‘Those discussions need to happen today’

By on September 3, 2021

CSI Director Reide Corbett on new climate change report

Reide Corbett, Executive Director, Coastal Studies Institute

Published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the “Climate Change 2021, Summary for Policy Makers” is the sixth climate change report the group has published and the first since 2013.  The document details key findings in the science of climate change, comparing a number of the findings to the 2013 report and a supplemental 2019 report.

The report is 42 pages long and contains considerable data, graphs and predictions, many of them quite troubling. Here are a few.

  • The authors note that “…Evidence of observed changes in extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones, and, in particular, their attribution to human influence, has strengthened” since the previous report in 2013. The unprecedented heatwaves the West Coast of the country experienced this summer are a real time example of that, as is the extraordinary flooding Europe experienced earlier this year.
  • “Global mean sea level has risen faster since 1900 than over any preceding century in at least the last 3000 years (high confidence).”
  • “The global ocean has warmed faster over the past century than since the end of the last deglacial transition (around 11,000 years ago) (medium confidence).”
  • Although the Summary looks at trends on a global scale, the projected impacts would potentially affect the Outer Banks. In looking at what the future holds, the Summary predicts, “…increases in the frequency and intensity of hot extremes, marine heatwaves, and heavy precipitation, agricultural and ecological droughts in some regions, and proportion of intense tropical cyclones, as well as reductions in Arctic sea ice, snow cover and permafrost.”

To help understand what is in the report, the Outer Banks Voice spoke with Reide Corbett, Executive Director, Coastal Studies Institute and Dean of the ECU Integrated Coastal Programs, ECU.

Corbett’s Ph.D. is in oceanography, and he has done extensive work for the state of North Carolina mapping the estuarine shorelines of the state. He has also published papers on the effect of hurricane on the state’s estuarine systems and worked on assessments of climate change on North Carolina.

Voice: In looking over the Summary for Policymakers, the document is informational, but does not seem to suggest any specific policies. Is that correct?

Corbett: That’s right…and that’s the direction that they’ve always gone. This isn’t about providing the policy. This is providing information about the science, and everything that goes into the science, such that better policy can be developed by those that develop policy. This should be used to inform policy.

 

Voice: Let’s bring it back locally and regionally. Referencing the NC 12 Taskforce, is it fair to say that some of the things that are happening with NC 12 are attributable to an accelerating sea level rise?

Corbett: Well, yes and no. There are definitely multiple drivers, sea level rise being one. Storms being another and certainly changes in storm dynamics, changes in the strength of storms and the occurrence of storms are a product of climate change. Those are drivers that we have to consider when thinking about NC12 and the vulnerability of NC12 in different locations.

Climate is not the only driver for the vulnerability. It’s an important driver moving forward, particularly sea level rise, which will lead to inundation of the island…An extremely important thing that we need to consider is the recent past and the projected future of sea level, that is something that will impact the Outer Banks, the Albemarle Peninsula significantly in the next several decades.

 

Voice: Water seeks its own level, so as we talk about sea level rise, don’t we also we also have to simultaneously think about the sounds?

Corbett: When we talk about sea level rise, we aren’t referring to just ocean rise. Any place where the ocean is connected to an estuary, you will see a similar rise. So for the Outer Banks, we’re talking about a four and a half millimeter per year rise (.18”) That translates to both sides of the islands.

 

Voice: Given all of this, what can we expect over an extended period of time? What does the future hold for the Outer Banks?

Corbett: There are areas along the Outer Banks that are certainly more vulnerable to sea level rise, to flooding, whether it’s sunny day flooding or increased inundation due to storm surge.  The Outer Banks and the communities should be thinking about a vulnerability assessment so we can really start addressing this moving forward. We should be having those discussions on how we think about resilience for 20, 30, 40 years in the future.

Those discussions need to happen today. Let’s deal with our vulnerability and we have to start the discussions for how to deal with the long-term trends that are expected and that will certainly happen in our future.

 

Voice: How reliable are the predictions that we’re seeing? How do current observations match with the predictions made in the 2013 Summary for Policy Makers and subsequent special reports?

Corbett: We’re doing a pretty bang-up job. We, the scientific community, are developing these models that are very good predictors of what it’s going to look like multiple years into the future.

 

Voice: But aren’t some of the effects of climate change accelerating more quickly than predicted?

Corbett: Some are sort of on track, and so it sort of depends on what you’re looking at. I certainly don’t think you could make a blanket statement that everything is accelerating faster. Some of the parameters are…within the range of expectation from the last report, but it’s at the earliest level of that expectation.

 

Voice: The report cites “…Observed increases in well-mixed greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations since around 1750 are unequivocally caused by human activities.” How do we know the measurements from that time?

Corbett: We can take it back much further than that. We can take it back thousands of years. The way they do that is through ice cores. There are two different locations where they’re primarily collecting these ice cores. East Antarctica, and in Greenland. When the ice freezes at these locations, it incorporates small bubbles of gas so that atmospheric gas is trapped in the water that is ultimately frozen on these continents and it creates layers. And these layers can be counted, and you can analyze this. This 1750 number that is used is a couple of ice cores that have been collected from East Antarctica.

 

Voice: One of the things that stands out in the report is that in the short term, we can do very little to change the trajectory of climate change until 2050. In other words, the choices we make now will have little effect over the next 30 years, but they could have a dramatic effect beyond that.

