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Pieces of Eight


ECU Reports to General Assembly on Climate

By Christine Neff

North Carolina should anticipate and plan for events related to climate change, particularly in the state’s coastal region, said a special report recently prepared by East Carolina University for the North Carolina General Assembly.

Faculty experts in a variety of disciplines provided material for “Global Warming and Coastal North Carolina.”

“The interdisciplinary nature of this report makes it very educational,” said Steve Culver, an ECU geologist who coordinated the project.

Key findings were that global warming is real, driven in large part by the burning of fossil fuels and emission of greenhouse gases, and that eastern North Carolina faces serious risks. Those risks include rising sea levels, an increase in the severity and frequency of tropical storms, extremes in precipitation, accelerated coastal erosion, as well as social and economic changes that could affect things like public health and tourism.

“As a state, we need to accept that these changes are taking place and adapt to them, rather than maintaining the status quo,” Culver said.

The report was compiled in response to a July 2008 request from Senator Marc Basnight, president Pro Tempore of the N.C. General Assembly. Basnight asked all universities in the UNC system to report on climate change and its potential impact on the state.

In addition, the geology department has released three documents for outreach purposes. The reports, including “North Carolina’s Coasts in Crisis: A Vision for the Future,” have been sent to representatives in the media, government, state agencies and coastal towns and counties.

“People who live at the coast and manage the coast have to make difficult decisions, but they need the geological context to do that,” Culver said. “The idea of this project is to document the last two million years of history in the North Carolina coast. If we understand the past and understand the modern-day coastal processes..., we can project what can possibly happen in the future.”

Lead authors on ECU’s report to the General Assembly were Okmyung Bin (Economics), Jennifer Brewer (Geography), Robert Christian (Biology), D. Reide Corbett (Geology), Scott Curtis (Geography), Bob Edwards (Sociology), Lauriston King (Coastal Science and Policy), Pat Long (Sustainable Tourism), David Mallinson (Geology), Lloyd Novick (Public Health), Mike O’Driscoll (Geology), Stan Riggs (Geology) and John Rummel (Coastal Science and Policy).

This page originally appeared in the Jan. 30, 2009 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at