By James Bruggers
The wind and waters of Hurricane Mathew, then Florence, devastated large swaths of North Carolina just two years apart, and Gov. Roy Cooper saw something wasn’t right.
“When you have two 500-year floods within two years of each other it’s pretty certain it’s not a 500-year flood,” Cooper told reporters in September 2018.
Cooper responded by charting a new climate change course for North Carolina.
With new policies that stand out in the politically conservative South, Cooper has set the state on a path to sharply reduce its emissions of heat-trapping gases and to better gird itself against extreme weather linked by scientists to global warming. The state’s more than 7 million voters this fall are deciding whether to reward Cooper—a Democrat who embraces mainstream climate science—with a second term, or to elect a Republican challenger, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who does not.
Both have made their positions clear.
“We all know the climate does change,” Forest said in a 2019 Spectrum News interview. “The question is what causes climate to change and can man do anything about it?”
In the same interview, Forest lamented that anyone who argues against climate science becomes “a climate denier and some kind of hater of the world and you want to destroy mankind. That is not the case.”
As for Cooper, a month after his flooding observations, and after the remnants of another major Hurricane, Michael, had dumped even more flood waters on North Carolina, he said that with “historic storms lashing our state, we must combat climate change, make our state more resilient and lessen the impact of future natural disasters.”
A year later Cooper testified in Washington, D.C., that, “We cannot afford not to take urgent action to fight climate change. It’s not too late, but it may soon be.”
North Carolina is one of 11 states with governor’s races this year. Both the Cook Political Report and FiveThirtyEight say the race leans Democratic.