Sanders urges coastal SC to act ‘boldly’ on climate change

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Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders looks on as panel members discuss his criminal justice reform plan during a town hall meeting on Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) — Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders returned to South Carolina Thursday for a conversation on climate change in a popular tourist destination along the coast of the critical early-voting state.

More than 900 people attended the gathering held in Myrtle Beach, a focal point of South Carolina’s $20 billion tourism industry, according to campaign officials.

It came on the heels of the Vermont senator’s release last week of a $16.3 trillion climate change plan that calls for the United States to move to renewable energy across the economy by 2050 and declare climate change a national emergency.

“I think that the cost of doing nothing will be far, far more expensive,” Sanders said Thursday, addressing the cost of his plan.

How climate changes affect coastal communities is a major concern along the 190 miles of Atlantic coastline in South Carolina, the state that holds the first 2020 voting in the South. In the historic city of Charleston, even a moderate amount of rainfall has become enough to flood streets and make parts of the urban peninsula impassable.

According to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, by 2045, chronic flooding could inundate more than 16,000 homes along the state’s coast and low-lying areas, with about 3,000 of those in the areas surrounding Myrtle Beach. The region’s subtropical climate and extensive beaches attract more than 19 million visitors each year.

“If we do not act boldly and transform our energy system away from fossil fuel, Charleston could experience flooding for over half of the year due to a 2.5-foot rise in the sea level,” Sanders said Thursday, referencing the historic coastal city visited by an estimated 7 million tourists a year, according to the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Earlier this week, Sanders told voters in coal-producing Kentucky that it’s possible to be a friend of coal miners and a believer in climate change as he pushed for cleaner energy sources to combat global warming. Sanders also vowed to help communities tied to coal and other fossil fuel industries in the transition toward renewable energy production such as solar and wind power.

Sanders says his 10-year “nationwide mobilization” would create 20 million jobs. His proposals include sourcing 100% of the country’s electricity from renewable and zero-carbon emission power and committing more than $2 trillion in grants for low- and middle-income families to weatherize and retrofit their homes and businesses, with the goal of reducing residential energy consumption.

“Now is the time for us to stand up to the fossil fuel industry,” Sanders said Thursday in South Carolina.

Sanders has teamed up with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York on climate legislation and endorsed the Green New Deal, a sweeping proposal that’s becoming a rallying point both for Democratic presidential hopefuls and liberals in the party’s base. Republicans have argued that the plan is too radical and would drive the economy off a cliff and lead to a huge tax increase.

The climate change discussion kicked off two days of campaign events for Sanders in South Carolina. On Friday, he has scheduled a town hall meeting in Florence on “Medicare for All,” the government-run single-payer approach to health care.

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Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

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This story has been corrected to reflect that the number of homes in the Myrtle Beach area at risk of chronic flooding is 3,000, not 15,000, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists’ study.

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