Is Myrtle Beach area a victim of climate change?

For Weekly SurgeJuly 9, 2013 

Last week, I was really pissed off when all the rain drowned my vegetable garden. I did manage to rescue a few cucumbers and tomatoes before our garden died, but it wasn’t the same. I blame climate change and these weird, ugly gray bugs for the death of my garden.

For a long time, I didn’t believe in the impact of climate change and global warming. I thought it was a bunch of scientific hooey. But am I the only one that has noticed the crazy, intense weather we’ve had here and across the U.S recently. I’d be crazy not to believe that all this crazy weather is somehow related to climate change hooey. And I believe that hooey killed my garden.

Just in the last few months, our country has experienced some massive weather events. In Salt Lake City, January became the coldest month on record since 1949 with an average temperature of negative 7.0 degrees Celcius. The month of May saw an outbreak of more than 100 tornadoes and related record-breaking rains in North Dakota, New York and Vermont. Also in May, a late snow storm occurred across central U.S., called Achilles, and was considered to be the worst May snow since 1947. And our area has had so much rain that the drought status was officially over in April. This extreme weather has come at a cost and weather disasters in 2012 cost the American economy more than $100 billion, $65 billion of that spent on Hurricane Sandy.

In June, President Obama announced a series of executive actions to reduce carbon pollution and prepare the U.S. for the impacts of climate change. Is this a heroic effort? Somehow, I doubt this is the ultimate miracle solution we’ve been hoping for, especially since federal involvement may mean more regulations and more money out of consumer pockets. The president’s plan focuses on carbon and includes reducing carbon pollution from power plants, accelerating clean energy leadership, cutting energy waste in homes, businesses and factories, building a 21st century transportation sector, reducing other greenhouse gas emissions, and federal leadership. But, the plan lacks any consideration to other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, such as methane, which can be released from fracking to obtain natural gas. Critics are saying that this plan is Obama’s big war on coal, especially since it’s nearly impossible to open a new energy plant and out-of-date plants are being shut down everywhere, causing job loss. The debate goes back and forth over coal and employment and regulations.

However, it doesn’t just take the feds to lay down the environmental laws, it takes change within our own states, our own local governments and especially within our own households. And as a part of this plan, the White House also issued a state-by-state report, including South Carolina.

According to the White House, sea level rise, dangerous storm surges and intense hurricanes already pose serious threats to coastal cities in the Southeast, and climate change will intensify these impacts. In 2011, power plants and major industrial facilities in South Carolina emitted more than 45 million metric tons of carbon pollution, which is equal to the yearly pollution from more than 10 million cars. Just as a comparison, North Carolina emitted more than 70 million metric tons of carbon pollution. Coal is a heavy contender in this pollution problem. However, the feds should not just consider the power plants, but think about the other environmental impacts of coal, primarily the mining and transportation of it, too.

Climate change may or may not be responsible for any one event, but you have to admit that it’s increasing our risks in these extreme weather events. In the past five years, 10 extreme weather events that cost over $1 billion in recovery and damage have impacted South Carolina. Our state has had 5,900 hospital admissions for asthma related illness in 2011 and 1,175 emergency room visits due to heat stress. Those are some serious numbers.

But it takes more than one state or one country to really make a difference in the global climate change. While Obama has intentions for worldwide leadership, I believe that leaders need to lead by example. Obama’s first trip on Air Force One was in 2009 to Williamsburg, Va. Not really an eco-friendly trip, considering it’s about a 10 minute flight from D.C. And so far this year, the White House has already spent $15 million in travel just aboard Air Force One. To give you more insight, it’s estimated to cost $150,000 an hour to operate Air Force One. So that trip to Williamsburg cost about $25,000.

To me, it seems like the President’s Climate Action Plan should take some personal responsibility into consideration as well as include some real life applications that anyone can participate in.

So I’ve listed some additions to the president’s plan to make our green actions more worth our while.

Federally-mandated recycling and curbside collection, maybe throw in cash incentives for those that recycle items such as cans and bottles, like they already do in some states.

Generous tax credits or annual bonuses for those green households that have one or more of the following:

•  Recycling bins

•  Backyard composting

•  Vegetable garden and/or fruit trees

•  Live on a farm or have chickens, cows, etc.

•  Commuters that use bicycles, public transportation, walk or carpooling

•  Extremely low electric bills

•  Extremely low water/sewer bills

•  Do not own more than three electronics

•  Outdoor clothesline

•  A house that is no more than 1,000-square-feet

•  Annual company bonuses for employees that print double-sided or do not print at all

•  Nationwide bans on Styrofoam and plastic bags

•  Free gas for anyone with fuel-efficient cars that get more than 35 mpg AND carpools

•  Thrift and second-hand stores must become the new (old) department stores

•  $500 fines for litter (especially cigarette butts and gum) and the money goes to college scholarship funds with an environmental focus

Feel free to add your own

To learn more about the president’s climate action plan, visit www.whitehouse.gov/share/climate-action-plan

Jennifer Sellers is the sustainability coordinator at Coastal Carolina University and offers her eco-views at her blog, mygreenglasses.com. Contact her at jen@mygreenglasses.com.

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