South Carolina Refuses to Release Secret Climate Impacts Study
If a report describing serious climate impacts isn’t made public, do the impacts still occur?
In 2011, scientists in South Carolina working for their Department of Natural Resources drafted a study outlining the natural resources impacts to the state, but state officials refused to release it to the public for review and comment. Citing changed priorities, South Carolina DNR shelved the document until a local newspaper obtained a copy last month. One scientist suggested to the newspaper that “there were concerns about the political nature of it.”
How bad is it? According to the The State newspaper, “the Palmetto State should prepare for increases in wildlife disease, loss of prime duck hunting habitat and the potential invasion of non-native species such as piranha and Asian swamp eels.” If piranha and swamp eels weren’t bad enough, the study says global warming in South Carolina could also:
• Deplete food sources for young fish.
• Heat beach sand enough to reduce the population of male loggerhead sea turtles, which would hurt reproduction.
• Cause more “dead zones” in the ocean. Some dead zones already have occurred off Myrtle Beach.
• Worsen droughts that kill marsh grasses which provide shelter for young fish, crabs and other marine life.
• Push saltwater farther into coastal rivers, killing off or depleting some species of fish and potentially affecting drinking water supplies.
• Cause sea level to rise as much as two feet in the next century.
• Increased flooding on beaches and marshes
• Increase diseases that affect shrimp and crabs as well as vegetation
Instead of expending time and energy quashing the report, South Carolina should put the information to good use. After all, such a report is the first step in coming up with a preparedness plan. Now that South Carolina knows what’s coming, they have the chance to do something about it. This sort of planning is occurring in many U.S. states.
As Ben Chou at NRDC puts it, “While this report is a critical first step towards planning for climate change impacts, the state still has much work to do. Given that the places and wildlife that people love so much are at great risk, the DNR should formally release this report for public review. The state also should take immediate steps to examine what the likely impacts of climate change are for other sector areas as part of the development of a statewide climate preparedness plan.”