WILMINGTON, N.C. — It took a giant laurel oak puncturing her roof during Hurricane Florence last month for Margie White to consider that perhaps there was some truth to all the alarm bells over global warming.
“I always thought climate change was a bunch of nonsense, but now I really do think it is happening,” said White, a 65-year-old Trump supporter, as she and her young grandson watched workers haul away downed trees and other debris lining the streets of her posh seaside neighborhood last week, just as Hurricane Michael made landfall 700 miles away in the Florida Panhandle.
Storms have grown more frequent — and more intense — over the 26 years she and her husband have lived in Wilmington, White said, each one chipping away at their skepticism. Climate change has even seeped into their morning conversations as they sip coffee — ever since the neighbor’s tree came crashing onto their home and property, coming to rest along nearly the entire length of their driveway.
While President Trump continued this week to deny the effects of climate change in the face of overwhelming scientific agreement that it is occurring — most recently noted in a landmark United Nations report that he has dismissed — a discernible shift appears to be occurring among Republican voters in North Carolina, a state pummeled by two hurricanes in two years.
The impact, say residents of this conservative congressional district, lies right before their eyes, prompting conversations among farmers, fishermen and others on how climate change has hurt the local economy and environment.
Downtown streets and parking lots along the Cape Fear River, like those surrounding tourist attractions such as the battleship USS North Carolina, flood regularly, including last week as the remnants of Michael blew through town. Flooding during Florence cut off Wilmington from the rest of the state for days. Lagoons full of hog manure on industrial farms northwest of the city overflowed, contaminating water sources and killing fish. Toxic coal ash, too, was released into the river.