But we all should be talking and planning further ahead. With a highly vulnerable coast of barrier islands, North Carolina in particular should be thinking ahead in a realistic way that acknowledges the likely effects of climate change. Desperate to protect tourist dollars and real-estate values, coastal communities repeat costly beach renourishment projects. In recent years, the state has relaxed some regulations on seawalls and other structures to control rising sea levels. The prospect of increasingly powerful hurricanes only makes such short-term solutions even more shortsighted.”

“Predictions aren’t exact, but the overwhelming consensus among scientists is that our activities are warming seas and melting ice caps. That produces fiercer and wetter storms (think Irma, Harvey, Matthew, Sandy, Floyd) and gradually encroaching seawater. Check out the dead trees along Smith Creek Parkway or River Road to see what saltwater intrusion looks like.

And it’s about much more than flooded streets — underground infrastructure such as water and sewer pipes will be compromised. It’s already happening in Miami.

So do we update flood maps and discourage building in areas that the best science tells us will experience increased flooding? Change building codes?

Or do we continue to make scientific results we don’t like illegal, and purge grant applications of unpleasant words like climate change?

We don’t have to be alarmist about sea-level rise, but we should take it seriously. And that means listening more to the scientists who have studied our coast for years, and less to the development interests that have a huge financial stake in pretending the problem doesn’t exist.”