Loading...
Bless the heart of the stormwater advisory group that suggested to raise the stormwater fees to record levels. I wonder...

The elephant in the room

JimLeutze

Jim Leutze

Loading…

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Recent hurricanes Florence and Michael, and the damage to our coastal region, highlight two things: Sea level rise and unequal distribution of wealth.

Unfortunately, both of these are political as well as scientific. The current hyper-partisan atmosphere for discussing solutions is toxic and divisive.

Let’s start with sea level rise. Several years ago I served on the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission when we began examining this subject. Although there are some differences of opinion, the majority, plus our expert science panel, thought coastal counties should at least consider anticipating sea level rise when in long range infrastructure planning.

Our recommendation — a suggestion not a requirement — got an immediate response. A group called “North Carolina Twenty” (for the 20 coastal counties) was quickly organized and headed largely by real estate interests who feared our estimates would drive away potential investors. They drew a lot of attention, mostly in Raleigh, from legislators who decided that no one had to follow the CRC’s recommendation. In fact they should not consider sea level rise in their planning.

The commission met the same response when it suggested that sea level rise’s dangerous twin, climate change, should prompt stricter building codes so new homes would be more storm resistant. While the legislature did not get involved, powerful interests including the Home Builders Association and Realtors rallied opinion against any new requirements. Why?

Now I know there are many responsible and principled people in both professions. However, I was advised that some cynically saw a destroyed home as an opportunity for more business.

Now to unequal distribution of income.

Anyone familiar with coastal North Carolina knows that there is a narrow band of wealth right along the coast adjacent to a wider band of poverty stretching from Virginia to South Carolina. It was popular a few years ago to talk about two North Carolinas. That recognition seems to have slipped from our consciousness.

The aftermath of these two recent storms should bring it back to the forefront. This wide band of poverty is where the most destruction as well as the slowest recovery occurred. The people living that area often build cheaper homes in flood plains and don’t buy flood insurance. These people aren’t dumb, lazy nor improvident. They are just poor.

What is to be done? Here are some simple steps:

■ Any county within 125 miles of the coast should consider sea level rise or climate change in their long range planning for storm mitigation.

■ Power stations, sewage lift stations, hospitals, schools, police stations, etc. should not be built in the flood plain.

■ New mapping needs to be done since we’ve had two 100 year flood events in three years.

■ Homes and businesses need new construction codes.

How do we address the wealth-poverty gap? Today 10 percent of the population holds 80 to 90 percent of the nation’s wealth. The other 90 percent of the population must share the remaining 20 percent.

In practical terms this means that in case of an emergency, two of three families can’t afford an unexpected $600 expense. Thousands of North Carolinians face repair/replacement costs far greater than that. This is a national problem that has only gotten worse in the past 20 years.

The last tax cut helped those who least needed help. Since tax codes aren’t likely to change there will have be other government programs. To help the poor protect their property, there needs to be grants that help raise their houses or otherwise protect their property; flood insurance should be available at reduced rates; encouragement and grants are necessary to help them move to higher ground combined along with discouraging rebuilding along vulnerable creeks or rivers. Yes, I said government help. It is critical to the solution. Call it socialism if you want. I call it realism.

None of this is easy. It is a “pay me now or pay me later” proposition. There no longer is time to wait. Trusted climatologists warn (excluding a few outliers) time is not on our side.

Jim Leutze is chancellor emeritus of UNC-Wilmington and was a professor of history at UNC Chapel Hill.

Loading…

Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Op Ed

December 10, 2018

Orange County, California, Register

For too long, Congress has abdicated its constitutional obligations with respect to war powers.

On Nov. 28, the Senate took an important step toward reasserting this authority by voting 63 to 37 in favor of moving ahead on a resolution directing the removal of US…

December 10, 2018

It makes no political or geopolitical sense for President Trump to cozy up to the Saudis or Russians to the extent he has. It does make economic sense — for him, his family and his family enterprises.

Follow the money was the mantra used by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl…

douglascohn.jpg

December 09, 2018

There's something uncomfortably sterile about life-expectancy rates.

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that average American life expectancy shortened by a tenth of a year, as it did last year, it's forgivable if the problem isn't immediately obvious. Sure, we might have…

Robert Gebelhoff

December 09, 2018

"When you strike at a king you must kill him," Ralph Waldo Emerson once said. Well, this year China tried to strike at President Trump for daring to launch a trade war with Beijing — and missed the mark entirely.

After Trump imposed massive tariffs on Chinese goods earlier this year,…

MarcThiessen

December 08, 2018

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

“There is no Plan B because there is no Planet B,” Emmanuel Macron lectured Donald Trump — in English — when the American President withdrew from the Paris climate agreement last year. Well, apparently there is a Plan B after all. Macron stopped his…

December 08, 2018

Back in 1897, an eight-year-old girl, prompted by naysaying friends, wrote The New York Sun wanting the truth about the existence of Santa Claus. Today that letter might be answered by apparent congressman-elect Mark Harris, confirming not only Santa’s existence, but also that his name is…

Tom Campbell

December 07, 2018

There is a lot about President George H.W. Bush that we will miss. And the current occupant of the White House puts into vivid relief the things that we will miss the most. Our president today couldn't be more different from Bush. I hope the values that Bush brought to his distinguished career in…

EdRogers

December 07, 2018

All of the leaders assembled at the Group of 20 meeting in Buenos Aires committed their nations to the fight against climate change, except one — President Trump, of course. But pay him no mind. As the proverb says, "The dogs bark but the caravan moves on."

We don't have to wait for history…

Eugene Robinson

December 06, 2018

How does being barefoot make you feel? Relaxed? Uncomfortable? Most people are only barefoot as they prepare for sleep. Most Americans are more comfortable wearing shoes in their own home. Or, at the very least, they’ll keep socks on around the house. There is nothing wrong with this.…

Stoehr

December 06, 2018

In response to the toppling in August of the Confederate Monument at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chancellor Carol Folt and other UNC leaders have proposed a controversial solution: a new $5.3 million building on campus that will cost $800,000 a year to operate.

Some are…

john hood
324 stories in Op Ed. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 33
        Next Page»   Last Page»