I had a bone spur removed from my big toe this morning and the pain meds are strong, but surely I can focus enough to comment on this:
Wading into the turbulent debate over global warming, North Carolina's state legislature is considering a bill that would require the government to ignore new reports of rising sea levels and predictions of ocean and climate scientists.
This should not come as a surprise, since government has been ignoring policy that might improve "economic efficiency" for years (e.g., a higher gas tax).
Business interests along the state's coastline pushed lawmakers to include language in a law that would require future sea level estimates to be based only on data from past years. New evidence, especially on sea level rise that could be tied to global warming, would not be factored into the state's development plans for the coast.
In my world, we'd be required to rely on "revealed preference" data instead of using revealed and "stated preference" data to better predict the future.
"We're skeptical of the rising sea level science," says Tom Thompson, chairman of NC-20, an economic development group representing the state's 20 coastal counties. "Our concern is that the economy could be tremendously impacted by a hypothetical number with nothing but computers and speculation."
In other words: "We're skeptical of any sort of science that might cost us money." And to toss away climate science as a "hypothetical number" and "speculation" is to, well, toss away the meat pattie from your hamburger sandwich.
The bill is still in its early stages, but the section stirring up controversy states:
"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 seas-level rise may be extrapolated linearly…"
The parts about using only historical data, which shows a slow, linear sea-level rise—not the faster increases associated with global warming—have drawn the most ire from scientists.
"Clearly they don't understand science at all – (sea level rise) hasn't been linear," says Stan Riggs, a professor at East Carolina University who is an expert on the state's coastline. "To put blinders on and just say we don't accept what's happening on our coast is absolutely criminal."
I wouldn't go as far as to say that it is criminal, which suggests that these politicians should be jailed in order to reform them. But I will say this, I too would be upset if the state government tried to legislate that my demand curves could only be estimated with a linear functional form.