The Statehouse Report: State is vulnerable to climate change, but not priority for some

South Carolina is considered the fourth most vulnerable state to climate change’s effects, according to a recent report from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The report also found that it is among the eight most unprepared states to deal with negative health effects associated with climate change.

But do South Carolina  legislators care about climate change? They had  mixed responses when contacted by Statehouse Report.

News about climate change has been around for the past 20 years, said House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland.  But there’s a lot of uncertainty about what should be done about it.  He said he has yet to hear a solution to the problem.

“I don’t know what we are supposed to do,” he said, noting the Republican leadership in the legislature is taking no action on the issue.

Rutherford said it’s time to hire a panel of experts to review the problem and make recommendations to the legislature for appropriate action. But some lawmakers are not expressing concerns.

Rep. David Hiott, a Pickens County Republican who serves as chairman of the House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee, said he has not seen the report. He declined comment when asked views on climate change issues.

But Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, acknowledged that it is an issue and that a remedy is under way.  He believes actions will be taken in the near future. In an interview Davis said Gov. Henry McMaster has formed a task force, the S.C. Floodwater Commission, that is studying several issues, including climate change, and he expects recommendations to come forward.

Meanwhile, Rep. Spencer Wetmore, D-Charleston, a known advocate for climate change initiatives, told Statehouse Report that there are a lot of positive efforts underway, such as the move to electric cars and renewable energy initiatives.

“But there is a lot of work to do,” she said.

She said lawmakers have sponsored various bills to deal with the results of climate change, but most of those actions are related to “impact” rather than prevention.

While some consider the failure by lawmakers to take statewide action on climate change, and inaction by McMaster, who supported the Paris Climate Accords pullout by former President Donald Trump, Wetmore said it should not be a political issue.

“Climate change supersedes partisanship,” she said.

Read the full report here.

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