MYRTLE BEACH, S.C - Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders returns to South Carolina Thursday for a conversation on climate change in a popular tourist destination along the coast of the critical early-voting state.
The gathering is being held in Myrtle Beach, a focal point of South Carolina's $20 billion tourism industry. It comes 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.
How climate changes affect coastal communities is a major concern along the 190 miles of Atlantic coastline in South Carolina, which 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 15,000 of those in the areas surrounding Myrtle Beach. The region's subtropical climate and extensive beaches attract more than 19 million visitors each year.
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.
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 kicks 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.