Climate change bus rolls into Wrightsville Beach

by Sam Wilson
Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Supplied photo courtesy of Zachary Keith 

Mac Montgomery, an Army veteran and current chair of the Cape Fear Chapter of the Sierra Club, speaks about climate change as a national security issue at Johnnie Mercer’s Pier on Monday, July 15.

At Johnnie Mercer’s Pier on Monday, July 15, a dozen supporters turned out for the latest stop of the “I Will Act on Climate Change” nationwide bus tour. Speakers included local political, environmental and business leaders.

Dave Rogers, field director for Environment North Carolina, explained that the biodiesel-capable bus kicked off a 33-state bus tour in Tennessee the week before. The trip is being organized by a slew of environmental organizations, including national groups like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council as well as local and statewide organizations like Environment N.C. The goal, said Rogers, is not to create a push for any specific piece of legislation, but to highlight the local stories of how communities are addressing climate change and to show the president that the country supports his efforts to combat the growing issue.

“On June 25, President Obama laid out a plan to tackle this critical issue, so today … we’re looking to rally support to make sure the president follows through on his pledge to cut carbon pollution, invest in clean energy and prepare for the impact of climate change,” he said. “The reality is we’ve already started to feel the effects of climate change, from rising sea levels to more intense storms and heat waves. And a lot of rain here in North Carolina.”

Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti also spoke briefly about how the town is already feeling the effects of climate change.

“We can argue how best to respond, but in my opinion we’ve got to respond in some manner. Here the coastal residents face a future of increased hurricanes, higher storm surges and rising daily tides, not to mention skyrocketing flood insurance rates,” said Cignotti, referring to the controversial Biggert-Waters Act, which the town’s board of aldermen recently passed a resolution opposing.“We can only build our houses so high,” he said. 

University of North Carolina Wilmington professor Larry Cahoon addressed the crowd, discussing his recent research into the cost that climate change-related infrastructure damage will have to taxpayers.

“When the water levels come up because of rising sea levels, you have more water that isn’t sewage getting into the sewage collection systems and having to be treated by very expensive sewage treatment plants,” he said.

His research shows that the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority’s sewage treatment facilities are facing significant costs as a result of water intrusion from rising seas.

This, he said, is proven by a “sea level signature,” meaning that the rise and fall of tides is directly correlated to how much infiltration the sewage treatment system is receiving. He points out that the CFPUA just paid about $80 million to expand its northside water treatment plant. 

“The question I want to leave you with is: we can engineer our way around the impacts of sea level rise, but are we willing as a society to pay the increase in costs of doing that?” Cahoon said.

Former Kure Beach Mayor and retired Army officer Mac Montgomery also spoke, focusing on health and national security issues surrounding the use of fossil fuels.

“One of the things that is very seldom talked about is the effect on national security in this country,” Montgomery said. “When we are totally dependent on fossil fuel from overseas to meet our needs, and when we have to go into areas throughout the world which are subject to famine flood and other natural disasters that come from climate change, it threatens us as a country.”

The local Sierra Club chapter chair also took a swipe at the proposed Titan Cement plant, noting that “Duke Energy is phasing out coal in our area, and lo and behold, Carolinas Cement wants to replace it with their particulate matter coming in.”


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