SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Southeast Climate Change Impacts


In today’s world full of challenges, it is hard to know what is important. Southern Alliance for Clean Energy wants to make sure that every Southeast citizen understands that climate change is the most serious issue we face in the 21st century and it must be addressed. It is hard to visualize what a warming world will mean to the average person. Following are some of the ways that climate change could impact you as a resident of Southeastern United States. Remember, if we take action today, we can avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Rising Seas

The Southeast United States is one of the most vulnerable places in the world to global warming-induced sea level rise. The 2,000 miles of Southeastern shorelines are not only low-lying but also naturally sinking. Because of the low-lying slope of the Southeast coast, even a one-foot rise in sea level would reach far inland – up to a half a mile. Every single community throughout the Southeast has experienced a rise in sea level over the past 100 years; from one foot to three feet! Scientist are calling for anywhere from 1-2 feet to 3-5 feet over the next century. Many ocean species will not be able to adapt to these rapid changes. Some ecosystems will be able to naturally migrate inland, but others will not because of human development barriers along our coasts. Here are a few images that The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and our national partner, Architecture 2030, generated to demonstrate just how vulnerable our Southern coastal cities are to rising seas.

Below is Charleston, S.C. depicted with just 4 feet of sea level rise:


And here is Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. also with 4 feet of sea level rise.


Rising Temperatures

Eleven of the last twelve years (1998 -2010) rank among the 12 warmest in the instrumental record of global surface temperatures. In the past one hundred years, the Earth’s temperature has risen by ~1.6, most of this temperature increase can be attributed directly to human activity. That doesn’t sound like much, but keep in mind that we are talking about the annual global average temperature – in those terms, the difference between today and the last ice age is less than 10 degrees Celsius. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects that the Earth will continue to get warmer.


Rising temperatures threaten biodiversity. The Earth is heating up more quickly than plants and animals can adapt. Scientists say that we could lose nearly half of all the species on Earth from abrupt climate changes caused by run-away global warming. Warmer temperatures are breeding grounds for disease carriers such as mosquitoes and ticks. There have been documented cases linking the increase of West Nile outbreaks to temperature rise. Dengue fever and malaria cases will also be on the rise as we move into a warmer world.

Quality of Life At Risk

Throughout the Southeast, our quality of life will be affected by increasing heat stress, water scarcity, severe weather events, and reduced availability of insurance for at-risk properties. The mild climate of the Southeast “sunbelt” has attracted people, industry, and investment in recent decades. For example, the population of Florida has increased by 100 percent during the past three decades and growth rates in most other southeastern states were between 45 and 75 percent. The challenges associated with climate change will affect the quality of life for all residents and affect future population growth.

Solutions to Climate Change

Please visit our “Advocate for Climate Action” page to learn more about all of the solutions that are right at your fingertips.