By Sammy Fretwell, The State
Published January 29, 2007
Gov. Mark sanford says global warming is a fact and he’s organizing a commission to determine how South Carolina can best fight the problem.
“Climate change is real,” Sanford said in an interview with The State last week. “We’re looking at this as an opportunity to lead.”
South Carolina will become the second state in the Southeast to form a global warming commission behind only North Carolina, according to the nonprofit Center for Climate Strategies in Washington.
Burning gasoline, oil, coal and other fossil fuels — which come largely from factories and cars — contributed heavily to the highest average global temperatures on record during the past 15 years, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The increased concentration of greenhouse gases from those fuels keeps heat from escaping into space. When temperatures rise, they can cause glaciers to melt and sea level to swell.
Many scientists also say the heat can keep migrating animals, such as ducks, from coming South for the winter. In the past year, global warming also has been tied to skyrocketing insurance rates along the S.C. coast.
Sanford’s plan is for a commission with 30 members or fewer to meet regularly and report back to the governor next year. The panel would examine a variety of measures that could include improving energy efficiency in state offices and incentives for businesses to curb pollution.
The task force, mentioned briefly in Sanford’s State of the State speech this month, drew a cool response from the S.C. Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber spokeswoman Marcia Purday said her group doesn’t oppose the climate change panel. But, she said, South Carolina needs to look more at a statewide energy policy than just focusing on global warming.
“This is a federal and global issue, and one that South Carolina cannot resolve by itself,” she said.
Purday said a climate change should include members from industrial and business interests.
Sanford said he will include them.
Nearly 20 states have formed climate change panels, according to the Center for Climate Strategies. Most of those commissions are in the West and Northeast.
States that have completed climate change reports, including California, Arizona and New Mexico, have recommended ways to fight global warming.
Last year, for example, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation requiring industries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020. California also requires tougher emission standards for cars and bars major utilities from buying energy from out-of-state coal-fired power plants.
In some cases, fighting global warming means offering incentives to businesses, an idea already under discussion in South Carolina.
Frank Knapp, president of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce, said Sanford’s plan is overdue.
“If we could have started this yesterday, I think it would have been good,” said Knapp. “Our climate is changing dramatically and every day we seem to come up with new examples of the problem.”
Sanford, who calls himself a “green Republican,” consulted with the Center for Climate Strategies and the S.C. Coastal Conservation League before deciding to announce a global warming commission. The climate center helps states set up such boards and provides staff report.
This month, executives from 10 major U.S. corporations urged Congress to require limits on pollutants that contribute to global warming. They included representatives of BP America, DuPont, Caterpillar, General Electric and Duke Energy, a major S.C. power producer.