Why Green Growth?

For references to statistics below, please see the Green Growth Toolbox Handbook Section 1.

North Carolina is facing rapid population growth: Between 1990  and 2000 our population grew by 21 percent. Between 2010 and 2020, our population grew by 9.4 percent from 9,535,483 to 10,439,483, an increase of 903,905 people. The projected increase is 3.2 Million more people by 2050.

This population growth is fueling patterns of land development that threaten our natural heritage and quality of life. Instead of concentrating development in town centers, major development is spreading into rural areas.

  • Our major cities developed over five times more land per new resident in 2010 than in the 1970s. 
  • Our land mass is 34.5 million acres on which we also accommodate agriculture and natural areas as well as development. In 2017 4,915,800 acres (14%) was classified as developed. Our population growth rate is comparable to the growth rate in developed land.
  • From 1992 to 2007, over 100,000 acres of forests and farms were being developed each year—an area the size of Winston-Salem and High Point combined. Today that number has gone down to 62,000 acres of development conversion per year.
  • North Carolina is the only state in the nation with three of the nation’s top 20 “sprawl centers”: the Triangle, the Triad, and the Charlotte metro region.

•   Green Growth presents a way to prevent the loss of our wildlife and unique  natural assets.

•   The Green Growth Toolbox will help bridge the gap between scientists and decision makers—and enable us to cooperatively conserve our state’s wildlife and natural resources for future generations.

•   By working together to apply the Green Growth Toolbox in your community, our economy is actually strengthened and:

        Water quality will improve

        Ecotourism opportunities will abound

        Wildlife resources will be conserved

        Natural heritage will remain intact

        Quality of life will be enriched

Click here for a fact sheet on the benefits of Green Growth and refer to Section 1 for a full literature review of benefits and a list of cost-benefit calculators. and resources.

Link to scholarly articles about the economics of conservation development by clicking here.

Climate Challenges

  • North Carolina experiences more billion-dollar climate and weather disasters than 43 other U.S. states and these events have been increasing in recorded frequency since 1980.

  • According to the State Climate Office of North Carolina (led by N.C. State University), the evidence of Global Climate Change is compelling, and we can expect extreme weather events to increase in the future.

  • Sea level in North Carolina is reported to have risen 13 inches over the last century. Independent studies show that the rate of sea level rise increased 2 to 4 times over the last century.

  • The N.C. Coastal Resources Commission Science Panel concluded by consensus that a 3.3-foot increase in NC sea level is likely by 2100.

  • Climate change will likely cause increases in flood events and droughts in parts of our state.

Hazard Mitigation and Climate Resilience through Natural Infrastructure

  • Healthy, large, contiguous wildlife habitats can reduce threats to life and property during extreme weather events because they can better absorb water and thereby reduce impacts like floods, fire, and drought. As such there are many safety and economic benefits.

  • Maximizing the amount and size of forests along waterways and wetlands will slow water down so flooding and drought are reduced, and aquifers are recharged. When streams are bordered only by a strip of trees, water runs directly from the ground surface into streams without being absorbed by the ground. When water runs faster than normal into streams, flooding and soil erosion can become extreme.

  • Investment in natural infrastructure (wetland and forest restoration and conservation combined with water control structures) is less expensive, faster to build, and would lead to 14 percent or 1.5-foot water level flood reduction during major hurricanes.

  • Use nature to build back stronger - Coastal habitats, such as beaches, dunes and marshes, will be lost more rapidly than is natural, altered by rising sea level, increased storm surge and saltwater intrusion. As communities rebuild, if houses are set-back far enough from dunes and marshes, these protective habitats will have space to migrate inland so new homes can be better protected from the next hurricane.*
* Check the Green Growth Toolbox Handbook for references on pages 5 & 6.



Spread-out Development Patterns Are the Number One Threat to Wildlife in Our State

Housing density in North Carolina in 1980 was much lower in rural areas.Projected housing density in North Carolina in 2050 shows we expect suburban areas to spread into most rural areas by 2050, if current spread-out patterns of development continue.

Actual housing density in 2010 matches the predictive model used to project 2050 housing densityProjected housing density in 2010 matches actual 2010 housing density.

University of Wisconsin SILVIS Lab