Flooding on Oct. 29 and Nov. 12 was unusually severe in certain parts of Wilkes County.

Extreme rainfall in short periods caused some streams to leave their banks and cover roads in places longtime residents had never seen flooded. The rapid rise of stream levels and the impact, especially for this time of year, caught people by surprise.

The results were tragic in Alexander County, where four people staying at a campground along the South Yadkin River drowned. One was a 1-year-old boy, ripped from his grandfather’s arms by rushing waters.

The experience reiterates that we need to expect and prepare for flooding to be more severe and more frequent in western North Carolina due to climate change.

Recognizing this and other impacts of climate change statewide, Gov. Roy Cooper and other state leaders are working harder to prepare the state and also limit climate change with efforts to reduce emissions of the heat-trapping gases that are a major cause of it.

Although largely overshadowed by everything else going on then, in June a comprehensive report and plan authorized by Cooper to help accomplish these goals was released. It’s called the N.C. Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience Plan.

Among other things, the plan maps strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 2005 levels statewide, increase the number of zero-emission vehicles to a minimum of 80,000 and reduce energy consumption per square foot in state-owned buildings by at least 40% from fiscal year 2002-03 levels.

In addition, the Climate Change Interagency Council was formed to help the cabinet agencies work together to achieve those goals.

Whether this will be another bureaucratic exercise with little impact remains to be seen, but it has potential to lay a good foundation for the massive change needed to turn things around in North Carolina.

The future health, safety, economy and quality of life in this state depend on addressing climate change.

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