DNR board should acknowledge realities of climate change
The recent article by Bo Petersen, “DNR climate-change report under wraps,” concerning a 2011 S.C. Department of Natural Resources climate change report being kept under wraps by the SCDNR board is beyond perplexing.
Thanks to Gov. Nikki Haley and her desire to have more “business friendly agencies,” the DNR board consists of a CEO of a construction firm, a restaurant owner, the owner of a fishing supply store, a car wash owner, a peach farmer, a real estate developer and the vice president of Lowes.
Not one biologist or anybody with a degree anywhere close to the sciences, which would explain board member Caroline Rhodes’ characterization of the climate report in question as “highly technical, with a level of science beyond the ken of board members as lay people.”
Mrs. Rhodes is also quoted as saying, “It seemed like it (the report) was trying to say a lot without us having the knowledge to stand behind it. And it’s a controversial subject; there’s a lot of pros and cons.”
The group creating the report had 18 members, including seven Ph.D.’s, a climatologist and at least five other agency biologists.
One scientist involved in the initial work on the report for the DNR was quoted in the State newspaper as saying there were political concerns about the report. Apparently, they were afraid that it would hurt businesses and industry by imposing unnecessary regulation. “Unnecessary” meaning protecting the environment as opposed to protecting industry.
In the report, these 18 scientists have concluded that the Palmetto State should prepare for increases in wildlife disease, loss of prime duck hunting habitat and the potential invasion of non-native species.
Their studies have also shown that landings of brown shrimp, a major commercial species, have dropped steadily in the past 20 years. Scientists suspect brown shrimp need colder winters for healthy populations.
They have also found that climate change could deplete food sources for young fish, reduce the population of hatching male loggerhead sea turtles due to higher beach sand temperatures, cause more “dead zones” in the ocean, worsen droughts that kill marsh grasses and push saltwater farther into coastal rivers, thereby killing off or depleting some species of fish and potentially affecting drinking water supplies.
It could cause increased flooding of beaches and marshes, increased disease that affects shrimp and crabs, and the possibility that the sea level could rise as much as two feet in the next century. Now, I ask you, is anything in the previous paragraph “highly technical”?
The reason the board members don’t have “the knowledge to stand behind it” is because they are not climatologists or biologists, and none of them has a Ph.D.
Are board members required to understand the reports they receive from the DNR staff, or are they required to trust the scientists and the science to make sound findings and judgments, then present these findings to the people of our state so that we can be in the know about what is happening and what can potentially happen to our environment?
The board should be making sure that the DNR takes a lead role in educating the public about climate change and what we can do to slow down the process. But instead, it is hiding a report from the public because bad news about climate change is very bad news for business.
Let’s not forget that the majority of the DNR board was appointed by our climate change naysayer governor to make our agencies more “business friendly.”
What about the fishing business? What about the shrimping business? What about the environmental coastal touring business? Climate change will definitely not be good business for them.
With all due respect to the board members, the only people who find climate change “controversial” nowadays are those who get their science from Fox News.
Chair, Surfrider Foundation
Oak Island Drive