What role does climate change play?
Climate change is making a bad situation worse.
Warmer waters increase the size and intensity of hurricanes. The storm season is longer. As sea levels rise, shorelines become more vulnerable. Water tables are higher, making coastal areas more susceptible to flooding.
“A storm like this would have been massively destructive 100 years ago, even before we had that century of rising sea levels,” Young said. “And it will be significantly greater 100 years from now depending on what sea-level rise does.”
Pilkey, of Duke University, said he hopes Florence offers people more motivation to retreat from North Carolina’s barrier islands.
“Sooner or later we need to get out of there,” he said. “We’ll retreat now in a planned fashion. Or we’ll retreat later in response to a catastrophe like the one that’s about to happen.”