South Carolina’s wildlife department has finally released a climate study that agency scientists completed more than a year ago, but which had been bottled up during a shift in department priorities.
The 101-page report appears to be identical to a draft study obtained by The State newspaper earlier this year, although the director’s letter to the final report has been toned down and shortened.
The Department of Natural Resources posted the report on its website this week and will seek public comments until May 24.
“This report is going to speak for itself,’’ DNR spokesman Robert McCullough said. “We would encourage and ask anybody who has a comment about it to post that with us.’’
McCullough said agency chief Alvin Taylor changed the director’s letter because it was outdated, having been written by former DNR director John Frampton in late 2011. But Taylor made changes to better reflect what he was comfortable saying about global warming, McCullough said.
“John had a little stronger opinion about’’ climate change, McCullough said.
In the draft study, Frampton said while some question the reality of climate change, “it is simply not normal for change to occur as rapidly as what we now are experiencing. We know for certain that higher global temperatures have resulted in increased ocean temperatures, influence(d) weather patterns and the frequency of harmful algal blooms. And all these cumulatively affect the survival of wildlife, fish and marine organisms.’’
That wording, as well as references to increasing carbon dioxide levels and the need to address the use of fossil fuels, such as coal, also were removed from the director’s letter.
But McCullough said none of the body of the study is different from the draft obtained by The State. Like the draft, the latest report says human-made pollution is contributing to global warming — a point widely accepted by scientists around the world. But the subject of global warming is a hot political topic for those who oppose tighter environmental controls on industry in states such as South Carolina.
The report says South Carolina should brace for the effects of global warming and begin planning for those changes. A warmer climate could lead to the invasion of exotic species from Florida, the death of salt marshes, increased diseases in wildlife and flooding that could swamp oceanfront homes.
A team of DNR scientists completed the study in November 2011, but after Frampton retired following a dispute with the agency’s new board chair, the report sat on the shelf for more than a year. The State obtained the draft copy this past winter and outlined the study’s findings in a Feb. 24 story. Agency officials insist they were not trying to hide the report, but concede it became less of a priority under Taylor than Frampton. Taylor said recently that he planned to release the study.