The island-wide storm surge of 7.4 feet from Hurricane Dorian on Ocracoke Sept. 6, 2019, had receded greatly around 1 p.m., as seen in this view of Sand Dollar Road. The first-year anniversary of the most devastating flood in Ocracoke’s history is approaching. Photo: C. Leinbach

The Pulitzer Center  selected Coastal Review Online as one of its 2019 Connected Coastlines grantees, a consortium of newsrooms and independent journalists across the country who are using rigorous science reporting to document and explain the local effects of climate change on U.S. coastal populations.

Connected Coastlines aims to increase awareness of the underlying causes and effects of climate change in communities already experiencing altered weather, increased flooding and unpredictable temperature patterns.

Editor Mark Hibbs and a team of reporters for Coastal Review Online have produced a series of reports on climate research about North Carolina and gauge the prevalence of anti-science beliefs, climate denialism and other obstacles to addressing climate changes that are affecting coastal North Carolina residents.

This is one of 16 reporting projects that will be published or broadcast by at least 35 news outlets nationwide focusing on the consequences of climate change in every coastal region in the country—the East Coast, the West Coast, the Great Lakes, the Gulf Coast, Alaska and Hawaii.

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting is an award-winning nonprofit journalism organization dedicated to supporting in-depth reporting and public engagement with under-reported global and local issues. The Pulitzer Center initiative is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education.

The Pulitzer Center awarded funding for original reporting across all media — television, radio, print, multimedia, online, photography and data journalism and will support educational outreach programs to bring that reporting on climate change to local schools and community forums.

Below are the Connected Coastline reports in the published date order.

Students Share Experiences Of Florence
This is a series of essays by students at Brunswick Early College High School in Bolivia on their personal experiences during Hurricane Florence in 2018 and their perceptions of climate change.

NC’s Turning Point For Climate Science By Mark Hibbs
Hurricane Florence in 2018 marked the beginning of a shift in attitudes toward climate science, researchers say, but whether increased acceptance leads to policy changes remains uncertain.

Signs Of Change Are Clear, If Language Is Not By Mark Hibbs
Residents of coastal North Carolina acknowledge that changes attributed to climate change and sea level rise are happening, but there’s still a reluctance to use the terms.

Where Storms Are Lore, Folks See Change By Jennifer Allen
In Down East Carteret County, where tales of hurricanes are woven through far-reaching family histories, residents say more recent storms are different and signs of a bigger change.

Young Adults On Banks Have Ridden Storms  By Chloe E. Williams
Young people on North Carolina’s Outer Banks who have grown up facing the challenges of climate change on an almost yearly basis say decision makers should take the problem more seriously.

Resilience Bigger Part of Plan to Save NC 12  By Catherine Kozak
Maintaining the vulnerable sliver of Outer Banks highway known as N.C. 12 has long been a challenge, but state officials say they are now adopting a more resilient approach to infrastructure design.

Folks Ready to Talk Change: NC Climatologist By Kirk Ross
State climatologist Kathie Dello says that since taking the job in 2019 she has found residents of North Carolina are ready and willing to talk about climate change, and that the state can be a leader.

State Now Has Plan For Climate Resilience By Jennifer Allen
North Carolina’s environmental agency has released a collaborative plan nearly a year in the making to help guide policymakers in making vulnerable communities more resilient to climate change and coastal storms.

NC Has Plan, But Resilience Work Lies Ahead By Jennifer Allen
The statewide plan released this week to address flooding, drought and extreme weather amid a growing population, aging infrastructure and public health threats is just a first step, officials say.

Climate Project Turns Lens to Those Affected By Rend Smith
The Resilience Film Festival tells the stories of Hurricane Florences’ far-reaching effects and the importance of resilient communities as documented by community journalists.

Sea Level Rise Puts Septic, Sewers At Risk By Catherine Kozak
Higher groundwater levels, heavier and more frequent rain storms and flooding associated with climate change threaten both individual and centralized systems for wastewater along the N.C. coast.

NC’s First Sea Level Rise Report, 10 Years On  By Jennifer Allen
The original state report on sea level rise in 2010 yielded controversy rather than policy changes to address the problem, but officials say there’s response happening now at the state and local levels.

Stormwater Issues Worsen As Climate Warms  By Catherine Kozak
Flooding in North Carolina’s coastal communities has rapidly worsened in scale and frequency as a result of climate change, but stormwater management is a costly problem, even when there’s political will, funding and community support.

Farmers, fishermen and residents in the easternmost regions of North Carolina are dealing daily with the effects of climate change, though they may have other explanations for what they experience.

“Changing Minds On Climate Science” is a multipart series that goes beyond Coastal Review Online’s daily reporting on coastal environmental issues and the people here to examine the latest climate science as it pertains to the region, including how coastal residents’ attitudes and perceptions of climate science have or have not changed during the past decade.

Our series gauges whether the devastating hurricanes of recent years and other effects of sea level rise and climate change on the North Carolina coast have changed minds and policy in a state that a decade ago became infamous for passing legislation to ban the use of climate modeling in planning and regulation.

We bring in the voices of not only scientists but also of those, young and old, who call the North Carolina coast their home and have experienced firsthand the effects of climate change and sea level rise. The reports bring into perspective the recent pattern of record-breaking hurricanes, Matthew, Florence and Dorian, and the lives affected, along with other changes, such as saltwater intrusion, sunny-day flooding, economic disruption and soaring infrastructure costs. The series also examines the government response, particularly at the state and local levels.

About the authors:

Mark Hibbs, editor

Working out of the CRO main office in Ocean, Mark has managed the day-to-day operation of Coastal Review Online since 2016. A native of coastal North Carolina, Mark joined the federation in 2015 as assistant editor after more than 20 years with the Carteret County News-Times.

Jennifer Allen, assistant editor

Born and raised in Swansboro, Jennifer Allen, joined the CRO staff in 2017. She graduated from Appalachian State University in 2002, picked up a second degree from UNC-Charlotte the following year and then completed her master’s at UNC-Wilmington in 2008.

Kirk Ross

A longtime North Carolina journalist based in Chapel Hill, Kirk is the lead legislative reporter for Coastal Review Online. He is also the founder of The Carolina Mercury, a North Carolina politics and news website.

Catherine Kozak

Catherine Kozak has been a reporter and writer on the Outer Banks since 1995. She worked for 15 years for The Virginian Pilot. She lives in Nags Head and covers the Outer Banks and the northeast coast for Coastal Review Online.

Chloe E. Williams

Chloe E. Williams, a senior at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill studying creative writing and Southern studies, was a features editor for Coulture magazine at UNC and is a freelance writer.

Rend Smith is project director at Working Narratives.

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