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Blue Tape Marks Climate Change Risks for Coastal Businesses

At Palmetto Hammock in Charleston, S.C., blue tape indicates where the sea level may be in 2100 under scientists' most severe scenario of climate change.
At Palmetto Hammock in Charleston, S.C., blue tape indicates where the sea level may be in 2100 under scientists' most severe scenario of climate change.Photograph by Kate Thornton for Bloomberg Businessweek

Sandy Bridges, the owner of Palmetto Hammock in Charleston’s historic market district, is accustomed to flooding in her gift shop, so she keeps the floor clear of the hammocks, clothing, and tourist knick-knacks she sells. The 150-year-old building she occupies is two blocks from Charleston Harbor, and if it rains when the tide is high, the water comes up to her doorstep and sometimes over it. “The wooden flooring is old ship’s decking,” she says. “They understood we were going to get wet.”

The 19th century South Carolinians who built on the Charleston peninsula didn’t anticipate how wet. Scientists expect sea levels to rise between 8 inches and 6 feet by the end of this century, putting low-lying coastal businesses at risk. To make the threat of climate change clear to her customers, Bridges joined a campaign last week to mark where the high tide in 2100 would be if the worst of those scenarios comes true. A strip of sky-blue tape near the handle of her door indicates the spot. “Where I’m standing right now, the water would be up to my chest,” she says.