NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The impact of the rising sea level on the local economy, culture and wildlife was the topic of a conference held in North Myrtle Beach Thursday morning.
Experts from around the region spoke at a conference organized by the American Sustainable Business Council, the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, and the Winyah Rivers Foundation.
Dennis Allen, a research professor in Marine Science at the University of South Carolina, said the sea level has ebbs and flows over history, and right now, we are witnessing a rise. Over the past 100-plus years that have been keeping track, we have been witnessing a steady increase.
In the section of coast north of Georgetown, USC researchers have found the sea level has risen four inches over the past 35 years, Allen said. The water temperature has also risen two degrees in that time.
According to Allen, these small changes have large impacts on marine species metabolism, rate of growth, reproduction, and other factors. This could have "devastating economic and ecological affects" on important fish, shrimp and crab populations in the coming decades if left unchecked, according to a news release for the conference.
The changes also mean storm surge will reach further inland, which could impact infrastructure not previously affected by coastal flooding, as we have seen in areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy, Allen said.
The ASBC called on business leaders to "help inform and shape the public policy decision-making process," according to literature provided at the event.
"On issues such as chemical policy reform, climate change, financial reform, health care, sustainable and economic development, political leaders are calling for business to help champion change," ASBC stated. "The American Sustainable Business Council helps meet that challenge. It unites the business community and reframes the debate over the future of our economy. It makes the business case for a sustainable economy."