Climate Change

Picture of a flooded street in Swansboro, N.C.
Tom Copeland / AP Photo

Historic cities and towns along the Southeastern U.S. coast have survived wars, hurricanes, disease outbreaks and other calamities, but now that sea levels are creeping up with no sign of stopping, they face a more existential crisis.

Nags Head Town Engineer David Ryan stands alongside a pump that can lower the water table in a coastal neighborhood. It's part of the town's efforts to better prepare for big storms.
Jay Price / WUNC

After hundreds of years of mainly focusing on the aftermath of hurricanes, this is the first hurricane season that North Carolina has a "chief resilience officer," tasked to think ahead in new ways to bolster the state against the effects of climate change.

Resilience officers, or officials who have such duties as part of their job, are fast becoming a typical part of local government in coastal areas. But just a handful of state governments have them.

Promotional photo showing four women confronting an alien in high water.
Courtesy of Women's Theatre Festival

Imagine a world in which almost every town is flooded and most people are living in temporary shelters. It is unclear what has caused the flooding or if waters will recede any time soon, and government officials are not being transparent about what is going on. This is the plot of the new play from Women's Theatre Festival, called "Waters Rise."

A boarded up window with pain that reads 'At least it's not snowing...'
Jason DeBruyn / WUNC

Politicians worldwide felt the heat on climate policy this week after a reported four million protesters took to the streets. The leader of the Global Climate Strike, Greta Thunberg, told world leaders that they had “stolen her dreams.”

Cameras outside the International Space Station captured a stark and sobering view of Hurricane Florence the morning of Sept. 12 as it churned across the Atlantic in a west-northwesterly direction with winds of 130 miles an hour.
Courtesy of NASA

Coastal flooding from hurricanes and other tropical storms is getting worse, according to a recent study by researchers at the UNC-Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City. Scientists looked at more than 120 years of data on tropical cyclones and rainfall in North Carolina. They found six of the wettest events occurred in the last 20 years. Hans Paerl, the study's lead author, says statistical analysis shows that’s more than just a string of bad luck.

Mary Ellis Stevens

Ninth-grader Greta Thunberg sat outside the Swedish legislature in 2018 and declared her commitment to strike each Friday to demand that her government undertake a radical response to climate change. At that moment she became the face and voice of a generation of youth anxious and motivated to do something about climate change.

Solar panels convert solar energy to usable engergy.
Pxhere

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality recently released a plan to significantly reduce greenhouse gases from electricity production over the next decade. The goal is to get to zero emissions by 2050, starting with a 60 to 70% reduction from 2005 levels by 2030.

Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Orrin Pilkey was sounding the alarm about climate change and sea level rise long before the topics were part of public consciousness. As an early whistleblower, his work was not always well received, but he pressed on and has authored and edited dozens of books about the environment in the past few decades. His latest book, co-authored with his son Keith, takes a look at some of the unexpected ways climate-related sea level rise will affect the lives and livelihoods of people across the United States.

Image of the Appalachian Mountains.
Flickr Creative Commons

Many Americans spend more time looking at screens than they spend outside — or even looking out a window. This increased disconnect between humans and nature comes at a time when scientists warn that the environment is especially vulnerable: the recent National Climate Estimate estimates that annual average temperatures in the U.S. are expected to rise by about 2.5°F in the next few decades. A new collection of nature writing from Appalachia aims to bring readers closer to nature through stories about both the splendor of the mountain region and clear examples of how humans are changing the planet.

Wayne Lawrence / ProPublica

For generations, black landowners in the South relied on informal agreements, instead of wills, to keep property in the family. In a new article from investigative news outlet ProPublica, reporter Lizzie Presser investigated the story of a Carteret County family’s land loss and how African Americans across the country lost about 90% of their farmland between 1910 and 1997. Host Anita Rao talks with Lizzie Presser about the political, economic and emotional cost of black landholders losing their family property.

A beach public access entrance at Wrightsville Beach
Jason deBruyn / WUNC

A new study from an environmental advocacy group estimates North Carolina will face $35 billion in costs by 2040 to protect its coastal communities from rising seas.

David Attenborough stands in front of promotional backdrop for "Our Planet" at the series premiere.
Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP

Man versus wild is an enduring theme in film that continues to draw movie-goers to the box office. From the 1998 IMAX epic “Everest” to the solo-survival story in “Cast Away,” movies about nature probe how experiences in nature shape human’s understanding of their own capabilities.

Satellite view of the contiguous United States
National Centers for Environmental Information / National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Orange County is set to levy a quarter-cent tax on property owners specifically to fight the effects of climate change.

The nine-banded armadillo has been spotted more than 170 times in North Carolina in the past 12 years. Wildlife officials are asking the public to share photos and details to get a better idea of the creature's range.
Jay Butfiloski / N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission

If you’ve come across a nine-banded armadillo anywhere in North Carolina, wildlife officials want to hear about it.

