North Carolina lawmakers at work: “Pass a law that rejects sea level rise? Brilliant!”

When lawmakers in North Carolina learned that the study by its own Coastal Resources Commission projected a sea level rise of 39 inches by the year 2100, they knew they had to take action!  First step, obviously, was for all of them to cover their ears and say outloud “lalalalalalala..I can’t hear you!..lalalalala…”.  Surprisingly that compelling argument didn’t make the scientists behind the study change their projection.  So the next obvious step was just simply passing a law that bans the science behind the projection!  Brilliant!

Now (if the proposed law is passed, and it looks like it will) North Carolina scientists can only use linear extrapolation using historical data from 1900 and after.  Just wait until lawmakers figure out that you hardly need scientists to do linear extrapolation, that you can get a high school math student to do it.  Or better yet, wait until they figure out that anyone can perform that calculation in Excel.  (Really, linear extrapolation is the laziest form of projection there is, it’s what you do when you don’t want to think about it. Also, it’s not science, it’s just a very simplistic mathematical model.) Finally they will be able to get scientists off the payroll for even more savings!  Be gone nerds!

This is truly revolutionary stuff!  Just imagine the problems we can now solve using the North Carolina logic.  National budget doesn’t balance?  Just change methods of revenue and spending projections until it does.  Solved.  High unemployment?  Change the projections of job creation and tell the unemployed that the jobs are coming! Solved.  Ending the war in Afghanistan?  I am projecting that Afghanistan will have a thriving, American-loving, fully functioning democracy in place by, oh, let’s just say tomorrow.  Bring the troops home! Solved.  Yes, we can now solve everything.  Our local, state, and national representatives just need to pass a few laws, that’s all.

So the driving force behind this is that coastal property owners want to continue to develop their low-lying land for short-term bucks (and I would presume that the local lawmakers representing these areas want the tax dollars and/or continued contributions from these property owners), consequences be damned.  Here’s the thing, if you want to develop this property using your own assumptions about sea level changes, fine, go for it.  Free market, right?  But let’s make it free market it all the way then!  You reap the benefits, great!  But then you also bear all the costs!  That means the infrastructure is up to you.  That means it’s up to you to obtain insurance and if the rates are high, well that’s too bad.  That means if the developed property is ruined because of storm or erosion of the beach, you can’t turn to the government to help you out.  That’s the risk you assumed.

We are turning into a society where we apply free market capitalist principles when it comes to big business profits (no planning restrictions, tax breaks, less regulation, etc.), but where we apply socialist command principles (bailouts, disaster aid, government insurance, etc.) when it comes to big business losses.  It doesn’t take a scientist to see that a system creates perverse incentives and is not sustainable over the long-term.  But it apparently does take more than a North Carolina state legislator to see that.



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