South Carolina Has No Overall Plan to Fight Climate Change

Four hurricanes and a major flood in five years have swamped South Carolina, killing more than 30 people and causing billions of dollars in property damage.

Feb 10, 2020
Homes along a sand spit of land on Litchfield Beach, South Carolina. Credit: Jason Lee, McClatchy newspapers

This narrow sand spit of land at Litchfield Beach along the South Carolina coast was undeveloped when Hurricane Hugo hit 1989. Homes have been built there since the devastating storm, despite rising sea levels and evidence of more intense storms. This is what it looked like in the fall of 2019. Credit: Jason Lee, McClatchy newspapers

After keeping a climate study secret for nearly two years, South Carolina's wildlife agency publicly released the report in the spring of 2013 amid criticism that it had bottled up the information for political reasons.

Caught off Guard

The study called on the wildlife department to take the lead in addressing climate-related problems, ranging from the invasion of exotic wildlife to extensive flooding.

Five years earlier, a special task force appointed by Gov. Mark Sanford recommended more than 50 ways to stop rising greenhouse gas pollution from worsening global warming.

Today, those reports remain on the shelf in a state where residents are increasingly feeling the uncomfortable effects of climate change. Criticized by powerful electric utilities and political appointees, the studies never resulted in a comprehensive state climate strategy to guide South Carolina leaders as the globe warms, The State newspaper found as part of a regional collaboration with InsideClimate News called "Caught Off Guard: Southeast Struggles with Climate Change."

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This story was published as part of a collaborative project organized by InsideClimate News involving nine newsrooms across seven states. The project was led by Louisville, Ky.-based James Bruggers of InsideClimate News, who leads the Southeast regional hub of ICN's Environment Reporting Network.

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