data can be eliminated?