Caught in the climate-change middle

Wild Dunes on the Isle of Palms is just one of many residential areas near the ocean along the South Carolina coast, where the National Climate Assessment warns of "increasing hazards" due to climate change, including rising sea levels and intense hurricanes.

Accept the scientific consensus of human-caused climate change and you're branded an accomplice in the killing of jobs.

Reject it and you're condemned as a co-conspirator in the fossil-fuel fouling - and flooding - of the planet.

Try to hold your skeptical middle ground between the conflicting charges that climate change is a man-made menace or a man-made hoax and you're ridiculed as an apathetic no-show on a defining 21st century challenge.

So what are you for? And why must those who are so sure on the climate-change topic aim such venomous abuse at those of us who aren't?

After all, we're not College of Charleston basketball players.

Other vexing questions:

What will our Lowcountry look like if sea levels significantly rise in this century?

What will our power bills look like if Washington severely limits coal-powered electricity?

Many South Carolinians rightly object to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's plan, announced last month, to curtail carbon emissions.

However, Blan Holman, managing attorney for the Charleston office of the Southern Environmental Law Center, and Hamilton Davis, energy and climate director of the Coastal Conservative League, like that Obama administration edict. They came to our newspaper last month to tell us why.

Utility officials warn that the new EPA rules would be particularly tough on South Carolina because the carbon baseline reflects major reductions already made here.

Holman contended, though, that our state is "well positioned" to comply with the standards thanks to looming additions of non-carbon-spewing nuclear plants. He and Davis also said the price of solar power is dropping, making it more competitive in the energy marketplace.

And they stressed what should be the most obvious carbon-emission reducer of all. Holman: "If you boost energy efficiency, you save rate-payers money."

Despite a perverse modern mutation to the contrary, wasting energy (think gas guzzlers) is not a truly "conservative" concept.

Conservative ... conserve.

Get it?

OK, so Congress voted against carbon limits before President Obama's end run around the legislative branch.

And as James Taylor (the Heartland Institute climate-change mocker, not the singer who once raised funds for the misguided "No Nukes" movement) recently wrote in Forbes, new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration "temperature data are driving a stake through the heart of alarmists claiming accelerating global warming."

The NOAA adjusted its temperature station placements to get more accurate readings starting in early 2005. Taylor, citing figures over nearly the last decade from those sites: "The United States has cooled by approximately 0.4 degrees Celsius, which is more than half of the claimed global warming of the twentieth century."

Plus, not all scientists - or even all liberals - are on the no-more-coal bandwagon.

For instance, Caleb Rossiter, a math and statistics professor at American University and "anti-imperialist" leftist, has changed his mind about climate change. He wrote in The Wall Street Journal in May that we should not "deny to Africans the reliable electricity - and thus the economic development and extended years of life - that fossil fuels can bring."

He added: "The left wants to stop industrialization - even if the hypothesis of catastrophic, man-made global warming is false."

Rossiter's candor cost him his fellowship at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Yet many who deny climate change impose similar retributions against those who dare defy their orthodoxy.

And if you're among those who see red when lectured about the supposed salvation "green" energy offers our species, keep in mind that burning coal doesn't just allegedly warm the planet.

It's bad for your lungs.

Keep in mind that massive melting has created a new Arctic Northwest Passage.

Keep in mind that some big business people are fretting about climate change's long-term economic perils.

And keep in mind that 1st District Congressman Mark Sanford, no fan of big government, said in May that he has seen "rising sea levels play out at our family farm in Beaufort over the last 50 years."

So don't assume that everyone concerned about climate change is an environmentalist wacko pinko warpo.

Don't assume, either, that only a know-nothing ignoramus could be wary about some fuzzy math used to stir climate-change panic - and about a presidential diktat that could become a huge pain in your power bill.

But while defending the Constitution from Obama's executive power grabs, recall this wise maxim from one of its signers, Ben Franklin:

"A penny saved is a penny earned."

A kilowatt hour saved is a kilowatt hour earned, too.

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is