Mid-Atlantic
Trenton is flooded in the wake of Hurricane Florence in September 2018. Photo: Staff Sgt. Herschel Talley/Nebraska National Guard

NC - There's consensus on resilience, but don't say 'climate'

If even half of the funding and policy changes in the pursuit of resiliency, flood mitigation and land conservation make it through the budget process, it would be far and away the biggest effort in the state’s history to meet the challenge of a changing climate.

This year, there is broad consensus across party lines and between the legislature and the executive branch to make bold moves in these areas, spending as much as $1 billion in state money and putting plans in place to draw billions more in federal support.

But the consensus on flooding and resiliency could prove to be more exception than rule as lawmakers grapple with other strategies and policies that in one way or another address the impacts and causes of climate change.

Although with each year and with each new set of disasters, the risk of doing nothing becomes clearer, the job of putting together policies in an atmosphere in which even the phrase “climate change” is still viewed by many with suspicion remains one of the heavier lifts on Jones Street.

Mark Fleming, president and CEO of the Conservatives for Clean Energy, said polling indicates that while attitudes are shifting about clean energy, “climate change” is still a loaded term for some.

“I would say we are getting there as a state, we really are,” he said. “The problem is if you try to inject the phrase ‘climate change,’ everyone goes to their corners because of the politics of that phrase. It’s not even the policy as much as the phrase. But if you’re talking about sustainability, if you’re talking about lowering emissions, conservatives are there on that.”

There’s no doubt attitudes are changing in the legislature as well, Fleming said. “Ten years ago, this was all viewed as a partisan issue. Today it’s really not.”

A decade ago, clean energy was only backed by a couple of Republican members, Fleming said, compared to 10 to 15 members today, a number that’s likely to grow with each new class of legislators.

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