Corbett: I don’t remember what the exact year was, but generally it’s a complex blue ball that we live on, and we have set this in motion. It’s kind of like a Mack truck rolling down a hill. It’s not something that you can easily stop. We can change the trajectory, but it’s going to take time to make that turn. Because we have already set it in motion … it’s hard to change the trajectory of that truck.

The fact is we’ve changed the direction of sea level rise, likely for, 500, 1000 plus years. There’s not much we can do today that won’t lead to a significant rise in sea level. It’s not that we shouldn’t be making changes, it’s just that, we need to think about this isn’t for our generation, and maybe not for the next generation, but it’s for generations down the road.”

 

 

 

 




Comments

  • WindyBill

    Many Thanks to the OBX Voice for a Superstar interview!

    Friday, Sep 3 @ 2:20 pm
  • Thinking About the Future

    Really appreciate this article and the interview – both interesting and informative. I look forward to reading more about the things towns, the county, the state and individuals can do to be involved slowing down “the Mack truck” for future generations.

    Friday, Sep 3 @ 4:26 pm
  • Bill

    The Earth has been experiencing “climate change” since it’s creation. ( high confidence) sic
    Until the real offenders of pollution, i.e. China, India at least begin to change, what little the United States, who leads the planet in improvement, can do is minimal, and detrimental to economic growth. Wind turbines and solar panels aren’t going to do it. The need for fossil fuels is here to stay until real breakthroughs in creating energy are created. Try flying a plane with solar panels strapped to the wings.

    Saturday, Sep 4 @ 6:36 am
  • Surf123

    Whatever is done will expensive and offer no measurable benefit, but a lot of people will feel good about themselves. Those who are lower income will feel the impact of this spending. Just like an increase in the cost of gas crushes them financially.

    Saturday, Sep 4 @ 8:41 am
  • Common Sense

    Newsflash, no human is changing the Earth’s natural cycle changes… sorry to inform those of you who feel you can. The worst hurricane on record was the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, 86 years ago this weekend… not last month or last year or last decade. Do you really think manufacturing non-recyclable solar panels and lithium ion batteries with toxic materials mined by slave labor is somehow going to reverse the planet’s natural cycles? If so I’ve got oceanfront property in Kansas to sell you.

    If this narrative is truly important to you maybe research some and see that a recent study found that the top 25 polluting cities in the world broke down as 23 in China, 1 in Russia and 1 in Japan. Stop taking what others say and running with it and stop and think for a minute and do a little legitimate research for once.

    Saturday, Sep 4 @ 9:54 am
  • Manns Harbor Man

    Chicken Little: “Squawk, the sky is falling, the sky is falling…….”
    We have had “climate change” since the earth was formed. Bill (above) puts it in sharp focus by citing the REAL OFFENDERS who will never be forced to adhere to whatever rules are written by the rest of the world. Solar panels and wind turbines are clearly false hopes of the Chicken Little brigade. The Sound in my back yard doesn’t show any signs of rising despite the claims of the true believers.

    Saturday, Sep 4 @ 11:26 am
  • Paul

    Bill:
    We all like to point fingers and focus the blame else where, but it doesn’t change the fact that the USA is #2 in carbon emissions and on a per capita basis we exceed China.
    The point of this article is that we all need to work together to solve this. No one is claiming that we will eliminate using carbon based energy sources immediately, but we can reduce our usage, and yes that includes wind and solar alternatives.
    The time has passed for the naysayers.

    We owe it to our future generations to get our house in order.

    Saturday, Sep 4 @ 4:12 pm
  • Dan

    Fossil fuels are the greatest discovery since fire – cheap, abundant and transportable – nothing else comes close. Models and long range forecasts are best guesses – predictions of the future which are not knowable and impossible to confirm (i.e. not science). Data used is often incomplete or erroneous which enables the modeler to set parameters that create a preconceived outcome. Climate alarmists routinely ignore the contribution of the sun, the ocean and clouds to naturally occurring climate change. There is so much wrong with the Climate Alarmist argument that in any real debate their side would be destroyed under a mountain of errors and mistakes.

    Sunday, Sep 5 @ 12:08 pm
  • Browny Douglas

    Fact: As predicted prior to the building of the 1st OI Bridge the bridge itself clearly served as a sand fence. Consequently natures flow of inlet and OUTLET waters was and is severely altered and greatly diminished. The south of the inlet was stabilized under Gov Martin. However, because of hard headedness, the north side has been allowed to creep south now for over 30 MORE years, resulting in less water flow that has caused danger to the health of NC’s 2 million acres of estuarine waters (less seafood) thus crippling NOT JUST Dare County but the ENTIRE NC economy. I ask, Mr Corbett, does it not make reasonable sense that IF the inlet width was restored to the same width as nature provided, then stabilized (jetty), would it not better better service nature’s formula to maintain healthy esturine waters and help curtail the forever danger of marine transportation??????????????.

    Tuesday, Sep 7 @ 10:54 am
  • WindyBill

    BILL: Solar airplanes have flown, check the records. Sure they are experimental, but so was the Wright Flyer. All new technologies are expensive until they are proven to work, or proven to fail. We have to try. Example: Did you like driving a 13mpg car that had to be tuned every 3ooo miles?

    Wednesday, Sep 8 @ 2:06 pm
  • Paul

    Entire “climate change” statistical model is revealed as little more than junk science hoax.
    https://www.naturalnews.com/2021-09-08-entire-climate-change-statistical-model-revealed-as-junk-science-hoax.html

    Wednesday, Sep 8 @ 2:43 pm
Join the discussion