Georgia is vulnerable to sea level rise, flooding, coastal storms and increasing temperatures which threaten the state’s agriculture and energy industries as well as human health
Like most of the southeastern states, Georgia’s climate has warmed less than the rest of the nation over the past 50 years. Georgia will become warmer in the future however, with both more flooding and drought likely. Extreme heat and decreased water availability will affect health, energy, agriculture, and more. The Southeast in general is exceptionally susceptible to extreme heat, more frequent and more intense hurricanes and decreased water availability. Georgia is also vulnerable to sea level rise, which poses continuing threats to the state’s coastal economy and environment.
- Sea level rise: Sea level is rising more rapidly in Georgia than in other areas because Georgia is also subsiding. If the oceans and atmosphere continue to warm, sea level along the Georgia coast is likely to rise one to four feet in the next century. Rising sea level submerges wetlands and dry land, erodes beaches, and exacerbates coastal flooding.
- Flooding: Increasing temperatures and precipitation amplify the risk of flooding. Since 1958, the amount of precipitation falling during heavy rainstorms has increased by 27 percent in the Southeast, and the trend toward increasingly heavy rainstorms is likely to continue.
- Coastal storms: As the ocean warms, surface waters have more energy to convert to tropical cyclone winds, which scientists say is likely increasing the intensity of the most severe cyclonic events. This trend is strongest in the Atlantic, where rising ocean temperatures correlate closely to an increase in Atlantic tropical cyclone strength. More frequent storms could increase the deductible for wind damage in homeowner insurance policies. Many cities, roads, railways, ports, airports, and oil and gas facilities along the Gulf Coast are vulnerable to the combined impacts of storms and sea level rise. People may move from vulnerable coastal communities and stress the infrastructure of the communities that receive them.
- Increasing Temperatures: The southeast will likely be hit hardest by heat impacts. The number of days at or above 95 degrees Fahrenheit will increase from an average of 9 per year to 17-43 by mid-century. Higher temperatures will likely reduce the productivity of farms and ranches, change parts of the landscape and harm human health. In addition, warmer weather will decrease productivity in high-risk sectors like construction, mining, utilities, transportation and manufacturing.
- Adaptation: Georgia has not developed a climate adaptation plan.
Georgia residents support clean energy and climate regulations
- According to the Yale Map Project on Climate Change Communication 68% of Georgia residents recognize that global warming is happening. The project finds that 73% of residents support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant and 82% support funding research into renewable energy sources.
Georgia shows significant potential for solar, currently untapped
- Renewables: Georgia does not have any renewable energy policy or portfolio standards.
- Solar: Georgia ranks 8th in the nation for installed solar capacity, with 1,477 MW currently installed or enough to power 167,000 homes. The solar industry employs over 3,900 people across 236 companies in the value chain. Georgia has enacted state laws that bar its residents from entering into power purchase agreements, a common financing mechanism that has been crucial to the growth of the solar industry in other states. Despite the state barriers to increasing the penetration of renewable energy in Georgia, a side-branch of the Tea Party in Georgia called the Green Tea Coalition has been fighting for pro-solar rules. It recently secured the utilities’ assent to allow third-party installations of solar panels on businesses and homes.
- Wind: Georgia is home to 12 wind manufacturing facilities. However, the state has no installed wind capacity.
- Biomass: Georgia is heavily forested and has been a leading state in the production of wood products, which contribute feedstock for biomass electricity generation. In 2015, Georgia ranked third in the nation in net electricity generation from biomass.
- Natural gas: The Elba Island, Georgia, liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal can regasify up to 1.8 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day and has storage capacity for 11.5 billion cubic feet of LNG. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved additional facilities to export up to 350 million cubic feet per day of natural gas as LNG.
- Nuclear: In February 2012, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the construction of two new nuclear reactors at the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Burke County, Georgia. The two reactors have startup dates in 2019 and 2020.