In Charleston, S.C., Politics and Budgets Get in the Way of Cutting Carbon Emissions

This Lowcountry city has begun an array of expensive projects to defend itself, but its record in reducing its carbon footprint is tepid at best.

Feb 2, 2020
High tides and rain can turn streets in Charleston, South Carolina into rivers, a problem that has grown worse because of rising seas. This sunny day flood happened in 2017. Credit: The Post and Courier

High tides and rain can turn streets in Charleston, South Carolina into rivers, a problem that has grown worse because of rising seas. This sunny day flood happened in 2017. Credit: The Post and Courier

CHARLESTON, S.C.—Pounded by rain bombs from above and rising seas below, this is among the most vulnerable cities in the South to the effects of a rapidly warming planet.

Caught off Guard

City officials estimate it may take $2 billion or more in public money to fortify Charleston against these threats, costs rooted in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

But the city government has taken relatively modest steps to reduce its own carbon footprint in recent years, a Post and Courier investigation found as part of a regional collaboration with InsideClimate News called "Caught Off Guard: Southeast Struggles with Climate Change."

On paper, the city has ambitious goals. But there isn't even one solar panel on a city-owned building.

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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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