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Want next generation to enjoy South Carolina’s beauty? Act now to battle climate change

·3 min read
Jeff Blake

I’ve always had an affinity for the natural world.

When I moved to Columbia for college in 2018, South Carolina’s beaches, mountains, swamps and forests were a breath of fresh air.

I study environmental policy because I want to protect these unique places.

As a student, it’s exciting to learn skills that will help me fight for the environment of tomorrow — after graduation, after my first job, after I’ve established enough of a career to make an impact.

But as I notch up classes and experiences, it feels like time is running out.

In August, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a ‘code red for humanity.’ Its report described how climate change is “widespread, rapid, and intensifying” and global emissions must be reduced to avoid the worst.

The truth is I can’t afford to wait for graduation to start my work.

Climate change is here, and I’m not alone in my concerns. Polling by Yale Program on Climate Change Communications reveals 70% of Americans are now very or somewhat worried about climate change.

South Carolina is not immune to global warming.

July 2021 was the hottest month on record for Columbia, 1.67 degrees higher than the average over the past 100 years.

It’s only going to get hotter here, which poses a danger to our health.

In the Lowcountry, Charleston regularly experiences flooding, a growing concern with sea-level rise.

The State has also reported how heavier precipitation and flash flooding, a side effect of climate change, puts Congaree National Park at greater risk of contamination via a nearby fuel plant.

I have a long life ahead of me. I want to be a father and show my children the same wildlife on Charleston beaches, the same forests of the Congaree.

Fortunately, my education in policy teaches me that legislative solutions can help slow the worst of climate change.

As I finish my studies, I’m determined to fight climate change now.

I volunteer with Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a nonpartisan, grassroots organization empowering everyday folks to advocate for a livable world.

As discussions continue in the Senate about the Build Back Better budget reconciliation package, set to include billions of dollars of climate-focused investments, I’m advocating for bold solutions.

Unfortunately, the policies outlined in the House’s version of the bill, alongside the Infrastructure Bill President Biden signed into law this month, are insufficient to meet the U.S.’s emissions goals.

Estimates show they can deliver roughly 35-45% reductions below 2005 levels, failing to meet the 50% reduction promise that Biden pledged on Earth Day.

That shortfall could be covered by implementing a corporate polluter fee - something the Senate Finance Committee is considering for the Senate’s Build Back Better framework.

A price on pollution universally incentivizes sectors across the economy to lower their emissions.

The money from the fee could go right back to American wallets as a “carbon cash back” check to offset any additional costs for consumers.

A tax adjustment at our borders ensures American producers aren’t disadvantaged on the global market and pushes high-polluting countries to clean up their act.

This month, I joined hundreds of volunteers lobbying Congress.

As a constituent of Sen. Lindsey Graham, I spoke about my concerns for our environment and asked for his support for impactful climate change policy. You, too, can do this by sending a message via cclusa.org/action.

I dream of walking with my kids decades from now through a healthy Congaree.

A price on pollution is a vital solution to give my future children a fighting chance.

Ben Hurley is a student at the University of South Carolina studying for a bachelor degree in Marine Science.

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