The business of sea-level rising

The Charleston Post and Courier
October 21, 2013

The sea level rose about a foot in the last century. To some people’s way of thinking, that’s nothing to worry about. But to those who live on the coast, and are paying attention, it is correctly viewed as a warning.

Add to the discussion the generally accepted fact that climate change is the major reason for sea-level rise, and the divide between the two points of view gets wider.
And even suggest that climate change is a direct result of human behavior and the conversations tend to turn into arguments.

So the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce has its work cut out if it is going to promote a healthy dialogue about sea-level rise. It’s a difficult but worthy goal. Failing to study how sea level rise could affect residents, governments and businesses would be foolhardy.

Wilmington, N.C., received a federal grant to project how sea level rise could affect its water and sewer systems, public monuments and parks, and to determine the best way to prioritize any actions the city might elect to take.

The chamber can offer helpful information along those lines, even to those people who discount the premise that burning fossil fuels speeds up global warming. It can make the case that sustainable energy significantly benefits the economy by creating jobs.

In 2011, the wind energy industry directly employed 75,000 full-time equivalent employees, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The jobs were in manufacturing, project development, construction and turbine installation, operations, transportation, financial and legal services and consulting.

AWEA also reported that more than 500 factories in the U.S. manufacture parts for wind turbines.

In North Charleston, the Clemson University Restoration Institute is building a state-of-the-art wind turbine testing facility. It is attracting students , staff and world-renowned faculty, and is expected to attract related businesses.

Meanwhile, the city of North Myrtle Beach has already begun to study the value of wind energy.

Other renewable energy industries employ even more workers. In 2011, the solar industry employed about 100,000 people on a part-time or full-time basis, according to the Solar Foundation.

Nikki Haley was elected governor based, in part, on her commitment to attracting more jobs to the state.

Beyond jobs, sustainable energy can lead to improved public health as people breathe in fewer emissions. And harnessing power from the wind and the sun doesn’t damage the environment the way mining for coal or drilling for oil and gas does.

The S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce might be facing headwinds as it attempts to settle conflicts about what is causing climate change. And it certainly isn’t suggesting an immediate catastrophe related to the rising sea level.

But it is a smart move to make people and businesses aware of the issue and encourage them to consider what they might do about it — for all kinds of good reasons.

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