On Nov. 17, the Outer Banks of North Carolina experienced yet another debilitating storm to the area. Flooding was so bad that there were accounts of residents fishing in neighborhood roads, pelicans swimming in the NC-12 highway, and severe sand erosion that drove traffic to a halt. The highway NC-12 remained closed until Nov. 20 due to knee-deep sand erosion.
We as a student body should care about our peers from the Outer Banks. It’s important to support efforts made to fix the issues caused by what some locals are referring to as “no-name nor’eastern.” However, above immediate aid to the Outer Banks, we need to seriously start combating climate change to preserve our shores. Ignoring the effects climate change has on the Outer Banks will result in its erasure from our shores.
Talk about the relationship between climate change and the Outer Banks region is not new. The area has withstood various volatile changes due to climate change for the past 150 years. Stanley Riggs, research professor and coastal ecologist at East Carolina University, spoke about the shorelines receding over the years in an interview with National Geographic. According to Riggs, parts of the Outer Banks coasts have receded to almost 25% of their original size, and the imminent loss of natural barriers poses dangers to its fragile ecosystem.
With the land of the Outer Banks constantly sinking under the rising sea levels, many residents of the region are worrying about their future in the area. With the continuous loss of both human and natural ecosystems, residents and tourist areas are increasingly experiencing relocations and renovations. Historic buildings across the area are at risk of being irreparable due to constant battering by the elements. Climate change is like a giant eraser across a drawing, and it is treating the Outer Banks area as a stray line meant to be erased.
Climate change, however, affects more than just the geography of the Outer Banks region. The constant decrease of shore and amplification of storms results in many residents losing their homes and leaving the area. On top of that, the Outer Banks region is strongly dependent on tourism revenue. The 2018 NC Commerce reported that visitor expenditures in Dare County approximated $1187.38 million, but that could be a lot less if visitors and attractions are under the threat of large storms.
Storms such as the recent “no-name nor’eastern” further debilitate the economic growth of the Outer Banks. Repairs to the Outer Banks are a costly expense, with the federal government funding approximately 60% of reparations and state and local governments funding the rest. As climate change increases the intensity of storms, the Congressional Budget Office of the United States Congress estimates that by 2075, repairment costs will increase to $39 billion. On a local level, the constant strain of repairs and shutdowns leads to overall decreased revenue.
While climate change projects a bleak storm into the future of the Outer Banks, we cannot resort to nihilism. Demanding better policies and management toward environmental reparations from both the state and federal levels starts a conversation with our representatives that the Outer Banks are a part of America we want to preserve. Likewise, we as NC State students can encourage staff to engage more with the Outer Banks, like Riggs and other department heads at ECU.
The Outer Banks serve as an iconic landmark in the US, whether you're from there or not. I can look back at my 7th grade year at Farmville Middle School and find a vivid memory of visiting the Outer Banks as a class field trip. There's probably many other students here at State who have various recollections of their experiences in those honeyed beaches, and letting those areas sink with the sands of time will not only result in the loss of a geographic landmark, but the future of newfound memories and experiences.