Secret South Carolina Climate Report Predicted Piranhas

Shelved for being too bleak

south carolina palmetto state climate change piranha sea rise report

Imagine this man flipped over and mauled by piranhas. Welcome to climate change in South Carolina.     Photo: Bruce Tuten/Flickr

South Carolina scientists working for the Department of Natural Resources drafted a bleak report last year detailing the potential effects of climate change in the state. But the research never saw the light of day, as the government decided to shelve it, saying that "priorities have changed." The details of the report were kept secret until this week, when The State obtained a copy.

The report found that temperatures could rise nine degrees in the next 70 years, which could lead to the invasion of non-native species such as piranha and Asian swamp eels. Such species have already found homes in Florida, but could move north as the climate changes.

The report also said that salt water could push up into rivers, killing some fish species and reducing available drinking water. Higher temperatures could also reduce plankton counts, which in turn will reduce the population of fish that feed on them.

Team members [on the study] left little doubt in the report that they believe rising global temperatures are linked to man-made pollution. That point is widely accepted in the scientific community. Data show sharp increases since the Industrial Revolution of pollutants, such as carbon dioxide, that cause global warming.

Some conservative politicians, however, have questioned the science and criticized efforts to curb greenhouse gases, fearing it will hurt industries by imposing unnecessary regulations.

Bob Perry, a [Department of Natural Resources] official and the climate report’s editor, said completing the study isn’t a major point of emphasis now that his agency is under new leadership.

“A lot of things have changed for the agency, and our priorities have changed,” Perry said.

Perry and current DNR director Alvin Taylor said that they are focused on other matters such as port expansions in Charleston and Savannah and a large goldmine in Lancaster county. The board further indicated that the "for information only" report required no action.

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