From coastal tourism to agriculture, the business of the environment is critical to our state’s economy
By Bob Inglis
It’s 2019 and some people still insist you have to choose between the economy and the environment.
South Carolinians know that isn’t true. And we can flip the script and show the rest of the nation what’s possible if you act based on your own best interest and not on what talking heads in Washington tell us to say and think.
The business of the environment is critical to our state, our livelihood, our history, and the legacy we leave future generations. Does anyone want to visit—or live in—a water-logged Charleston, or any city or town? Watch helplessly as our agriculture yields diminish? See the devastating impacts on our fisheries? Be unable to insure a home on or near the coast?
I know the answer to those questions is no. But when we deny climate science and elect policy makers who reject climate action, we put in jeopardy our very way of life. The environment isn’t just pretty trees and landscapes. It’s the resources that contribute to a robust economy.
While the southeast regionally ranks sixth globally for greenhouse gas emissions, the Palmetto State ranks 28th in the U.S. Human-generated greenhouse gas emissions are causing changes to our climate that are off the charts, which is how the scientists who study climate change know it’s human-caused and not just cycles.
While climate change is a global problem, South Carolina’s nearly 2,900 miles of coastline are at risk, whether it’s rising sea levels, more ferocious and frequent storms, or shoreline erosion.
Much like decades ago when New England states suffered debilitating acid rain from air pollution crossing state lines from the industrial midwest, which impacted the Northeast’s forestry industry and caused public health concerns, South Carolina is suffering from changes to the climate that we didn’t cause on our own.
And much like decades ago when the late President George H. W. Bush broke a logjam to revise the Clean Air Act, eventually ushering in the 1990 amendments which passed the House 276-112 and the Senate by voice vote (meaning, it was widely supported and did not require a recorded vote), there is an opportunity today for cooperation and action. If only we can find the grace, the will, the motivation to break the current logjam.
The environment doesn’t need to be partisan because climate change doesn’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican; it impacts all of us. And impacts on the environment trickle down to impact the economy.
Anyone who battened down the hatches for hurricane events the last few years knows changes in weather patterns that dump more water on a vulnerable state can cost millions if not billions of dollars to remediate.
What does it cost a small business to have to close its doors in the path of a storm in order to allow its human capital to take the means necessary to protect their lives and those of their families? What does it cost states and municipalities to rebuild roads and other infrastructure? What does it cost a community to treat the health-related impacts of climate change?
These are all considerations that must be taken into account when weighing whether taking an environmental position makes economic sense. There’s a goose laying golden eggs in South Carolina; let’s not kill the goose.
Bob Inglis (U.S. Rep. R-SC4 1993-1999, 2005-2011) is the Executive Director of republicEn.org, a group of conservatives engaging conservatives on climate change.