Global temperatures and sea levels have risen sharply over the last century. That has produced major transformations along South Carolina’s coast — and could inflict severe consequences in years to come.
Under these all-too-revealing circumstances, dismissing climate change as a big-government hoax requires ignoring the facts.
And dealing with climate change demands a reasonable response to the challenges it presents — in and beyond our state.
As Bo Petersen reported in Wednesday’s Post and Courier, if sea levels keep ascending at the accelerated rate projected by experts, they will be at least a foot higher by 2063.
A widespread scientific consensus traces global warming to massive increases in carbon-dioxide emissions.
That doesn’t warrant outlawing oil and coal — or blocking the overdue approval needed to finish the Keystone XL pipeline.
It does, however, strengthen the case for a balanced effort to limit the emissions of greenhouse gases — and to develop alternative energy sources as a means to that end.
The climate issue hits home here: The already-serious erosion of our islands and beaches is intensifying. The debate about where, when and how to counter — if possible — the powerful advance of the Atlantic Ocean is rising, too.
Last week in The Post and Courier, Mr. Petersen focused on a state Department of Natural Resources report entitled “Climate Change Impacts to Natural Resources in South Carolina.” The report was initially shelved by the DNR board last year.
However, after this newspaper requested a copy of the report, DNR released a final draft of it.
From that DNR report:
“The DNR recognizes the need to address potential climate change as a threat-multiplier that could create new natural resource concerns, while exacerbating existing tensions already occurring as a result of population growth, habitat loss, environmental alterations and overuse.”
From our story on that report:
“White ibis are found in the Lowcountry far more than the primarily Gulf Coast wading birds once were — 9,000 percent more. Offshore, dolphin fish in hordes are turning up months early. Gobbler wild turkeys strut the fields and females nest a month or more earlier than they used to.”
Sure, just as there are hard-heads who deny global warming, there are alarmists who blame every extreme short-term weather event — including heat waves, hurricanes and even blizzards — on carbon emissions.
Yet climate change is increasingly obvious — and increasingly relevant for South Carolinians.
Yes, the earth was going through warming and cooling stages long before our kind started emitting huge volumes of greenhouse gases.
No, higher temperatures and sea levels alone don’t fully validate the theory that human activity is a major force behind global warming.
But is it mere coincidence that those remarkable rises have been accompanied by a steep climb in carbon emissions?
As for those who say it’s not really getting warmer, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that the last 15 years have included the 14 hottest on record since its official measurements began in 1880.
Meanwhile, there’s no denying the effects of warmer air and water — and rising sea levels — on our state’s coast.
So if you think you’re seeing remarkably high tides around here now, just wait.
And if you think our planet hasn’t heated up considerably over the last 100 years, just get real.