The Daily Gamecock

Report says South Carolina is one of most vulnerable states to climate change

South Carolina stands as the fourth most vulnerable state to climate change's effects and is among the eight most unprepared states to deal with the negative health effects associated with climate change, according to a report from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Trust for America's Health, a public health policy organization.

Climate change is a big part of why Spencer Wetmore ran for the South Carolina Statehouse in 2020, and it's something she said she hopes to address during her time in the legislature. Wetmore represents the 115th district, which includes multiple coastal communities just outside Charleston.

"[Climate change is] just one of those issues that, if we don't prioritize it, we're not going to have the luxury of prioritizing other issues," Wetmore said.

However, the state assembly has been criticized for the lack of statewide action on climate change. Gov. Henry McMaster also supported the Paris Climate Accords pullout and has shown disinterest in combating climate change statewide, saying it could create more bureaucracy.

However, Wetmore said she believes the issue of climate change supersedes partisanship.

"From the voters' perspective, it's a nonpartisan issue," Wetmore said. "My district is probably about 50/50 Republican-Democrat, but this is an issue that people reach out to me [about] all the time."

Recently, there has been some traction with the creation of a resilience office to combat flooding and the passage of a bill intended to aid the solar industry. There is also a lot of work being done by nongovernmental agencies. 

Dwayne Porter is an environmental health sciences professor at USC and part of the school’s climate change faculty. Porter and the Arnold School of Public Health collaborate with several other universities to research the implications of a changing climate to the environment and aid underserved communities impacted by climate change.

"We're working with communities across the state to better prepare them so that they can be proactive in making sure their community is as best prepared as possible for what we know are concerns related to a changing climate," Porter said.

Porter emphasized the effectiveness of using sound science as opposed to emotion to effect change in a community. This sound science is then used to educate the communities and allow them to make informed decisions.

The effects of climate change on things we might not always think of, such as fishing and tourism, are also being researched.

"In South Carolina, we have so many communities and individuals where their primary livelihood is tied to ecosystem services," Porter said. "When we have an event that begins to disrupt that, then the magnitude can be far-reaching."

And there is still room for positive change. Dalton Fulcher, the president of the Sierra Club Student Coalition, a grassroots environmental organization, spoke on the importance of young people staying active in combating climate change.

"If you're not active on the problem, then you feel like it's impossible. But as long you're working to improve upon it, to solve it, then you have that glimmer of optimism, glimmer of hope, even when it's really dark," Fulcher said. "Do you want to be reactionary or do you want to be proactive?"

Fulcher said students could help fight against climate change by eating less red meat and participating in environmental education.

"The single most effective thing that a student can do is to take up studies around the environment," Fulcher said. "Education is a powerful tool. And so, if you're interested in changing the world, if you're interested in making an impact seriously, it's education."