SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Climate Change Impacts on Georgia
This webpage is adapted from our fact sheet, “Climate Change Impacts on Georgia.” Click here to download the fact sheet.
WHAT IS CLIMATE CHANGE?
The earth’s climate is changing because of excess carbon dioxide pollution in the atmosphere, generated when fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas are burned. This extra carbon traps more heat, like a greenhouse, which explains why 2001 to 2010 was the hottest decade ever recorded and there have been over 365 consecutive months with hotter-than-average global temperatures. Modern civilization developed in a stable climate and we have built our economy and way of life accordingly. Changes to our climate means that we are facing emerging hardships and vulnerabilities as the impacts of climate change unfold.
Some impacts from climate change include extreme storms, flooding from sea level rise, heat waves, and drought. These impacts have consequences for public health, safety, the economy, the environment, and our way of life.
From now until 2016, the State of Georgia will be planning how it will reduce its carbon emissions as part of the national Clean Power Plan. Learn more about what Georgia is doing here.
HOW WILL CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACT GEORGIA?
It is difficult to link any one event directly to climate change, and it is important to recognize that most climate data is regional or even global in scope. However, decades of expert research and centuries of historical records can be compared with recent trends to illustrate how climate change is already impacting parts of the Southeastern United States. These impacts, combined with possible future impacts, are both cause for concern and the imperative for action.
- Extreme weather, including severe storms, heat waves, cold snaps, and more intense hurricanes are all becoming more typical in a warmer world. These events have a large toll in terms of physical damage, lost productivity, higher insurance costs, and public health. For example the “polar vortex” snowfall of 2014 practically shut down Atlanta with road gridlock while thousands of children had to spend the night at school because their parents couldn’t reach them.
- Heritage foods of Georgia are suffering because of carbon pollution and climate change. Heat and drought stress is expected to increase with global warming, similar to what we have witnessed with peanut, pasture/hay/beef, beans, and corn production in recent years, when 149 of Georgia’s 159 counties were declared a disaster area due to drought in 2007 and 22 counties again in 2011. Meanwhile, fruit and nut farmers are experiencing crop losses from unreliable winter weather and late spring freezes, which are expected to become more frequent, such as the 2007 “Easter freeze,” which wiped out 70% of the state’s blueberry crop and 20-50% of the peach crop.
- Some of Georgia’s most treasured places are flooding and eroding away due in part to sea level rise from climate change, projected to be between 8 inches and 6.6 feet throughout this century alone. Coastal communities like historic Savannah and Georgia’s many islands are in jeopardy, along with the pastimes they afford and the economic value they generate through tourism.
THE IMPACTS ARE GREAT, BUT THERE ARE ABUNDANT SOLUTIONS TO PREVENT THE WORST CASE SCENARIOS…
PROMOTE CLEAN ENERGY
Clean energy, such as solar, wind, and energy efficiency, produces no pollution and provides jobs in our struggling economy. Studies show that the United States could easily generate 80% of its power from clean sources by 2050. Energy efficiency can dramatically reduce the amount of power we use in our homes and businesses and lower our bills. In Georgia, our offshore wind resource alone could produce more than one-third of the electricity we currently use each year. Solar power is unlimited energy from the sun, free for the taking if our state policies are used to level the playing field between solar and more traditional, polluting power sources like coal and nuclear.
OPPOSE HIGH RISK ENERGY
Some energy sources have greater risks associated with their use. Old, inefficient and dirty coal power plants must be retired to reduce levels of pollution that trigger asthma attacks and heart and lung disease, put mercury in our water, and cause climate change. Nuclear power plants emit less carbon than coal but are extremely expensive to build, require large amounts of water to operate, generate dangerous, highly radioactive waste and can have devastating consequences should an accident occur. Our coast is too precious to be compromised by spills from offshore drilling. Clean energy is a positive alternative to each of these risky energy sources.
HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION TODAY!
1) Find and Contact Your Legislators – National and state-level climate and energy policies are imperative to ensure protection from the worst impacts of climate change and to secure the benefits of clean energy. Find your Washington, D.C. and Atlanta legislators’ contact information here, and contact them to tell them we must lead the way in climate and energy policies that:
- Limit carbon pollution, such as the Clean Power Plan
- Invest in job-creating clean energy technologies
- Hold polluters accountable and end fossil-fuel subsidies
- Preserve and strengthen the Clean Air Act
2) Support Our Work & Become a Member of SACE Today – Be a part in helping Georgia usher in the clean energy economy, clean up our environment, and securing the world we ought to pass down to future generations. Support from our members is critical to success in SACE’s work. Become a member today here.
3) Join the Southeast Coastal Climate Network – The Southeast Coastal Climate Network is a group of individuals and organizations, dedicated to fostering regional leadership in mitigating and adapting to the challenge of global warming. Join for free here.