Six years ago, a state-appointed science panel in North Carolina warned policymakers that sea levels would rise 39 inches over the next century, and state officials needed to start taking steps to prepare. In response, Republicans in the state legislature insisted that the findings be ignored.
Instead, GOP lawmakers pushed an alternative: North Carolina should use a historical model – preparing for the future by looking at past sea-level rises – and work from the assumption that the conditions that existed before the climate crisis would remain unchanged going forward. The tactic quickly became an example of dangerous climate denialism.
It took a while, but things are a little different in North Carolina now. The Washington Post reported yesterday:
While President Trump continued this week to deny the effects of climate change in the face of overwhelming scientific agreement that it is occurring – most recently noted in a landmark United Nations report that he has dismissed – a discernible shift appears to be occurring among Republican voters in North Carolina, a state pummeled by two hurricanes in two years.
The impact, say residents of this conservative congressional district [in Wilmington], lies right before their eyes, prompting conversations among farmers, fishermen and others on how climate change has hurt the local economy and environment.
The article pointed to polling Elon University conducted earlier this month that found 37% of North Carolina Republicans believe global warming is “very likely” to negatively impact North Carolina coastal communities in the next 50 years. The number should obviously be much higher, but it’s triple the number Elon University found last year.
“I always thought climate change was a bunch of nonsense, but now I really do think it is happening,” Margie White, a 65-year-old Trump supporter, told the Post.
There’s an old joke that a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged. Maybe it’s time for an update: someone who believes in the climate crisis is a former climate denier whose community has been slammed by a hurricane.