Climate Change and Sea Level Rise

The South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce (SCSBCC) has long been concerned about climate change and the negative impact on the economy in general and small businesses in particular.

The SCSBCC believes that the state’s coastal tourism economy is threatened by future sea level rise due to carbon pollution caused climate change. In May of 2013 and in partnership with the American Sustainable Business Council and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the SCSBCC launched a sea level rise education project (South Carolina Businesses Acting on Rising Seas—SCBARS) to educate coastal small businesses about the threat of rising seas and encouraging local coastal governments to start community-based sea level rise planning.

In Phase 1 of the project, SCBARS team members contacted small businesses from Cherry Grove at the North Carolina border to Folly Beach south of Charleston.  This effort was highly successful and demonstrated that coastal small businesses were accepting of a climate-change message. This message included the threat of rising seas, the importance of local government resiliency planning and the need to transition to a clean-energy economy.

Phase 2 of the project began in October, 2013, and continued small business education but focused on pursuing the establishment of community-based sea level rise task forces by four coastal municipalities—North Myrtle Beach, Georgetown, Charleston and Beaufort. The purpose of the task forces is to plan for resiliency under different scenarios of sea level rise using sophisticated sea level rise interactive portals.

In 2014, SCSBCC worked with Winthrop University’s Social and Behavioral Research Lab to include sea level rise questions for the institution’s statewide poll.  In November of that year, the Winthrop Poll found that:

-68% living in coastal counties saying that they are very sure or somewhat sure sea-level rise is or will be happening.

-Of all respondents nearly 9% said that the effects of sea-level rise are significant now, 18.7% expect to see the effects within 10 years and 18.9% say within 25 years.

-73.3% of all respondents supported state and local governments taking actions to make South Carolina coastal communities better prepared for sea-level rise and its impacts

Also in 2014, SCBARS focused on the cities of Charleston and Beaufort encouraging them to create community-based sea level rise task forces.  To that end meetings were held with public officials and small businesses in each area.

On December 8, 2014, the first meeting of the Beaufort/Port Royal Sea Level Rise Task Force was held.  The SCSBCC and the Carolinas Integrated Sciences & Assessments program at the University of South Carolina provided administrative and professional support, respectively, for this effort.  Meeting monthly into 2015, this task force assessed the impact of different sea level rise scenarios and identified areas of concern.  The task force’s final report provided information to the respective municipalities and other local government organizations as to resiliency recommendations.

In late 2014 the City of Charleston and neighboring jurisdictions were selected by the National Academy of Sciences for a pilot program called “Resilient America”.  Stakeholders participated in workshops and focus groups.  Within this broader planning process for disaster resilience the issues around water and the threat of sea level rise to the city of Charleston were identified for examination.  Today the City of Charleston has released a template for developing a sea level rise strategic plan.

Because of its success, the SCBARS project has served as a model for similar efforts in Massachusetts and Hampton Roads, VA.


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