Up to 1 million of the estimated 8 million plant and animal species on Earth are at risk of extinction — many of them within decades — according to scientists and researchers who produced a sweeping U.N. report on how humanity's burgeoning growth is putting the world's biodiversity at perilous risk.

More than 80% of parents in the U.S. support the teaching of climate change. And that support crosses political divides, according to the results of an exclusive new NPR/Ipsos poll: Whether they have children or not, two-thirds of Republicans and 9 in 10 Democrats agree that the subject needs to be taught in school.

A separate poll of teachers found that they are even more supportive, in theory — 86% agree that climate change should be taught.

5th graders from J.S. Waters Elementary School in Chatham County visit the USS North Carolina. The ship gets more than a quarter of a million visitors a year, many of them  with school groups who come to learn about its history.
Jay Price / WUNC

"Vulnerable" seems like the last word to describe a 70 million-pound armored ship that can fire shells weighing as much as a car. But now the USS North Carolina, one of the state's most iconic tourist attractions, has a new enemy … and a new battle plan.

Marshes, Key To Coastal Health, Have A Tipping Point

Mar 20, 2019
Anna Braswell

With sea turtles, fish and birds splashing around in the morning sunlight, marshes that line the American coast might appear peaceful and primordial. But forces both natural and manmade are constantly acting upon them, jeopardizing the survival of these critical ecosystems. New research analyzed the influences that cause marshes to become more “fringy” and sparse, pointing the way for scientists to prioritize interventions and restoration efforts.

Curtis J. Richardson, director of the Duke University Wetland Center.
Jason deBruyn / WUNC

On Duke University's campus, near the Washington Duke Inn, there's a wetland area that reduces stormwater flooding and improves water quality. Curtis J. Richardson, director of the Duke University Wetland Center and professor in the Nicholas School of the Environment, spearheaded the project.

Photo of climate activists stop in front of the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference venue during the March for Climate in a protest against global warming in Katowice, Poland, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018.
Alik Keplicz / AP Photo

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland is not going well for the Trump administration. Officials’ speeches have been met with laughter, hecklers, and people walking out of the room. Some protestors are calling the administration's push for clean coal “climate suicide.” The annual meeting, known informally as Cop24, is geared toward ending global warming, and this year attendees are focused on how to implement the Paris Agreement. 

Nags Head
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

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. 

In this Sept. 2, 2016, file photo, a friend's basket of clams sit in the water as Mike Suprin, of Rollinsford, N.H., calls it a day after filling his basket with softshell clams at Cape Porpoise in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Valuable species of shellfish have become harder to find on the East Coast because of degraded habitat caused by a warming environment, according to a pair of scientists that sought to find out whether environmental factors or overfishing was the source of the decline.

Sea level change over time
Global Climate Change / NASA

Gov. Roy Cooper has signed an executive order that directs the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2025. It's a move that some other state and local governments have taken since President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Accord.

Credit: NASA

Asheville may be tucked away in the mountains, but it is quickly building a reputation as “climate city,” a home for researchers, scientific entrepreneurs and nonprofit and governmental organizations working to address climate change.

Estimate of how many properties in a five state region have lost value.
First Street Foundation

Due to seal level rise flooding, owners in the Carolinas have lost nearly $1.7 billion in property values since 2005.

File photo of a house on Nags Head. By the year 2045, 2,000 homes in Nags Head and Hatteras can expect flooding every other week, according to the non-profit Union of Concerned Scientists.
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

In 30 years, more than 15,000 North Carolina homes will be chronically inundated, meaning they're flooded about every other week, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. The nonprofit advocacy group released a report today showing where and when sea-level rise is likely to impact residents' daily lives.

Overhead view of Hurricane Matthew
NASA / Flickr

North Carolina's coastal ecosystem has drastically changed because of two decades of hurricanes and other tropical cyclones.

Catch per unit effort of bull sharks
Charles Bangley / Nature

Researchers say rising sea temperatures have brought more bull sharks to North Carolina. 

A study published on Nature.com says the sharks appear to be moving their reproductive habitats farther north as the Atlantic gets warmer.

photo of a man holding a card that says 'asheville is climate city'
Courtesy of The Collider

This month Asheville hosted the first ClimateCon, a conference to explore innovations and business solutions to combat the effects of climate change. The nine-day conference included a business of climate forum, a summit for emerging climate leaders, and community-wide events.

Donald van der Vaart
DENR

Donald van der Vaart was North Carolina’s top environmental official under former Gov. Pat McCrory.  When Gov. Roy Cooper took office, Van der Vaart demoted himself and was later placed on suspension after writing a controversial opinion piece in an environmental law journal. However, he recently reemerged as a candidate for President Trump's Council on Environmental Quality.

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