SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Climate Change Impacts on North Carolina
This webpage is adapted from our fact sheet, “Climate Change Impacts on North Carolina.” Click here to download the fact sheet.
WHAT IS CLIMATE CHANGE?
The earth’s climate is changing because of excess carbon dioxide pollution in the atmosphere, generated when fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas are burned. This extra carbon traps more heat, like a greenhouse, which explains why 2001 to 2010 was the hottest decade ever recorded and there have been over 365 consecutive months with hotter-than-average global temperatures. Modern civilization developed in a stable climate and we have built our economy and way of life accordingly. Changes to our climate means that we are facing emerging hardships and vulnerabilities as the impacts of climate change unfold.
Some impacts from climate change include extreme storms, flooding from sea level rise, heat waves, and drought. These impacts have consequences for public health, safety, the economy, the environment, and our way of life.
Fortunately, we can protect against the worst impacts by limiting carbon pollution with energy efficiency and using more clean renewable energy, like solar and wind instead.
HOW WILL CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACT NORTH CAROLINA?
It is difficult to link any one event directly to climate change, and it is important to recognize that most climate data is regional or even global in scope. However, decades of expert research and centuries of historical records can be compared with recent trends to illustrate how climate change is already impacting parts of the Southeastern United States. These impacts, combined with possible future impacts, are both cause for concern and the imperative for action.
- Sea level rise compromises some of North Carolina’s most treasured places, including the Outer Banks and historic districts in coastal communities, like Wilmington’s riverfront. Sea level rise also jeopardizes North Carolina’s coastal tourism economy that generates over one billion dollars and supports 35,000 jobs annually. Seas are projected to rise by between 8 inches and 6.6 feet throughout the 21st century alone.
- Heritage foods of North Carolina are suffering because of carbon pollution and climate change. Some seafood, such as oysters and scallops, are directly harmed by the carbon pollution absorbed into the ocean, while some farmers are losing crops to unreliable winter weather, and late spring freezes, which are expected to become more frequent, along with heat and drought stress, in a warmer world. For example, the “Easter freeze” of 2007 caused statewide crop losses of 71% for apples and 82% for peaches, prompting almost half of the state’s counties to be declared a natural disaster area, and the “polar vortex” of 2014 wiped out some farmers’ entire spring collard crop.
- Hurricanes are getting more intense in a warmer world, tending more toward category 4 and 5 storms. Coupled with flooding from sea level rise, the liability to our coastal communities is great. Insurance will likely continue to get more expensive as more extreme weather disasters take place.
THE IMPACTS ARE GREAT, BUT THERE ARE ABUNDANT SOLUTIONS TO PREVENT THE WORST CASE SCENARIOS…
PROMOTE CLEAN ENERGY
Clean energy, such as solar, wind, and energy efficiency, produces no pollution and provides jobs in our struggling economy. Studies show that the United States could easily generate 80% of its power from clean sources by 2050. Energy efficiency can dramatically reduce the amount of power we use in our homes and businesses and lower our bills. In North Carolina, our offshore wind resource alone could produce more than 100% of the electricity we currently use each year. Solar power is unlimited energy from the sun, free for the taking if our state policies are used to level the playing field between solar and more traditional, polluting power sources like coal and nuclear.
OPPOSE HIGH RISK ENERGY
Some energy sources have greater risks associated with their use. Old, inefficient and dirty coal power plants must be retired to reduce levels of pollution that trigger asthma attacks and heart and lung disease, put mercury in our water, and cause climate change. Nuclear power plants emit less carbon than coal but are extremely expensive to build, require large amounts of water to operate, generate dangerous, highly radioactive waste and can have devastating consequences should an accident occur. Our coast is too precious to be compromised by spills from offshore drilling. Clean energy is a positive alternative to each of these risky energy sources.
HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION TODAY!
1) Find and Contact Your Legislators – National and state-level climate and energy policies are imperative to ensure protection from the worst impacts of climate change and to secure the benefits of clean energy. Find your Washington, D.C. and Raleigh legislators’ contact information here, and contact them to tell them we must lead the way in climate and energy policies that:
- Invest in job-creating energy efficiency and clean energy
- Limit carbon pollution, such as the Clean Power Plan
- Hold polluters accountable and end fossil-fuel subsidies
- Preserve and strengthen the Clean Air Act
2) Support Our Work & Become a Member of SACE Today – Be a part in helping North Carolina usher in the clean energy economy, clean up our environment, and securing the world we ought to pass down to future generations. Support from our members is critical to success in SACE’s work. Become a member today here.
3) Join the Southeast Coastal Climate Network – The Southeast Coastal Climate Network is a group of individuals and organizations, dedicated to fostering regional leadership in mitigating and adapting to the challenge of global warming. Join for free here.