Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) say that though Georgia has been spared the worst effects of climate change wreaking havoc across the globe, it will not continue to do so unless citizens and politicians stand united against global warming in the future.
Even so, Georgia politicians have failed repeatedly to adopt a firm stance against climate change.
Currently, Georgia does not have any state climate change policies or action plans. In fact, in 2010, the state passed a resolution asking Congress not to adopt cap-and-trade laws, the most environmentally and economically sensible approach to controlling greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.
In 2015, Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson admitted that he believed the Earth was warming at rapid rates, but denied that humans were responsible for that warming, saying, “The truth of the matter is we all care about the environment. We just don’t all subscribe to the same theory about what happens.”
But for scientists, the truth of the matter is also this — Georgia’s coastal zone, an eleven county area with an average population growth of approximately 210,505 people per decade, will not be there if we do not take stronger moves to stop climate change.
The newly released National Geographic documentary Before the Flood, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, shows this type of destruction happening on Florida’s coast every day, warning that the rest of the country — and especially nearby beaches such as those in coastal Georgia — could see similar devastation soon.
Parts of the city of Miami are flooded daily and Miami itself continues to sink into the rising sea, despite implementing a 400 million dollar project to raise roads from flooding. Philip Levine, the Mayor of Miami Beach, has admitted that the project will only be effective for the next forty to fifty years. “We don’t have the liberty or time to debate climate change,” Levine said in the documentary.
And neither does Georgia.
According to a study from the NOAA’s Digital Coast partnership, Tybee Island may suffer the loss of up to 50 percent of its residential land and 30 percent of commercially occupied land due to sea-level rise by 2110. At its current elevation, the only entrance to the island would be permanently submerged underwater if sea-levels were to rise by even a foot. There would be no way to get on the island or to leave it. Tybee would disappear forever.
According to another study from the U.S. Global Change Research program, Georgia may see as many as 20 more days per year above 95 degrees in northern parts of the state and 40-50 more days in southern parts by 2041-2070. Scientists on the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee believe that this will lead to increased death, increased spread of diseases like malaria and dengue fever, drought, an increase in harmful algal blooms which leave water poisonous both inland and at sea, and widespread food insecurity among many other serious threats.
Yet, Georgia legislators continue to pass on opportunities to work actively against climate change. As DiCaprio points out in Before the Flood, politicians act when constituents ask them to. If climate change worries you, ask them to on Election Day.