SC’s Wilson on wrong side of Climate Change debate

The Greenville News
December 5, 2015

By Frank Knapp Jr.

“Think of a heart attack as an analogy. You can feel pretty good right up to the point that you die.”

That is how University of Nebraska biology professor Daniel Brooks has described his concern about the warming of the world’s atmosphere. At some point we reach a threshold “beyond which all hell breaks loose,” he says.

While Professor Brooks is focused on the alarming increase in serious and fatal insect-borne diseases in the United States more associated with the tropics, his analogy is just as appropriate for the other negative consequences of climate change — more severe storms and sea level rise.

Almost every scientist around the world has concluded that the amount of carbon dioxide man has and continues to put into the atmosphere is causing accelerated warming of our climate.  A recent study by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that global temperatures have been increasing as fast or even faster over the last 15 years, resulting in 2015 to date being the warmest on record.

World leaders are now meeting in Paris to try to reach a global agreement on reining in carbon pollution to avoid environmental calamities from unrestrained climate change. The United States will be leading by example.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued its Clean Power Plan with the goal of reducing our country’s carbon emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels with each state being given a reduction goal.

However 24 state attorneys general, including Alan Wilson of South Carolina, have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Clean Power Plan.  The litigants complain that the rule is not legal and that it will hurt jobs, raise electricity rates and result in unreliable electricity. These states have been countered by 15 other states intervening to support the EPA.

Unfortunately Mr. Wilson has joined the wrong side on this legal battle. It is clear that our state’s interests are better served by having the Clean Power Plan implemented.

  1. Our state’s coastal tourism economy is severely threatened by sea level rise as a result of carbon-pollution-caused climate change. All along our coast beaches, residential areas and small business districts will be inundated by the ocean with just a few feet of higher seas. Without reductions in climate change NOAA scientists have projected up to a six-foot sea level rise by the end of the century. This would be a major economic disaster along the Palmetto State’s coast. The Clean Power Plan will help protect South Carolina’s biggest industry, tourism and its tens of thousands of workers.
  2. The alternative-energy industry is beginning to expand along with jobs thanks to the Legislature passing incentives for solar energy. The Clean Power Plan will propel this effort forward faster and lead to even more jobs related to energy efficiency that will be required to help meet the state’s EPA goal.
  3. S.C. Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper are building two nuclear plants just outside of the state capital. These new reactors are expected to enable the state to achieve 80 percent of our carbon-emission-reduction goal under the Clean Power Plan. The remaining reduction will be relatively easy to obtain through the alternative energy and energy efficiency previously mentioned. Thus the Clean Power Plan itself should require little additional cost to South Carolina ratepayers and thus not hurt existing jobs.
  4. South Carolina has a long history of using nuclear energy to produce electricity and with that serving as thedominant engine in meeting the Clean Energy Plan goal for the state, electricity reliability is not an issue. 

In addition, a November opinion poll found that 63 percent of South Carolina voters support the Clean Power Plan with only 29 percent opposed.

It is not too late for Mr. Wilson to switch sides as to the Clean Power Plan and support the efforts South Carolina needs to avoid an environmental and economic heart attack.

Mr. Knapp is the president and CEO of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce; contact him at

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