Climate-Denying Law Could Make Hurricane Florence More Dangerous
"Currently the unspoken plan is to wait until the situation is catastrophic and then respond. We must begin the retreat now," retired Duke University coastal geologist Orrin H. Pilkey wrote in a recent op-ed for Raleigh's News & Observer.
The law came as a response to a 2010 Coastal Resources Commission (CRC) report that predicted sea levels on the Carolina coast would rise 39 inches by 2100, putting 2,000 square miles of property at risk, The Charlotte Observer explained.
Real estate interests and some politicians worried the report could chill coastal development and increase insurance, so the state legislature passed a law banning agencies from making sea level rise policies until 2016.
"By putting our heads in the sand, literally, for four years, we are not helping property owners. We are hurting them because we are not giving them information they may need to protect their property," Democratic Representative Deborah Ross said in 2012, according to The Charlotte Observer.
The bill, which became law when Democratic Governor Bev Perdue neither signed nor vetoed it, instructed the CRC to write a new sea-level-rise report that restricted its scope to the next 30 years, took into account scientific studies refuting sea level rise and assessed the economic cost of limiting coastal development.
It was sponsored by Republican Representative Pat McElraft, a former real-estate agent whose top contributors included the North Carolina Association of Realtors and the North Carolina Home Builders Association.
"You can believe whatever you want about global warming, but when you go to make planning policies here for our residents and protecting their property values and insurance rates ... it's a very serious thing to us on the coast," McElraft said in 2012, according to The Charlotte Observer.
However, others warned that the bill itself would be a "very serious thing" for coastal dwellers.
Since the bill was passed, studies have continued to show that the Carolina coast is already being impacted by sea level rise.
One, published in August, found that five Southeast states including North Carolina had already lost $7.4 billion in home values to sea level rise.
High tides are already causing flooding on non-windy days on streets like Front Street in Beaufort, Bay Street in Morehead City and Memorial Street in Nags Head, Pilkey wrote in his op-ed.
He advised that, going forward, the state increase setback lines to limit coastal development, raise the height of buildings, move back threatened buildings, prohibit rebuilding of storm-destroyed buildings and initiate a planned retreat from the rising water line.
"The time has come for action on our shoreline," Pilkey wrote. "There is no question that the climate will change drastically. It already has. And with that changing climate will come big changes at the shoreline. We used to believe that we could hold the shoreline in place but clearly that is an economic and engineering impossibility."
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The 2020 hurricane season is now expected to be the most active since at least the early 1980s, meteorologists at Colorado State University, a standard bearer for seasonal hurricane predictions, announced Wednesday.
Three years ago, scientists predicted it would happen. Now, new NASA satellite imagery confirms it's true: two ice caps in Canada's Nunavut province have disappeared completely, providing more visual evidence of the rapid warming happening near the poles, as CTV News in Canada reported.
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The European Commission launched a new Farm to Fork strategy in an effort to reduce the social and environmental impact of the European food system. It is the newest strategy under the European Green Deal, setting sustainability targets for farmers, consumers, and policymakers.
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By Alexander Freund
Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab says he believes Tuesday's explosion in Beirut could have been caused by large quantities of ammonium nitrate stored in the port.
What Is Ammonium Nitrate?<p>Ammonium nitrate is a white crystalline salt that can be fairly cheaply produced from ammonia and nitric acid. It is soluble and often used as fertilizer, as nitrogen is needed for healthy plant development.</p><p>Ammonium nitrate in its pure form is not dangerous. It is, however, heat sensitive. At 32.2 degrees Celsius (89.96 degrees Fahrenheit), ammonium nitrate changes its atomic structure, which in turn changes its chemical properties.</p><p>When large quantities of ammonium nitrate are stored in one place, heat is generated. If the amount is sufficiently vast, it can cause the chemical to ignite. Once a temperature of 170 C is reached, ammonium nitrate starts breaking down, emitting nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas. Any sudden ignition causes ammonium nitrate to decompose directly into water, nitrogen and oxygen, which explains the enormous explosive power of the salt.</p>
Deadly Disasters<p>As ammonium nitrate is a highly explosive chemical, many countries strictly regulate its use. Over the past 100 years, there have been several disasters involving the chemical.</p><p>In 1921, for example, a massive blast occurred at a BASF chemical plant in Ludwigshafen in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. About 400 metric tons of a mixture of ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate exploded, killing 559 people and injuring 1,977. The plant was largely destroyed in the blast, which could be heard as far away as Munich, some 300 kilometers (186 miles) distant.</p><p>In 2015, explosions caused by ammonium nitrate ripped through the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/china-convicts-dozens-for-last-years-giant-explosions-in-tianjin/a-36324321" target="_blank">Chinese port city of Tianjin</a>. Eight hundred metric tons of the chemical were said to have been stored along with other substances in a warehouse for hazardous materials. The blasts killed 173 people and destroyed an entire city district.</p><p>Two years earlier, in 2013, an ammonium nitrate explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Company site in Texas, killing 14 people. And in 2001, 31 people died in Toulouse, France, in an explosion caused by the chemical.</p>
Terrorist Favorite<p>In Germany, the purchase and use of ammonium nitrate is regulated by the explosives act. This is because the cheap, highly explosive and relatively easily obtainable material has in the past been used by terrorists to carry out attacks.</p><p>For example, in 1995, U.S. conspiracy theorist and gun enthusiast Timothy McVeigh used a mixture of ammonium nitrate and other substances to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Norwegian far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik also used ammonium nitrate in a car bomb attack in Oslo in 2011.</p>
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By Michelle D. Holmes
Most Americans know about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans primarily through their colorful representations: the original food pyramid, which a few years ago morphed into MyPlate. The guidelines represent the government mothering us to choose the healthiest vegetables, grains, sources of protein, and desserts, and to eat them in the healthiest portions.
As innocuous as the food pyramid and MyPlate seem, they are actually a matter of life and death.
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