Mid-Atlantic
North Carolina Ports / The port of Wilmington and other ports around the world could be inundated more often as sea levels rise.

NC - Imagining The Effects Of Climate Change On Ports And Shipping

What would happen if climate change severely disrupted global supply chains? How would it affect shipping ports like Charleston and Wilmington, which are vital to the economy of the Carolinas?

We got a glimpse of that scenario last year when the coronavirus pandemic slowed global shipping to a crawl. Supply chains were broken. There weren't enough shipping containers moving from port to port. And we saw shortages of goods. In some ways, it was a preview of a global business breakdown that could happen as rising sea levels, severe weather and other aspects of climate change advance, said climate writer and logistics expert Simon Keeble.

"If you don't have logistics, you don't have global supply chains. Therefore, nothing works. Nothing. So, modern man is completely dependent on logistics and we take it for granted," Keeble said in an interview this week.

A Problem We Need To Address

It's a sobering thought, about a world likely to be turned upside down by rising temperatures and sea levels. Keeble, who is based in Davidson, runs a web news service called Logistics2030.eu. He thinks governments are woefully behind in addressing climate change. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are great at spreading the word about climate change, but their messages seem to fall on deaf ears, he said.

"There doesn't seem to be any evidence, really, that politicians are prepared to recognize what the scientists and the NGO community are saying, which is quite dramatic," Keeble said. "So then you're left with the business community, which has a vested interest in survival."

Keeble targets his coverage of climate change toward the shipping industry, which he believes among all business sectors has the best chance of bringing the planet to its senses. His site is not just a news service, but a forum where business leaders, their employees and their stakeholders can discuss and share information about the climate crisis - and solutions.

The Future Of Carolinas' Ports

Climate change is already a threat to shipping and there are plenty of projections about how bad it might get. Take Wilmington and Charleston, for example. Hurricanes always cause problems for these two big ports. But what Keeble calls "sunny day flooding" from climate-induced higher tides and sea-level rise will also become an increasing nuisance in those cities, and could threaten the ports.

He points to a 2019 report by Swiss-based insurer Zurich in the wake of Hurricane Florence, which inundated Wilmington. Besides outlining the damage from Florence and potential threats from future big storms, the report also looks at "sunny day flooding" from the Cape Fear River.

Read more.