With the recent release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s newest climate report, the pressure is on localities more than ever to understand, expect, and curb emissions ahead of our planet’s future warming.
While the United States has pledged to cut down on its carbon output, the states are slower in picking up the tab — and some seem to be unable to understand the severity of the situation. Others are even allegedly willing to hide the truth.
Several states have been exposed for their past questionable climate practices, and South Carolina is one of those that has fallen under public scrutiny over a state-sponsored climate report that has stayed on the shelf for more than a year after it was declared ready for public release.
Back in November 2011 South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) completed a report on local effects of climate change. At the time, then-DNR director John Frampton pronounced the document ready for public review.
But, the report was not released.
Instead, it was shelved while a series of staff changes took place within the DNR — most notably, Frampton’s resignation in December, after the chairwoman of the DNR board asked him to leave. Allegations reported by South Carolina newspaper The Post and Courier claim that DNR board members may have conspired to oust Frampton, who had championed the then-still-unreleased climate report.
In fact, the report didn’t come to light until South Carolina news outlet TheState.com caught wind of it and requested a copy, which it published online in February 2013. The Post and Courier reported that the document wasn’t even presented to the DNR board until July 2012 — eight months after it was completed.
The DNR finally published the document on its website in 2013, where you can read the report in full. It addresses six major impacts of climate change in the state:
1. Detrimental change in habitat
2. Detrimental change in the abundance and distribution of species
3. Detrimental change in biodiversity and ecosystem services
4. Detrimental change to the traditional use of natural resources
5. Detrimental change to the abundance and quality of water, and
6. Detrimental change in sea level.
The document shows a history of rising temperatures, warming waters, and increases in severe weather events in the state, and also notes concerns for the future. The chart below shows how temperatures at the Greenville-Spartanburg airport have changed between 1895 and 2010.
There’s a clear upward trend, especially from 1970 on.
The report warns of rising sea levels, water shortages, severe storms, and species die-offs. It also lays out specifically how certain impacts of climate change could harm human health:
These impacts are real, but South Carolina policy-makers have been largely quiet when it comes to outlining plans for dealing with them.
The DNR acknowledges the state policy-makers’ climate change apathy in the now-public climate report, writing the following:
Interest in the effects of climate change in the Southeast is increasing, but there are any number of impediments to understanding and predicting climate change, including public apathy and a lack of awareness, lack of outreach on adaptation options, lack of uniform access to information on current climate change risks and a lack of guidance on what information and tools are available. Climate change documentation and development of adaptation strategies also are limited primarily by a lack of funding, a lack of political will and a lack of government leadership.
The clock is ticking for South Carolina to ramp up its climate initiatives and bolster its vulnerable shorelines, or — as its long-suppressed climate report warns — face dire consequences.
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