How North Carolina’s Climate Is Changing — And What Towns Are Doing About It

Nov 28, 2018

A new climate assessment report from the White House forecasts devastating economic and health impacts for the United States. Thirteen federal agencies and the U.S. Global Change Research Program issued the report, which is required by Congress every four years. The report contains a chapter on the Southeast that predicts higher sea levels, coastal flooding, stronger storms, and longer and more frequent heat waves. 

Host Frank Stasio talks with a reporter and experts about how climate change will impact North Carolina. WUNC Daily News Producer Will Michaels shares his reporting on what kind of changes the Tar Heel state could see and how towns are preparing to be more resilient; Jessica Whitehead and Holly White join the conversation to talk about their work to help prepare Nags Head for sea level rise and increased flooding. Whitehead is a coastal communities hazards adaptation specialist for the North Carolina Sea Grant at North Carolina State University, and White is the principal planner for Nags Head. 

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

Michaels on the National Climate Assessment Fourth (NCA4) Report:

This is really one of the more comprehensive climate assessments that is out there. And it talks about, for instance, the labor hours that are anticipated to be lost — about half a billion labor hours lost by the end of the century because of that rising global temperature. The fact that workers who are outdoors — like farm workers — will have to take more breaks. And we will lose those labor hours, which of course translates to tens of billions of dollars — or even more — depending on where you sit.

Whitehead on who is bearing the brunt of climate change adaptation work:

One of the things that is really great about the NCA4 report … Is that it makes it very, very clear that states and local governments, so municipalities and counties, are really on the front line of where these impacts are. And it's a challenge because there's no single silver bullet policy that says: This is how you adapt to this. The impacts of climate change look different on the ground from place to place. And the people from place to place are different, and so adaptation needs to take on a different flavor as well.

White on what Nags Head has done in their town’s comprehensive plan:

In northeastern North Carolina, I think we would be the first community to adopt policy on sea level rise. So we've, in the past, undergone a lot of land use planning and looking at environmental conditions and coastal hazards and how we respond to those things. But this is the first time on a long-range plan that we've addressed sea level rise and how we adapt to that.