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East Carolina University graduate students Trevor Burns, left, and Tyler Palochak check groundwater monitoring equipment on a farm near Engelhard, N.C., in January. Photo: Eamon Queeney/The Washington Post
As climate change is causing sea levels to rise, this salty water’s encroachment inland means that drinking water,native plant species, and agriculture are all coming under threat. The Washington Post reported that “rising seas, sinking earth and extreme weather are conspiring to cause salt from the ocean to contaminate aquifers and turn formerly fertile fields barren. A 2016 study in the journal Science predicted that 9 percent of the U.S. coastline is vulnerable to saltwater intrusion — a percentage likely to grow as the world continues to warm.” For farmers in places like North Carolina, saltwater intrusion is quickly costing millions of dollars in lost crops as sea level rise coupled with a string of powerful hurricanes have ravaged their fields and have left them scrambling for solutions.
According to the Bipartisan Policy Center,North Carolina is especially vulnerable to sea level rise for several reasons. Firstly, the land has very little slope, meaning that even small increases in sea level result in a wide expanse of coastal land being inundated and lost. In addition, while sea level is rising globally due to warming, the coastal land in this area is slowly sinking due to tectonic forces, so the relative sea level rise is larger here than in places where the coastline is stable or rising. Thus the current rate of sea-level rise in this area is about twice the global average.
In addition to this, the Washington Post reported that:
Hurricanes Matthew in 2016 and Florence in 2018 brought several feet of storm surge that inundated the area with seawater on the North Carolina Coast.
Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show that sea levels near Pamlico Sound, NC are rising at a rate of 4.4 millimeters per year — equivalent to nearly 1.5 feet over the next century.
Climate change, whether NC lawmakers want to admit it or not, presents an enormous threat to North Carolina’s economy and especially its agricultural sector. North Carolina’s agricultural industry, including food, fiber, and forestry, contributes $84 billion to the state’s economy, accounts for more than 17 percent of the state’s income, and employs 17 percent of the workforce.
Why This Matters: Saltwater intrusion as a result of sea level rise has also been affecting California’s fertile valleys and has forced farmers and scientists to race against the clock to find a solution. While researchers are still trying to understand the specific dynamics of this intrusion the best way we can slow it down is to drastically act to reduce carbon emissions and help slow climate change. In North Carolina, state lawmakers have routinely ignored and tried to bury the findings of scientists indicating the state’s vulnerability to climate change and especially sea level rise. Not only will climate change deliver a blow to sectors of our economy like agriculture but we will have to grapple with how to feed ourselves as less farmland will remain arable.
World leaders spoke out yesterday on the state of the planet and the message was clear — we must stop taking the natural world for granted. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that “the state of the planet is broken,” our attitude about it is “suicidal,” and then he spent more than 10 minutes cataloging our global “crimes against nature.”
Why This Matters: Guterres implored the world to make 2021 a “leap” year — a year in which individuals, businesses, and governments make a “quantum leap” towards carbon neutrality, and when more women leaders are at the table and they take decisive action to begin to cut carbon emissions by 45% by 2030.
by Ashira Morris, ODP Contributing Writer What is “normal”? This rather philosophical question — especially in 2020 — has concrete answers in weather science that can skew how we think about climate change. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) records climate normals as an average of the past 30 years, with updates made every […]
Why This Matters: Europe’s pledge to reach neutrality by 2050 is a legal commitment that guides banks, policies, and decision-making. Each of the EU’s 27 countries must now write its own plan for how to reach these targets.
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