Across the Carolinas, the floodwaters have receded and rebuilding is under way. But the epic 2018 hurricane season has left a mark, like a ghostly high-water stain on the wall of a flooded building. Today, Carolina residents increasingly accept the reality of climate change, and want to prepare for its ravages.
The urgent need to adapt to a hotter, wilder world presents extraordinary challenges. But it also offers a chance to rethink who we are, and how we live.
The challenges are real: our long coastline is vulnerable to sea-level rise and supercharged storms; our essential crops face withering heat and erratic rainfall. From hog farms to chemical plants and coal-ash ponds, our industries harbor toxic threats when flooded. And, asMatthew and Florence made clear, climate disasters hit low-income communities and communities of color first and worst.
There is growing awareness of the threats we face. An Elon University survey taken earlier this month showed that more than eight in 10 North Carolinians now believe climate change is “very” or “somewhat” likely to negatively impact the state’s coastal communities. The most notable shift is among Republicans, 37 percent of whom now believe global warming is “very likely” to have a negative impact—nearly triple the percentage who felt that way in 2017.
In fact, even before Florence hit, the Carolinas were reckoning with climate change by assessing the threats, preparing for the worst, and protecting the most vulnerable. For years, North and South Carolinians have been seeing climate changes firsthand, and finding ways to adapt. For example, North Carolina’s Land Loss Prevention Project—originally founded to prevent black farmers from losing their land to foreclosure—is identifying farm communities that are vulnerable to climate impacts and helping them move to safer land.
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