President-elect Donald J. Trump won the faith of over half of all Georgians during the 2016 presidential election, largely on promises of improving the nation’s economy, however, some scientists predict that his environmental policies may actually have the opposite effect.
A 2014 White House report projects that summer heat stress caused by climate change will reduce crop productivity and increase drought in Georgia. By 2020, climate projections indicate that corn yields could decline by 15% and wheat yields by 20% in the state, decimating agricultural profits. In 2007, similar conditions cost the Georgia agriculture industry $339 million in crop losses and a total of $1.3 billion in economic damage.
Georgia farmers are likely already seeing the beginning stages of crop loss due to increased temperature. Dr. Carroll Johnson, a U.S.D.A. researcher in Tifton Georgia, recorded soil temperature of 117 degrees in May, according to a Georgia Organics special report. This temperature is more than double the 50 degrees necessary for corn to germinate.
At this level of heat, legumes like peanuts and soybeans cannot germinate at all. “When it gets this hot, there’s not much organic or conventional growers alike can do,” Johnson says. “And it’s not going to get better anytime soon.”
Another report from the Center for Integrative Environmental Research predicts that, as intense storm activity due to climate change increases, there will be a 1% increase in the cost of maintenance to Georgia’s interstates. This would cost the transportation sector $17 million, which would trigger $12 million in economic losses for other sectors, according to the report. If the state failed to do maintenance to interstates, it would risk the loss of manufacturing, an industry that comprises 12 percent of the state’s GDP or approximately $46 billion dollars.
The same report predicts that hurricanes, which pose a real threat to Georgia should global warming continue, could destroy or seriously damage ports in Brunswick and Savannah, ports that have increased Georgia’s trade volume by 58% in the last five years. To put that into perspective, the Port of New Orleans suffered $435 million in damage following Hurricane Katrina and damages to the Port of Gulfport were estimated to be between $300 and $400 million.
Jerry Karnas, former Regional Outreach Coordinator for National Wildlife Federation in Georgia and now Florida Climate Project Director at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), said that climate change is a huge risk to Georgia’s infrastructure in an EDF Report. “If severe weather impacts Georgia’s transportation system, the entire U.S. would feel the consequences.”
Though the general consensus among scientists is that Georgia may not see these things happening right away, some, like those who compiled the EDF’s Climate Research for Georgia, project that the earliest signs will come in 2020.
“Having a person in the position of U.S. President who does not acknowledge scientific facts establishing the clear reality of human-caused climate change is a disgrace. This is a sad and scary outcome for science and for action on halting harmful climate change,” said Dr. Twila Moon, a member of the Bristol Glaciology Centre and prominent climate change researcher with a focus on its effects on glacial ice.
(Analysis and Commentary by Kelcey Caulder)